play banjo without picks

How To Play Banjo Without Picks?

Can you play banjo without picks? This is a question that many people have asked, and the answer is yes, you can play banjo without picks. However, using picks will give you a better tone and make it easier to pluck the strings.

In this blog post, we will discuss how to play banjo without picks and some of the benefits of using them. So let’s get started with different ways of playing banjo without picks.

6 Ways to Play Banjo without Picks

  1. Clawhammer Style
  2. Naked Fingertips
  3. Playing with a Bow
  4. Nails
  5. Guitar Pick
  6. Old Time Style

1- Clawhammer Style

playing banjo without picks

If you are interested in learning how to play the banjo with no fingerpicks, you can start by using a variation of the Clawhammer style. This involves using your nails or fingertips to pluck the strings, and it is a perfect way for beginners to practice.

2- Naked Fingertips

playing banjo without picks

If you do not want to use your fingernails, you can also play the banjo music styles without picks by using the naked tips of your fingers. This is one of the most common ways beginners will try to learn and produce quality sound, but it takes some practice.

3- Playing with a Bow

playing banjo without picks

Another technique that will work if you do not have a pick, can try playing with a bow. This will work as long as you have a fairly new bow with some tension on it. However, your softer sound quality may be limited due to the fact that bows are fairly stiff and do not move across the banjo strings as easily as flat picks.

4- Nails

playing banjo without picks

One more way to play the banjo without picks is by using your nails. This does take some practice because it can be difficult to create a clean tone if you use your fingernails instead of a metal thumb pick or fingerpicks.

5- Guitar Pick

playing banjo without picks

Yet another alternative for those who cannot find any other options is to use one of those small guitar picks. These are designed specifically for plucking the strings, so they tend to be thinner and have sharper edges. Therefore, they will give you a much cleaner tone.

6- Old Time Style

playing banjo without picks

If you are interested in playing the banjo without shaped picks but do not want to buy any special items for this purpose, then you can try the old-time style. It is more similar to clawhammer style. You will need to slightly modify how you play because it does involve using nails or fingertips instead of quality picks. However, it is still an excellent way to learn how to pluck the strings with your middle finger in a traditional style that was used long ago.

Famous Banjo Players Who Began Without Picks

There are a lot of famous banjo players who have become legends in the music industry without using picks. For example:

1- Earl Scruggs

playing banjo without picks

Earl Scruggs is a banjo player who learned how to play the banjo without metal picks. He became known for his incredibly fast playing preferred style, and he is still considered one of the best ever to grace this rhythm instrument.

2-Don Reno

playing banjo without picks

Another well-known musician who played the banjo without finger-picking it was Don Reno. Throughout his career, he formed multiple bands, including The Tennessee Cut-Ups and Reno & Smiley. Some of his most popular songs are “Flint Hill Special” and “Foggy Mountain Chimes.”

3-Ralph Stanley

playing banjo without picks

Ralph Stanley is one of the most skilled banjo players in history, and he started playing the banjo without any picks. He has done extensive work with his brother Carter, including writing multiple songs for him. Some of their most famous songs without picks are “Man of Constant Sorrow” and “Oh Death.”

4- Steve Martin

playing banjo without picks

The well-known actor Steve Martin learned how to play the banjo without banjo picking. Despite being a comedian by trade, he has managed to be influential in the banjo styles music industry as an award-winning musician. He is considered one of the best bluegrass banjo players in history.

5- Ola Belle Reed

playing banjo without picks

Another example of a famous banjo player who began without a plastic pick is Ola Belle Reed. She has been a musical inspiration for decades because of her excellent playing ability on stringed instruments. She has had several records hit the charts throughout her career, including “You Are My Flower” and “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday.”

6- David Holt

playing banjo without picks

David Holt is a well-known musician from Tennessee who learned how to play the banjo without using quality picks. In addition to his solo work, he has also performed alongside other musicians such as Doc Watson and Johnny Cash. He was also inducted into the National Four-string Banjo Hall of Fame at one point in time.

Check out our blog on Best Female Banjo Players.


In this blog post, we’ve looked at six ways to play the banjo without picks. We have also explored some famous banjo players who started without picks and achieved success. If you want to learn how to play the banjo without a pick or you are looking for new techniques to add to your playing arsenal, these methods should help get you started.

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