Starting Out Successfully On Banjo

by Bennett Sullivan

When I get questions from players who are having a hard time progressing with their playing, the challenge is almost always something that could have been prevented when they were just starting out. It’s always more fun to imagine being an amazing banjo player, playing fancy things really fast, than it is to struggle through things like fingerings, timing, and soloing.

We all get a different first time experience that shapes how the rest of our progress and playing goes and the fundamentals we learn in the beginning will show up every time you play or learn something new. I believe that you can have more of those ah-ha moments, where things just click, when you’re taught the fundamentals or essentials in a way that makes sense not just technically, but also visually, and auditorilly. So you can easily see yourself using your practice tools to start sounding and playing like you want. This is something to look for as you’re seeking out lessons and teachers. Make sure you’re really learning how to implement and understand these fundamentals, rather than just being told what to do. 

Here are the main places I see students getting stuck so that as you’re learning you can be sure you’re taking it in in the best possible way. And, if you’re looking for lessons that will help you build, or rebuild, a strong banjo foundation I’m covering it all in my new Beginner’s Master Class series.


You know that timing is an important thing to feel comfortable with, but how you learn it- so you build all the skills you need -is where people get frustrated and stuck. 

This is the very first thing I’ll be going over in my new Master Class series for beginner’s and advanced beginners. 

Listening and Ear Training

Learning how to actively listen to music is important for so many reasons. When you can hone in on a recording's nuances, it will inform your ability to listen when you're practicing or jamming with your friends. 

Next time you listen to your favorite song, listen out for different sections of the song, what instruments are doing behind the soloist, and most importantly - do you recognize any licks the banjo player is playing?

Asking questions and getting help. Where do I go from here? 

Remember, you’re not just looking for information, but you want tips and tools that empower your confidence in your practicing and playing. If you’re constantly worried “Am I practicing this in the most efficient way?” then your progress will suffer. 

Check out the Beginner’s Master Class to see if it’s right for you and feel free to reach out with any questions!

Happy Picking!


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