Jingle Bells is one of the most popular Christmas songs ever written. Learn how to play it on standard G-tuned 5-string banjo with this free video lesson from Joff Lowson.
The first nine notes can all be played with just the right hand, but make sure to keep the left hand in position ready to play. The first few words of the song jingle bells, jingle bells are all played on the 2nd string, then jingle all the way is played on strings 1, 2 and 3 and you need to use the left hand on ‘The,’ 3rd string 2nd fret.
The second line – oh what fun it is – are all on the 2nd string first fret, with ‘To ride’ payed on the second string as well, but this time open. (Open means playing the string without the left hand touching it anywhere.)
The part that says on a one horse open sleigh is the trickiest bit because you are changing between two strings, the 2nd and 3rd, with the 3rd string also being fretted by the left hand on the 2nd fret. The vocal melody goes quicker when you sing ‘On a…’ and it’s possible to duplicate this on the banjo, but I recommend leaving out the word ‘A’ so it’s as if you were singing “On… one horse open sleigh.’ This will make the fingering much easier. You can pick all of these notes with the (Right Hand) Thumb if you like, or you can share the picking between the Thumb and the Index finger, with the Thumb playing notes on the 3rd string and the Index finger picking notes on the 2nd string. During the video I demonstrate all these different ways of playing, so watch closely and try it out for yourself!
Half way through the chorus everybody sings ‘Hey!’ and you can find this note easily on the five-string banjo, it’s the first string and it’s normally picked by the right-hand Middle finger. This note is also open, meaning you don’t need to do anything with the left hand – make sure to keep the left hand relaxed and in a good, comfortable position ready to play when it is needed.
After ‘Hey’ you play pretty much the whole thing again but there are a few changes towards the end. I go over this several times and also in slowmotion. Finally at the end of the video I play it all the way through so you can try playing along with me.
I hope you enjoy this free banjo lesson. Please take a look at my Member’s area where you can see very detailed instructional for a dozen new songs plus licks and tricks to get you playing like a boss!