Bending or choking the string
How to improve the 10th fret choke on Foggy Mountain Breakdown?
BACKGROUND: I have a $300.00 "Bluegrass" model Mastercraft banjo and I'm learning the high break to "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"
The instructor on the DVD has an expensive professional banjo and the chokes sound great, as do all the high notes.
But when I start out the high break, my chokes barely change the pitch of the notes on the 10th fret and the rest of the notes sound -- well -- tiny.
QUESTION: Is my sound quality problem likely caused by my playing (and will improve with practice), or is it due to the limitations of playing a $300.00 banjo and is what I can reasonably expect from the instrument?
PUT ANOTHER WAY: Do I need (an unaffordable) $1,000.00 banjo to sound good in the high break?
The answer is probably both.
However you should be able to get a good sound with the chokes using your banjo or at least improve it a lot.
One of the keys to a good bend, slide, hammer-on or pull-of is to pluck the string harder, significantly harder.
The other key is the you need to bend the string a full half step. The choke should make a similar sound and pitch change as sliding or hammering on from the 10th fret to the 11th fret.
Another tip is to put your middle finger on the 10th fret and your index behind it on the 9th fret. Push up using both fingers for extra leverage and control.
Also you should not hear the bend coming back down, you go up, and release the pressure ever so slightly, then when you've reached the half step pitch change, let the finger come back down without the note being sounded. Concentrate on this after you've mastered picking the string harder and bending it with more control to the proper pitch, then make sure you aren't hearing it come back down.