Banjo For Beginners

The ultimate guide to banjo for beginners.

Timing And Syncopation

Other musicians often make fun of banjoists for their timing. How can you tell if there’s a banjo player at your door? They can’t find the key, the knocking speeds up, and they don’t know when to come in. This one’s not about timing, but I had to include it. You’re lost in the desert and you see Bugs Bunny, a cactus, and a good banjo player. Who do you ask for directions? You might as well try the cactus, the other two are figments of your imagination.

Jokes aside, timing is very important for banjoists. Without proper timing, a banjo player pretty much is a joke. In a bluegrass band, the banjo is often the rock which the other players build off of. The roll patterns (see rolls) mark the timing and provide a base for the other musicians to build off of. So, to avoid jokes and create a better playing experience, good tempo is key.

If you are coming to the banjo from another instrument, you probably feel timing naturally. If this is not the case, try listening to some songs you really like and find the tempo in them. Tap your hand against some surface in beat to the song. Try muting the song for a little while and continue tapping, singing along if it’s helpful. You want to be able to feel the beat and rhythm of the song.

Metronomes can be very helpful (our pick on amazon). If you don’t naturally feel the tempo when you play, having a metronome can be very helpful. Also consider recording yourself play and listening to that. Both will help your ability to stay on time.

Syncopation is a fancy name for slightly off beat playing. Keep in mind, syncopation is really more for advanced players. As with most things, you must learn to follow the rules before you can bend them. I will write up an article later on the subject. For now, stick with the beat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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