Banjo For Beginners

The ultimate guide to banjo for beginners.


Hello! Welcome to Banjo for beginners. This website is dedicated to learning how to play banjo. We have lots of articles on the learning process, and are constantly updating the site with more articles. My name is Paul, and I am the resident banjo player. Lets start by saying the banjo is a very appealing instrument. It has a unique upbeat sound that compliments any setting. The banjo is rooted in American and African culture, and it is a truly fun instrument to play. And, unlike the guitar, not everyone plays the banjo. You can actually bring something different to jam sessions. Back when I wanted to learn a musical instrument, I looked at my options. Both my brother and mother play guitar. I wanted an instrument I could make my own, and would enjoy spending time on. So, I was naturally drawn to the beautiful and inspiring banjo. Whatever your reason, the banjo is a solid instrument and is sure to bring you happiness.Not everyone was born with banjo playing in their family (myself included) so it is useful to go over the anatomy of a banjo. Also, that way when someone asks you if your head is tuned you know not to be insulted- Banjo anatomy. Also, check out this article on the 5th string, a major oddity in stringed instruments. Its one of the many unique aspects of the banjo. Open G tuning is standard on a banjo, and need a little explanation. For those of you who use standard guitar tuning, open G tuning will be a lot different. In a good way. But enough with the physical element. On to actually learning the banjo.

When learning anything, there is a question you should ask yourself beforehand. What do you want to be able to do? Goal setting is very helpful when starting a new task. It can help out track your progress and keep you motivated. What do you want to be able to do? The definitive aspect of banjo playing is right hand technique. That is what separates banjoists from other string players, the Scruggs style of playing. Scruggs style is used by Belá Fleck, Steve Martin and Earl Scruggs. Scruggs style is a little unnatural, and if learned incorrectly it can be very hard to relearn. I can give you some tips on how to properly deal with any problems that come up. And as with all instruments, timing is important. Tempo is especially important for the banjo, because often the banjo is the easiest instrument to hear. It is the equivalent of the drum set, and hopefully acts as a uniting force.

So what is needed to learn the banjo? Well, first off you need a banjo. There’s lots of banjos to choose from. Lots. Along with the banjo itself, there are a lot of things that might be overlooked. Banjo Strings seem pretty simple, but there are actually some aspects that generally get overlooked. And of course, picks are needed. Scruggs style of playing banjo involves the thumb, index and middle fingers. So you naturally need a pick for each of those digits. However, choosing the material of your picks can vary the sound greatly, so I provide some insight into the different tones different picks put out. There are a lot of things that you might find helpful. Like a tuner for those of us who don’t have perfect pitch. Or a metronome for those of us who have trouble keeping perfect time. Also straps. Straps are important if you ever want to stand and play banjo. And they add a level of customization to your banjo. I’ve gone through the trouble of creating a suggested items list just for you. Again, these are just recommendations, but its nice to have some of these things.

The banjo is an incredibly fun instrument. Let me be the first to tell you, you will not regret learning the banjo. What you might regret is not putting enough effort in. As with most hobbies, you reap what you sow. If you put in the effort, it will show, in your play and confidence. I can say from personal experience that as soon as you tell people you play banjo, many of them will want you to play for them. Well, I didn’t really try that hard when starting off, so I didn’t play in front of people for the first two years I played banjo. This situation can be avoided if you practice. Playing banjo may seem like a lot of work, but it sure doesn’t seem like work when you’re playing. Do you have any questions unanswered here? Send an email to And as always, happy picking!

banjo history learn to play banjo banjo exercises

6 Responses to 'Home'

  1. Lisa Dancisin says:

    I picked up the banjo about 3 mo ago and decided I would learn to play via web. So I read up on it printed some finger rolls, watched video after video. I wasn’t going anywhere fast but I felt like I was on track. Then my wonderful husband gave me banjo lessons as a gift. (about a month and a half ago) I happen to know this music teacher he taught my son to play both the drums and the guitar. He is a qualified music teacher no doubt about it. (has his master’s teaches at school, private lessons the whole nine yards) In the beginning I really felt good about my lessons, he started me on chromatic exercises, got a metronome was working with keeping time, started teaching me the 3 main chords D,C open G a few minor chords…was having me strumming which eh? who am I to question a music teacher… figure it won’t hurt to learn how to do that. Here’s where things have turned for me…he wants me to learn a four finger pick (p,i,m,a,). At the least I’m frustrated with this. I hate strumming and now I find I hate picking. I’m not so set in my ways yet to not be able to lift my ring finger but I find this unorthodox way to be confusing. Simple question, what do you think about this style of teaching?

    P.S. I don’t hate it so bad I won’t practice but it’s not much fun when it don’t feel right.

    • David says:

      “It sounds like your music teacher is very well qualified, but has a rare style for playing banjo. I was taught in the 3 finger/Scruggs style, and know very little about the 4 finger style. I think that every style can be taught well and can be effective, but only if the player enjoys it. Thats that biggest factor in learning a instrument. If you aren’t enjoying learning than I think that roughing it out might not be the best approach. If I were you I would take a step back and ask why you are learning banjo, and how you would enjoy learning best. If you enjoy the learning process, it will be easier and quicker. But if you hate it, then learning the banjo could be difficult and more work than it should be. Long story short, you should learn in the way that you enjoy the most.”
      – Paul

  2. Lisa says:

    Thank you for your response. The question of why I am learning the banjo may possibly be the reason for his way of teaching. At my first lesson he asked me why I wanted to learn the banjo and my response was “because I have a banjo.” Probably not the answer he was expecting, however it is the biggest reason why. He then asked me if I liked banjo music. The answer to that question is sometimes I do and then sometimes it drives me nuts. I figured this was true with all instruments (remember I have kids with 5 different instruments and wanted to beat all of them with whichever instrument they were playing with at onetime or another)and eventually I would learn to love it or at least appreciate it.
    I will take your advice and step back and see what I want to get out of this and set myself some realistic goals. Thank you again. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

  3. Steve Krynauw says:

    Hi I have always wanted to play a music instrument I liked banjo music.Some months ago I had some spare money & ordered a banjo from a music shop. It arrived 2 months ago. I do bits of practice every evening just for finger placement & picking the correct string.. My fingers are not as dyslexic as they were. I dont think I have enough goal. I think a banjo should be picked not strummed. Is there a very easy tune I could learn to pick so I can monitor myself & feel some achievement
    Thank you for your site. (I’m an old man living in Zimbabwe) Take care Steve

  4. Ruth Smith says:

    For the past year I have been learning to play the ukulele, but I love the sound of the Banjo.
    What advice would you give to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *