How to learn to play the banjo

Written by carl hose
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How to learn to play the banjo
Playing the banjo for fun. (Jaynev:

The banjo is a fun, up-tempo instrument found frequently in bluegrass and country music. There are several kinds of banjos, but the playing techniques are all basically the same. Learning to play the banjo isn't difficult, but it does take patience and practice to become proficient.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Banjo
  • Beginner's banjo book
  • Easy banjo music

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  1. 1

    Familiarise yourself with your banjo. There are a number of types. The most frequently played is the tenor banjo, which has four strings. The standard tuning is C-G-B-D, with C being the thickest string and D being the thinnest. A beginning banjo book will offer other tunings, but this tuning is easy and ideal for beginners, since most beginning banjo books will work from this foundation.

  2. 2

    Learn a few basic banjo chords. G and C are two common chords. You will find simple beginning chords in your banjo instruction book or online. Banjo strings are numbered one through four. The thinnest string is number one and the thickest is number four. To make a C chord, place your first finger on the first fret of the second string, your second finger on the fourth string at the second fret, and your third finger on the second fret of the first string. Strum the chords with your right hand, using the pick. Once you've mastered smoothly switching between them, add a couple of new chords. A chord diagram book is essential. It will show you where to place your fingers on the frets and on which strings.

  3. 3

    Play simple banjo sheet music to start with. Most beginning banjo books include simple tunes. Learn to read banjo tablature, also referred to as tab. Banjo tab is written on a four- or five-line graph that represents your banjo strings. The notes you need to play are written on the graph, with a number on the string where the note you should play is located. The number represents the fret you'll play. Most banjo players prefer reading and writing music this way.

    Banjo sheet music written in tab will have lyrics, a melody line for plucking, and chords indicated above the music staff. Start by playing the chords. Try singing along, to make it more fun. If you have a chance, listen to a recording of the song to get a better feel for the way it's played. As you progress, try adding some of the melody line (single notes) in between your chord strums.

Tips and warnings

  • The more simple songs you play, the better your playing will become. Play as much as you can.

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