Archive for September, 2015

  •  Banjo Workshop Notes

    Banjo Workshop Notes

    I just returned home from our 13th annual Banjo Workshop Cruise to the Caribbean. I wrote an impromptu note to the students that joined me this year and decided it would be helpful to publish on my free banjo lessons blog here at BanjoTeacher.com.Read More

  • 10th fret bending on Foggy Mountain Breakdown

    10th fret bending on Foggy Mountain Breakdown

    QUESTION: Is my sound quality problem likely caused by my playing (and will improve with practice), or is it due to the limitations of playing a $300.00 banjo and is what I can reasonably expect from the instrument?Read More

  • 500 dollar Banjo

    500 dollar Banjo

    Had a quick question, I have a 500.00 Hohner banjo that I am playing better since I received your online video, but I am trying to get better clarity like your banjo.Do I have to buy a better banjo or is there some way I can enhance mine to sound better and crisper.Read More

  • Advice in the picking and fretting hand

    Advice in the picking and fretting hand

    I started learning the banjo several weeks ago and so far progress is pretty much stalled at the beginning. I realize that the right hand movements, and especially the ability to move the middle finger independently of the ring finger, should come with repetition rolls. But I am also having great difficulty with the dexterity required of the left hand. The laRead More

  • Advice on Banjo Back up Play Along CDs

    Advice on Banjo Back up Play Along CDs

    Good luck with the Backup CDs. Remember to read the instructions on charting out the chords and playing along with the tracks based on the chords and chord progressions. You could be missing the point of these practice cds (which is to work on many parts of your playing skills) if you obsess on the tab arrangemeRead More

  • Advice on retuning the banjo after putting a capo on

    Advice on retuning the banjo after putting a capo on

    Student Question I am having trouble with my banjo going way out of tune when I put a capo on, one of my banjos is fine but the other two I avhe quite a bit of trouble with needing to re-tune, any tips? Read More

  • Banjo Advice - Left hand muting

    Banjo Advice - Left hand muting

    I recently purchased a Tennessee Crafters banjo and it has great sound. I am struggling with my left hand muting/interfering with the 4th string. The neck is (apparently) narrower than my previous banjo and the 4th string is very close to the lower edge of the neck. Is this something I might be able to adjust with a new nut, or is it just lazy left hand technique? Read More

  • Banjo Encyclopedia Learning Tips

    Banjo Encyclopedia Learning Tips

    I have been working on the Banjo Student's Breakdown in the Banjo Encyclopedia and I am having a bit of trouble with the 8th measure where you perform a 2-3 slide on the third string with your second finger and then use your index finger to fret the 1st string at the second fret. Would it be okay to use your rinRead More

  • Banjo Exercises and Workout by Ross Nickerson

    Banjo Exercises and Workout by Ross Nickerson

    Banjo Exercises and WorkoutThis is the first installment of a series of teaching articles to help banjo students improve their overall skills by getting a "Banjo Workout".When learning the banjo it's only natural to want to learn songs and seek tangible results right away by playing a song. However in my workshops it's been my observation that students are burning a lot of practice time sight reading tablature and not getting the results they desire. If we can take a step back and see the big picture it should be obvious that if we spend more of our practice time building the skills needed to play songs and improve our overall capabilities, completed songs, jamming and real results should fall right into place.In this first banjo exercise lesson. I'm going to give you a picking exercise with a few different aspects of picking to work on. Read More

  • Banjo Learning Tips

    Banjo Learning Tips

    I wanted to be sure that I am on right track and to verify that you suggest using the book in the sequence presented which has ‘Right Hand’’ techniques with Rolls prior to “Left Hand” techniques with Chords, etc. Read More

  • Banjo Practice Trying to Hard

    Banjo Practice Trying to Hard

    One of the thing that comes up a lot at my private lessons is that students can think too hard, which many of us do. Adults especially, are used to solving our problems with our mind. With the banjo many of the difficulties can be solved by overcoming physical barriers. That of course is not new, but maybe not thought through enough.Read More

