Banjo For Beginners

The ultimate guide to banjo for beginners.

Setting Goals

What do you want to be able to do?

This is the most important knowledge when it comes to learning the banjo. Or anything for that matter. A lot of people don’t have any goals at the start (myself included) and the result can be a sort of pointlessness to practicing. I found that it is much more efficient to find goals. That way one can determine success and it is easy to mark progress.

So what do you want to be able to do? For some people (especially people with career and/or kids) setting aggressive goals is the wrong thing to do. They learn the banjo for the relaxation of playing. This mentality is fine as well. If you don’t like the idea of setting aggressive goals, try starting out with very easy goals. Or none at all. You know what best works for you.

That all being said, goals can be extremely helpful. When I started playing banjo, my first goal was to learn to play foggy mountain breakdown. This was way too ambitious! My teacher started me out with the basic hand form for playing Scruggs style (see here for Scruggs style).

Here’s a good list of goals to aim for, ranked by difficulty:
1. Play open Scruggs style
1. Fret open chords

2. Roll a basic pattern (see roll patterns)

3. Play open Scruggs style with open chords
3. Fret regular chords
3. Learn slides
3. Combine basic patterns together

4. Learn hammer ons and pull-offs
4. Strum G-C-D songs (see G-C-D songs)

5. Roll G-C-D songs

6. Roll 3 chord songs (see 3 chord songs)

7. Roll complex songs (see complex songs)

8. Learn bluegrass songs (see bluegrass songs)

Feel free to set your own goals! If there is a song you really want to play, work towards that song. I am learning piano right now, and I have a basic understanding of the instrument from piano lessons as a lad. I started off learning a favorite song of mine. Learning that song really helped me define what I wanted to do. I also could track my progress easily. The more of the song I could play, the farther along I was.

Another huge advantage of goals down the line is their helpfulness in fighting stagnation. Many people have learned musical instruments only to plateau and never advance further. If you are fine where you are, this is great. But if you want to continue getting better, goal setting can really keep you on track to continued improvement. Happy Picking!

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