One of the easiest and most dramatic changes you can make to your banjo tone is to change where you pick the strings in relation to the bridge. This holds true for all stringed instruments. The closer to the bridge, the brighter yet thinner sound you will get, while the farther away you move from the bridge, the thicker and warmer tone you will have.
When it comes to Irish tenor banjo, it is hard to define exactly what type of banjo that is. Yes, it is a four string tenor banjo. But is it a 17-fret or a 19-fret? Does it have a resonator or is it open back? How is it tuned - standard tenor tuning C, G, D, A or Irish tuning G, D, A, E? After spending years playing and talking to Irish tenor banjo players, going to Irish sessions, even traveling to Ireland to watch and listen, I have determined that there is no exact standard although there are some generalizations.
Whether you are new to playing the banjo or you are a seasoned player, when learning new chord shapes you more than likely will be challenged making your fingers move from one chord position to another from time to time. This can be frustrating, but take solace in the fact that it is completely normal. It can sometimes feel like you will never be able to change in time with the music, but by being patient and using some of the following tips, you’ll will soon be making chord changes as smooth as silk.
No matter the genre of music (Western Music as opposed to Eastern music such as Indian), the I, IV, and V chord are the most fundamental and widely used chords. This is especially true in American musical forms as the blues is at the root of most American music and a basic 12 bar blues consists of a I, IV, and a V chord.
Learn with master banjoist Jens Kruger how he creates a chorus effect on his acoustic banjo using palm muting. This really opens up the the tone of his banjo and brings his banjo playing in new directions. Check it out in this free masterclass below!
Jens Kruger debunks the the theory that you should not fret the 5th string on a 5 string banjo. Instead, watch this video to learn how to use it to your advantage and take your playing to a new level!
In this class, Alison Brown talks about using the correct left hand position when playing chord melodies. Chord melodies are a technique often used by jazz and classical guitarists, pianists, and 4 string banjo players. They are not utilized enough on the 5 string banjo. By using them they can provide beautiful and rich music and tones coming out of the banjo and can be a nice change of pace from the rapid fire delivery of notes we are used to hearing from the 5 string banjo.
It doesn't matter what style of banjo playing you do, creating a warmup routine for yourself each time you pick up your banjo will help you progress and perform better. Playing the banjo requires some very specialized technique in your hands. If you try to come right out of the gate and play full speed, your playing is most likely going to be sloppy.
Banjo lessons from a qualified teacher will accelerate your progress much faster than learning by purely trial and error. To make the most of your banjo lessons, there are several facets that if adhered to, will further accelerate your progress.
Banjo tab or tablature is a way of reading and writing banjo music that has similarities to standard musical notation, but is much easier to read, and gives the player the precise fret, string, and right hand fingering (assuming the player is right handed). It is a great tool for beginners to learn some songs and licks since it shows exactly what to do. As a teacher I focus my students on learning to understand the instrument, what exactly they are doing, and to use their ear, but banjo tab does help communicate many of these ideas quickly and easily.