Left Hand – The Choke
An important Left Hand Technique on the banjo is the choke. A choke is just another way of saying bending a string. A banjo choke is is usually done with the middle finger and stays in the same fret, don’t start on the tenth fret and end on the eleventh. The idea of the choke is to bend to a higher note – this note is usually a whole or half step higher. A choke is indicated by the symbol ~, which is printed below the note that is to be choked.
Playing a choke on the banjo is simple – place your middle finger on the 2nd string at the 10th fret. You can bend towards or away from your palm, it just depends what feels good and where your fingers are going next. Start your bend just after you have picked the string. In this example you bend up a half step and then pick the next note. For your interest, the note you are choking is an A.
This exercise is counted : 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
Press play to hear this exercise:
Chokes can be played anywhere on the banjo neck, although there are a few favorite spots. The next exercise has the choke on the 4th string – 3rd fret (this note is an F). This lick has a bluesy feel, and gets used quite a lot in bluegrass. The count for this one is: 1 + 2 + 3 4
Listen to this exercise here: