The banjo is easy and fun to play. Banjos come in many different varieties. The six string version is tuned and played exactly the same as a guitar and sometimes called a guitjo. The four string comes in two different varieties, the plectrum banjo (long neck) and the tenor banjo (short neck). These banjos are usually tuned like a violin or mandolin and commonly feature in Trad Jazz and Irish music. Both the four and six string banjos are normally played with a plectrum. Keith Urban normally uses a 6-string.
The 5-string Banjo
The most popular type of banjo has five strings which are normally tuned to a G chord. One of the strings, the fifth string, is shorter than the others and is attached to a tuning peg sticking out of the side of the neck. This is probably the easiest type of banjo for beginners to play.
Five string banjos are commonly used in Appalachian, Old Time American Folk and Bluegrass music and can be heard in bands as diverse as the Dixie Chicks, Mumford and Sons, the Eagles and Led Zeppelin.
Get Started Playing Banjo!
As a beginner you may feel intimidated but don’t worry! You can learn to play Duelling Banjos much easier than you think using the free instruction videos on this website. You can jump right in and start learning Dueling Banjos immediately if you like, or you can look at some of the other free video lessons covering subjects such as strumming the banjo, tuning the banjo, making chords and much more. Cripple Creek is a great song for a beginner to learn.
The five string banjo is normally played by plucking or ‘picking’ the strings with the fingers of the right hand while the left hand ‘frets’ the strings by pressing the strings against the frets – small flat wires placed across the fingerboard. The right hand sounds the notes whilst the left hand chooses which notes are sounded. The fingers of the right hand can sound the strings in many different ways, by plucking or picking, by strumming or brushing and by knocking down. The different techniques are called fingerpicking, strumming and frailing or clawhammer. Playing one note at a time using left and right hands together is called melodic playing, while playing several strings at the same time is called playing chords.