From Marni from Ontario, Canada:

Thwak….Thwak…. I keep hitting the surface of the banjo with my thumb pick. I tried cutting it down but now I have trouble not missing the string totally. Is this a common problem? Any suggestions on how to correct?

Dear Marni,

Yes, it’s pretty common. A few suggestions: The path of your pick needs to be re-routed. Length of the pick is not the issue. You just have to avoid hitting the head. Going slowly, pick the string in a way that sounds good and doesn’t hit the head. Do that over and over, slowly at first, and gradually add in other fingers picking other strings. Keep adding new moves and speed gradually while listening for the sound of the pick hitting the head. You can beat the problem if you’re vigilant about it, creating a new habit, being careful not to settle for the return of the problem. (If you forget to be vigilant, the old habit usually quickly returns.) It takes time, but after a while you naturally hit just the string and not the head.

Pete Wernick