  • Banjo Set Up Advice

    Banjo Set Up Advice

    Just a quick note to say how much I am enjoying the courses I have downloaded from you. I have recently detected vibration on my 4th string when fretting. All the other strings are fine and it is a new set of strings. Are there any banjo websites who diagnose and advise on these problems. Read More

  • Banjo Students Breakdown

    Banjo Students Breakdown

    In the Banjo Encyclopedia, chapter, 5 the Banjo Student's Breakdown. There are four places in this tune where you move from G to F, starting F with a hammer-on on the 4th string. I am finding it nearly impossible to make this transition with any speed. Is there a trick to this, or just lots of practice?Read More

  • Banjo Timing Instruction

    Banjo Timing Instruction

    Reply to a student reporting on learning timing on banjo and other common hurdlesThanks for the positive feedback. timing problems can often be solved by learning to count out or tap out the beats or notes in each measure, (without playing).Read More

  • Beverly Hillbilly D Chord Part

    Beverly Hillbilly D Chord Part

    I bought your books How to Build Up speed and The banjo song book. I am a newcomer but have got the hang of the basic rolls and can play reasonably fluently and at a medium tempo. Problem I am trying to learn The Ballad of Jed Clampet and I just cannot for the life of me get the phrasing of the end of the 3rd to the beginning of the 4th measure. I know the tune, I've watchedRead More

  • Chord shapes / keys

    Chord shapes / keys

    Student Question I understand the concepts of playing back up as explained in the encyclopedia and other books I have but I can't find anything specific concerning backup in alternate tunings, particularly and specifically Dm...iRead More

  • Controling Banjo Picking

    Controling Banjo Picking

    I have been playing (or trying) for a few years now, and for the amount of time invested, feel I should be a pretty good player by now! Not so unfortunately as my biggest problem seems to be my right hand and fingers going everywhere once I start trying to pick up some speed. My hand cramped up terribly when I had two fingers on the head, so it was suggested that I try with just my pinky. I did this and it made me woRead More

  • Fingers tensing up while playing banjo

    Fingers tensing up while playing banjo

    I have just started using some of your materials but have not yet seen this issue specifically addressed. My playing consistency is poor. Some days I can play moderate difficulty tunes with rhythm and timing and with few if any errors. At other times (particularly when playing in front of an “audience”), both right and left hanRead More

  • Fretting Hands Question

    Fretting Hands Question

    I'm still struggling with the lick in sitting on top of the world. Would you mind a detailed explanation how to play the lick with the 2 hammers, pulloff ? exactly what the left and right hands are supposed to do and how to do it ?Read More

  • Help with D Chord

    Help with D Chord

    I can play most chord forms pretty well at this point, but have never comfortably mastered the full D chord—in fact, I’m not very content with how I play it at all. This is certainly an important chord shape that is essential to basic bluegrass music, especially up-the-neck playing. Here’s my question—what can I do to improve my ability to accurately transition to this chord form (I know, practice, practice, practice)? Do you have something specific that you can recommend?Read More

  • Hints to Pick Banjo Faster Developing Speed and Technique

    Hints to Pick Banjo Faster Developing Speed and Technique

    Hints to Pick Banjo Faster Developing Speed and TechniqueRight Hand1. Practice Rolls. 2. Work on weak spots. 3. Push yourself and try to raise your speed a notch each day. 4. Try using a metronome to push the tempo up each practice session and help you with your timing as well. 5. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes and sound sloppy so you can work out the kinks and overcome obstacles. 6. Play in situations that challenge your speed. You may be surprised on how well you do. 7. Play through mistakes and keep plowing forward. Read More

  • How do I know where the banjo melody notes are?

    How do I know where the banjo melody notes are?

    His question was a good one or common one but the way he pictured how this all comes together needed better understanding. It comes from every one learning banjo rolls first. Learning the rolls or the “picking patterns” first is helpful and probably the best way to get started but its basically an exercise to develop picking skill and timing. Its not the wRead More

  • How do you become more advanced?

    How do you become more advanced?

    How did you go from beginning to professional? There is one thing that I would like to offer as a question and that is, have you considered writing an article about how you progressed playing the banjo from the beginning through intermediate, and advance play, before becoming professional? I'm sure countless aspiring banjo players would be interested in how you went about going from a novice banjo player to an expert today. For example, I, for one, would be interested in knowing how often and for how long did you practice, your approach to learning, and your daily practice routine. Read More

  • How long to stay practicing on 1 thing?

    How long to stay practicing on 1 thing?

    I received my banjo and materials very quickly. Thanks for the quick service! Your book and DVD (Fundamentals of 5-String Banjo) are invaluable resources for the beginning student. My problem is I'm not sure exactly how quickly to move forward or how long I should practice one thing. Should I learn one roll until Read More

  • How to Bend Banjo Picks

    How to Bend Banjo Picks

    Is there a preferred bending of the finger tips? Should they be bent to where they are 45 degrees to your finger nails or left as they are when you take them out of the pack?There seems to be as many answers as there are stars in the sky. I just want to know if there is a mechanically best method so I don't have to change later. Read More

  • How to best use The Banjo Encyclopedia

    How to best use The Banjo Encyclopedia

    Here is a copy of a quick note I sent to a student who was learning a lot from the Banjo Encyclopedia but also felt a little overwhelmed by all the material.Read More

  • How to Capo the 5th string

    How to Capo the 5th string

    In your years of playing the banjo , do you find it usefull to have a 5th sting sliding capo bar? I not sure if I should have one mounted ,if it is not really needed. Read More

  • How to play a banjo roll with a bounce

    How to play a banjo roll with a bounce

    I always am interested in opinions on whether one should try to pick with even spacing (time) between notes or a slightly different spacing resulting in a “bouncy” rhythm. I have noticed listening to your monthly songs that on most you seem to have an even spacing between notes even at the slow speed resulting in the so called “machine gun” sound.Read More

  • How to Play Banjo Chords - Difficulty with chords

    How to Play Banjo Chords - Difficulty with chords

    I am a beginner/newly intermediate banjo player and am having a very difficult time with chords.Read More

  • How to Play Banjo Up the Neck, Cumberland Gap

    How to Play Banjo Up the Neck, Cumberland Gap

    Question Hi Ross, I have a question about playing the Cumberland Gap up the neck break. I'm having trouble with the pinky finger hitting the 11th fret, 2nd string right. Is there a pearl of wisdom for this?Read More

  • How to play in the Key of D on banjo

    How to play in the Key of D on banjo

    I can play most chord forms pretty well at this point, but have never comfortably mastered the full D chord—in fact, I’m not very content with how I play it at all. This is certainly an important chord shape that is essential to basic bluegrass music, especially up-the-neck playing. Here’s my question—what can I do to improve my ability to accurately transition to this chord form (I know, practice, practice, practice)? Do you have something specific that you can recommend?Read More

  • How to Tune a Banjo

    How to Tune a Banjo

    Learning how to tune a banjo easily and quickly is one of the first steps in learning to play the banjo and I am here to lend a few tips to help you get the job done. To get the notes to tuneRead More

  • Improvising In Scruggs’ Style Getting in the Zone”

    Improvising In Scruggs’ Style Getting in the Zone”

    I have been reading through several pages of your "Banjo Encyclopedia," and, I've got to say this is a pinnacle text. Over the years, I've collected dozens of instructional books, almost all of which I set aside after realizing they were not comprehensive...just tabs. You've done it! I feel you passion in your text, and in your playing. You have done the "banjo world of players" a great service...cudos! Wow! Thanks for the compliments. I am alwayRead More

  • Index Finger flies away

    Index Finger flies away

    Just wanted to thank you again and let you know how productive the cruise workshop was for me. I have been playing about two hours a day in the month since we’ve been back and am seeing improvement in most areas. I’m mostly practicing the two-finger chord positions, playing in thirds and sixths, and doing left and right hand exercises out of the Banjo Encyclopedia, which is very well done I must say. My only source of frustration right now is that no matter how muRead More

