How Can I Learn to Play the Banjo?

Lori Kilchermann

You can learn to play the banjo in many ways. You can purchase a book or video that shows you the various chords and methods of picking the banjo, or you can simply learn from another player. Often, the combination of both reading an instructional book and watching another player will be the best way for you to learn to play the banjo. A critical component when you begin to play the banjo is to play as often as you can. There is no substitute for practice when it comes to mastering any musical instrument.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

As you begin to play the banjo, you will get very sore fingers on your chording hand. This is natural and is due to the pressure of the thin, wire-strings pressing into your finger tips. You can reduce this pain by having your banjo professionally set up by an expert at most music stores. This will place the strings very close to the neck and minimize the amount of pressure required to make a chord when you play the banjo. Another tip to eliminate sore fingers for beginning players is to soak your fingertips in a bowl of vinegar for a few minutes every night after you finish playing.

Once you have got the basics down and are beginning to play the banjo somewhat effectively, you might want to seek out another banjo player to play with. This type of competition often creates a better player by allowing you to hear how the other player makes the sounds that you want to learn how to make with your banjo. By comparing styles and helping each other play the banjo better, you will usually advance your talents much faster than by playing in a room all alone. This works on the same principle as doing homework with someone else; you are motivated to appear and sound better every time you play together.

As with most musical instruments, you will never completely master the banjo. There will always be something else that you can do that you have never done before. That is one of the most fascinating parts of learning to play the banjo. You can sit for hours attempting to create new sounds or learn new songs, and by practicing, you can become a better banjo player. Different styles of music require you to play the banjo differently in order to accurately depict the style of music, such as bluegrass or country and Western styles.

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