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Published On: Wed, Aug 3rd, 2022

Four Steps to Improving Your Skills as a Banjo Player

Playing any musical instrument gives you a sense of achievement – not only can you express yourself freely through music, it makes other people happy to hear you play as well. And when you’re playing the banjo, it gives a distinctive sound that could not be replicated by anything else – it’s unmistakable and one-of-a-kind. So while it’s true that it’s only with hours and hours of practice that you can become a master, it doesn’t mean you can’t play a tune or two, even as a beginner. But if you want to be comfortable with it and show off some tunes, here are four steps to improving your skills as a banjo player. 

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  • Be aware of your timing 

 

One of the first things you have to get used to to become a better banjo player is to think of the banjo as an instrument with rhythm – much like a drummer with a set of drums. Your first responsibility is to produce a steady rhythm, and you’re also responsible for playing in time. You must be attuned to the timing of notes (particularly ¼ notes, but also 1/8 and 1/16) to play the banjo well. 

 

  • Learn the skills that accompany many banjo songs 

 

To better yourself and learn how to play a beginner banjo, it’s better if you know the skills that accompany many banjo songs. The thing is, you will only learn the skills and riffs once you play and practice, and the best way to do that is by playing songs. So make it a point to learn a song by heart, and you can go on from there. There are plenty of songs to get you started, such as the classics like Cripple Creek and Amazing Grace. The good news is that there are many songs that even a beginner can learn. Once you know the skills needed to play simple songs, you can go a step further and challenge yourself with the more complex skills – and this will help you advance. 

 

  • Play the banjo using varying keys 

 

Even if you are playing the banjo at home it’s good to use a capo sometimes to play in different keys. Playing with a capo makes you experience a fun new sound. For banjo beginners, this can make slides, hammer-ons, and pull-offs much easier to do. Although you could put the capo on any fret, many banjo players only capo on the second fret which gives you the key of A with standard tuning. If you often play with others as part of an ensemble, you will probably need to play in the key of D. Put the capo on the second fret and play a C chord shape, which will sound like a D chord with the capo.

 

  • Practice tuning 

 

Learning how to tune your banjo correctly and quickly is a skill you should master, and don’t be the guy at practice whom everyone teases about tuning! Everyone knows tuning your banjo is important, so take the time to tune your banjo and give it the additional attention it needs. 

You can do other things to improve yourself – you can practice fretting and picking and try to learn a good technique, such as Melodic and Single-String styles. But don’t forget the most important lesson – always have fun.

Author: Mildred Austria

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