  • Learning 5-String Banjo Chords

    Learning 5-String Banjo Chords

    Learning the first few 5-string banjo chords is easy and it won’t take you long, just a little bit of practice exercise and repetition. Often banjo players struggle with learning chords simply because they get very involved with picking and do not take the time to practice the fretting hand. In comparison guitar students get right to learning chords because the pickRead More

  • Learning Banjo From the Bluegrass Encyclopedia of Banjo

    Learning Banjo From the Bluegrass Encyclopedia of Banjo

    Try reading The Banjo Encyclopedia without playing to get some further understanding of what is being presented. A lot of students say that has helped them. Try to gain more of the big picture before you dive into playing, it will likely save you valuable practice time.Read More

  • Learning Banjo Slides with Banjo Chords

    Learning Banjo Slides with Banjo Chords

    When I wrote Slide Mountain I had demonstrating how to play slides on the banjo on my mind. I purposely get a little carried away with it. I hope you don’t mind me stretching out a bit and having some fun. I have a lesson for getting started sliding into chords below. I posted 4 more versions of the same song below the lesson too. I hope you have some fun with it. Thanks! Happy Picking, NickRead More

  • Learning to play Chords and Chord Shapes

    Learning to play Chords and Chord Shapes

    As I'm practicing chords and my chord progressions on banjo, Should I try to find the chords closest to each other on the neck. or try to pick up and down the neck or try pick different shapes.I get a little confused trying to pick out say which D to go to Good question actually. I normally suggest finding the ones closest to each other when you learning and finding them. Read More

  • Middle Finger Problems

    Middle Finger Problems

    A question on the middle finger not cooperating I am a member and I have a question for you. I started playing last June and my middle finger wants to move up away from the strings when I strike the other strings with my thumb and middle finger. Is they any way of trying to correct this. Maybe some exercise. Anything advise would be greatly appreciated. Read More

  • Newbie to the Banjo - Left Hand Technique

    Newbie to the Banjo - Left Hand Technique

    As a relative newbie to the banjo, I've got a question that pertains to the Banjo Encyclopedia's 3rd chapter on left handed technique. Here's my question.Read More

  • Play Along CDs for Speed Building Book

    Play Along CDs for Speed Building Book

    Question about the best products to learn from someone who is frustrated with keeping up with the tracks in the How to Build Your Speed on the Banjo BookThe new backup play along CDs are probably the best banjo practice advice I could give for improving playing the songs you know, They are much slower than the Speed book tracks. The fRead More

  • Play by ear banjo tips

    Play by ear banjo tips

    Playing in the the key of D and playing by ear Here are some suggestions I just sent to a student preparing to attend an upcoming workshop of mine. I don't always have time for this but was inspired tonight. The suggestions might help you too so I'll share them.Read More

  • Playing the Melody by Ear

    Playing the Melody by Ear

    Playing the Melody on Banjo A question on how to learn to pick out the melody notes. So you have any suggestions that would help me learn how to just pick the melody notes out when learning a tune or is it just learn the notes on the fret board?Read More

  • Playing using the chords

    Playing using the chords

    Learning new techniques and new songs has been the driving force for me to play every day and your Website has added a new dimension to my quest. I've watched your newest video of "Boil Them Cabbage Down" and thoroughly enjoy the style you've created with that song. I know a simple version of that song but would love to get my hands on the tab from your video.Read More

  • Practicing Basic Banjo Rolls

    Practicing Basic Banjo Rolls

    I am member and have been getting much material from your great collections. My question is that I have never practiced the basic banjo rolls and other rolls. I have been playing for about 3 years now and I am learning different songs from many books. I feel like I am learning the forward roll and other rolls better because I use them in alRead More

  • Practicing the left hand for fun

    Practicing the left hand for fun

    Question I'm getting better at banjo but the left hand is tough for me right now. I remember you emphasizing it in your workshop. It seems so much easier and 'fun' to work right hand picking techniques. Read More

  • Pull Down or Push Up?

    Pull Down or Push Up?

