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Clawhammer Banjo: Right-Hand Basics

Clawhammer banjo combines melody and rhythm in a way that makes people want to get up and dance. This playing style sounds unlike anything else in American music! The exact origin of the word [more…]

First Tips for Clawhammer Banjo

After you've found a good hand position, try a few exercises to get used to striking the strings in the clawhammer style. Clawhammer is very much an individualized approach to banjo playing. Even the best [more…]

Lead Playing Banjo in a Jam Session

Lead playing on your banjo has to do with those times when you're the center of attention in your band or during a jam session. If you're playing a well-known banjo instrumental like “Cripple Creek” or [more…]

4 Clawhammer Banjo Right-Hand Exercises

You can work up to playing the basic clawhammer strum by first getting comfortable striking individual notes. For the exercises here, use the right-hand index finger for playing melody notes [more…]

What is Bluegrass Banjo?

Bluegrass-style banjo originated with the innovations of Earl Scruggs, who burst upon the national scene in the mid-1940s. The bluegrass style is characterized by a flurry of fast, brilliant-sounding notes [more…]

How to Choose Banjo Thumbpicks

Bluegrass banjo players use metal fingerpicks on their right-hand index and middle fingers and a plastic thumbpick on their thumb. Initially, you may find that getting used to the feel of these picks is [more…]

How to Choose Banjo Fingerpicks

Like thumbpicks for banjo playing, metal fingerpicksconsist of a blade-shaped striking surface joined to a collar that holds the fingerpick around the end of the finger. You want to fit the picks on your [more…]

Get Set to Play Bluegrass Banjo

One of the main reasons people love bluegrass banjo music is that it's so incredibly fast and loud. In order to play at those tempos that approach the speed of sound, you need to find a right-hand position [more…]

How to Play the Banjo in D Tuning

The banjo classic “Coal Creek March” is usually played in D tuning, where the banjo is tuned to the pitches of a D major chord. This tuning is also used by bluegrass players, so it's definitely worth checking [more…]

10 Chord Progressions to Jam Instrumentals You Need to Know

Musicians take turns suggesting tunes to play in bluegrass jam sessions. Tunes like “Cripple Creek,” “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” and “Fireball Mail” are high on the list of banjo players’ jam-session favorites [more…]

Jam Survival Checklist for the Bluegrass Banjo Player

You’ll be hooked on the banjo for life when you’re able to play with other musicians in jam sessions. Here’s a checklist of what to bring to your next jam: [more…]

What’s in Your Banjo Case: Essential Tools and Parts

Whether it’s across the country to a festival or just across town to the local music store’s weekly jam session, bluegrass banjo players love to travel. Unexpected things can happen while you’re away from [more…]

Essential Bluegrass Banjo Intros and Endings

These intro and ending licks are used by bluegrass banjo players all over the world to start solos and end songs. The intro licks are grouped according to which string plays the melody note on the first [more…]

Chord Soloing: Amazing Grace

Chord soloing is an effective way to play slower songs in bluegrass style on the banjo. With this way of playing, you play the melody on the first string while also playing chords on the second and third [more…]

Picking-Hand Bluegrass Roll Patterns

Bluegrass banjo is characterized by a hard-driving, forceful picking-hand approach. Developing good timing is essential to great playing, and you'll want to practice these rolls slowly at first, keeping [more…]

Melodic and Single-String Techniques

In melodic-style banjo, you play scales by striking consecutive notes on different strings. With single-string style, you pick the same string consecutively, usually with an alternation of the thumb and [more…]

Movable F-Shape Chord Positions in the Keys of G, C, and D

The chord progressions for many bluegrass songs are made up of the chords built upon the first, fourth, and fifth notes of the major scale of the key of the song. Internalizing the I–IV–V chord positions [more…]

Bluegrass Banjo For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The picking-hand sequences known as roll patterns are what gives bluegrass banjo its unique and incredible sound. It’s important for these patterns to become completely second nature, because you use them [more…]

Bluegrass Banjo Yesterday and Today

Thousands of new players became attracted to the sound of the bluegrass banjo after hearing Earl Scruggs play, first with mandolin player Bill Monroe in the 1940s and then with longtime musical partner [more…]

How to Play the Alternating Thumb Roll on the Bluegrass Banjo

The alternating thumb roll is the first thing you might play on the bluegrass banjo if you were taking a leisurely stroll down a country road on a spring morning with banjo in hand. Sometimes called the [more…]

How to Play the Lick Roll on the Bluegrass Banjo

The lick roll is an essential banjo technique for bluegrass players. The lick roll has nothing to do with rock‐’n’‐roll banjo posturing, but it’s the roll pattern that is used to play just about everyone’s [more…]

How to Survey the Neck to Identify a Great Bluegrass Banjo

If you want a great bluegrass banjo, you need to survey the neck before making your purchase. The neck is the long piece of wood that attaches to the banjo body that guides the strings along the instrument’s [more…]

How to Play a Choke on the Bluegrass Banjo

When you push a string against your banjo fingerboard to raise its pitch, you’re playing a choke. The choke that you’ll play most often in bluegrass banjo is on the second string at the tenth fret. Here’s [more…]

Selecting and Fitting Picks for Your Bluegrass Banjo

Fingerpicks are an essential part of playing banjo in bluegrass style. You’ll play louder, faster, and with more accuracy and power with fingerpicks turbocharging your thumb, index finger, and middle finger [more…]

How to Find a Great Picking-Hand Position for the Bluegrass Banjo

If you really want you to become a great bluegrass banjo player, it’s time to relate the single most important recommendation to help get you there. The key to great playing is to find a comfortable picking‐hand [more…]


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