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.
5 practice tips to help you actually use and benefit from ear training when you’re just starting out.
Ear training has gotten a bad rap
When you’re first starting out on the banjo it doesn’t seem like the most efficient way to learn and it can be extremely frustrating without the right guidance, so many players avoid it, until they realize…”wait...this is how I’m actually going to get good.”
The good news is you can start training your ear skills from the moment you decide you want to learn an instrument and it can be more fun and easier than you think. Many of these tips can even be done without your banjo and by adding them into your daily routine you’ll be paving the way for a more enjoyable and well-rounded banjo journey.
Learning to play the banjo these days is easier than ever. With the popularity of the banjo and acoustic music growing at a record pace, there are more tools to learn with as well as other musicians to play with.