    Ross when i first learned to play i was taught to push off from 3-2 (third string) and have always done that but lacked consistency in sound- and sometimes my middle finger hits the fourth string such that i can hear it. i have the encyclopedia ( which is awesome) and you teach a pull off (3-2). i think it sounds better but i am so used to pushing that it is slow going right now. what do you recommend that i do ? Read More

  • Pull off 3-2 on the 3rd string

    Pull off 3-2 on the 3rd string

    I have a question in regards to the 3-2 pull off. After experimenting one night, I found that my pull offs were crisper and cleaner if I used my left ring finger instead of my left middle finger to do the pull off. After doing this for a few minutes, I started thinking about the physics of using the ring instead of the middle, and it seemed to makRead More

  • Pull-off and Push-off tips/follow up

    Pull-off and Push-off tips/follow up

    A featured email question from a student and answer by me, or some advice I have given someone who has requested it. Many of the questions I receive are questions that many students learning the banjo have. I hope the answers and advice I share ring through as sensible to you.Read More

  • Putting One or Two Fingers on the Banjo Head

    Putting One or Two Fingers on the Banjo Head

    Should I place two fingers on the head? One finger down? If so, which finger? When picking what's the difference between planting two fingers or just one? The advantage? Why put any fingers down?Read More

  • Putting the Capo on

    Putting the Capo on

    I spent yesterday at a oldtime music jamboree with about ten different bands playing. I noticed the guitar players when they moved their capos they didn't retune, when I put mine on the banjo it doesn't sound right and appears to be out of tune. Your book (banjo encyclopedia) says I may have to retune with the capo on. My question is if I put the capo on the 2nd fret (key of A) what do I tune the strings to?? I guess this question would be the same for any placement of the capo.Read More

  • Question on using a preamp with a Fishman Banjo Pickup

    Question on using a preamp with a Fishman Banjo Pickup

    Hi, I purchased a Gold Tone BG-250 F from you a few months ago. Great banjo by the way. I installed the Fishman rare earth pickup in it and was hoping you could give me some insight on a good DI for this set up. I am playing in a full band set-up with electric instruments, drums, etc. I am having trouble getting good volume with control. Is it ideal to use a DI with the Fishman? If so, what do I look for? Thanks for any help you can give me at all.Read More

  • Questions about banjo tab

    Questions about banjo tab

    I get a little bit of an attitude with any issues with the tab related the backup tracks in particular. That's because it's my feeling, and desire for students to get away from the tab with these tracks, to try to fill in the space where they forget, (or the tab is wrong or doesn't suit them:) and practice just picking along really,Read More

  • Relaxing when playing banjo

    Relaxing when playing banjo

    Getting in the Zone! By Ross Nickerson I had a very nice email that included compliments on my book The Banjo Encyclopedia. The student also had some interesting comments that inspired an impromptu email I sent back to him with some suggestions and insights that might help some of you as well. Thanks! Ross Nickerson. Read More

  • Right Hand Placement Question

    Right Hand Placement Question

    I am in my mid 50’s and got my first banjo as well as your impressive book “The Banjo Encyclopedia”. I wanted to be sure that I am on right track and to verify that you suggest using the book in the sequence presented which has ‘Right Hand Banjo Instruction ’’ techniques with Rolls prior to “Left Hand” techniques with Chords, etc.Read More

  • Roll syncopation on the slow speeds on the CD

    Roll syncopation on the slow speeds on the CD

    I was working on the Alternating Thumb Roll (p. 15) and playing the eighth notes in a strict fashion according to the instruction in the first bullet on page 14, which says to "ensure that there is an equal space between the eighth notes". But, when I listen to the way that the Alternating Thumb Roll is played on the CD, the eighthRead More

  • Should I Put One Finger or Two Fingers on the Banjo Head

    Should I Put One Finger or Two Fingers on the Banjo Head

    Should I put two fingers on the head? when playing banjo? One finger down? If so, which finger? When picking what's the difference between planting two fingers or just one? The advantage? Why put any fingers down?Read More

  • Sitting On Top of the World ending lick

    Sitting On Top of the World ending lick

    I'm still struggling with the lick in sitting on top of the world. Would you mind a detailed explanation how to play the lick with the 2 hammers, pull off ? exactly what the left and right hands are supposed to do and how to do it ?Read More

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