The Banjo Encyclopedia "Bluegrass Banjo from A to Z" by Ross Nickerson Special Edition Spiral Bound with Hard Copy CD

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The Banjo Encyclopedia "Bluegrass Banjo from A to Z"

by Ross Nickerson

These Custom Wire bound Book Editions with 99 Track Hard Copy Audio CD are available ONLY at

Purchase here at the author Ross Nickerson's website and receive an exclusive version of The Banjo Encyclopedia that is spiral bound and includes a 99 Track hard copy audio CD. The publisher does not spiral bound The Banjo Encyclopedia so any version bought elsewhere is not spiral bound. We personally take them to be wirebound so they will easier for you to use and learn from.

Exclusive Hard Copy Audio CD
Now there is another reason to buy The Banjo Encyclopedia at We now are the only dealer that includes a hard copy audio CD disc. The publisher Mel Bay has now gone to a download the CD off their website format If you buy this book from any other online dealer, it will not be spiral bound OR have a hard copy CD.

It's 240 pages long, has 17 chapters and includes a 99 track audio CD.

Description of The Banjo Encyclopedia 
The Banjo Encyclopedia is a comprehensive, in-depth banjo instructional book and CD that covers in depth the intricacies of bluegrass banjo playing, including numerous topics that have been overlooked in banjo instruction to date. The Banjo Encyclopedia can take a student from the beginning, to intermediate, and right through to more advanced styles of banjo playing. Ross Nickerson uses his many years of experience helping hundreds of aspiring banjo pickers by offering the banjo student an opportunity to learn in a practical, straightforward manner. This wide-ranging banjo instructional book will focus on many techniques that will help every aspect of a banjo player's musicianship while simplifying many subjects in the learning process and comes with a 99 track CD. The Banjo Encyclopedia is undoubtedly one of the most complete five-string banjo books on the market today and a must for every banjo player's collection.

Customer Reviews
.you name it ... this book has it ALL The complete book about bluegrass banjo picking. It is very well written and is full of solid good advice and information. Its a superb book by a knowledgeable and nice guy!! ... well worth the money...

….I think that what you have created is the new gold standard for banjo instruction. It is an absolutely beautiful, beautifully written book, which I know will now be the foundation of my lifetime banjo study. I don't know how it could possibly be any better. And now I'm even more excited for our lessons to resume. All the best success with your great achievement.

...I devoured Ross Nickerson's Banjo Encyclopedia.

….thank you for all of your hard work....

I got it Friday and have read it cover to cover. Very well done. ...I did go to the Table of Contents and, in my opinion as a former HS teacher and college lecturer for 25 years - Ross has put together something that I would say is the first book/CD that anyone who knows they want to learn 5 string should have

......bought your Banjo Encyclopedia about 6 weeks ago, I have put all my other books on ice, yours is THE one. It covers everything I will possibly want to know for the next 20 years or so. It will in my opinion become the seminal book on banjo.

.....The Banjo Encyclopedia is more than I dreamed it would be. I could have saved myself a lot of money if I had started with this one book rather than buying 4 or 5 others to figure out which I liked best. Ross is so professional and so in tune with beginner and intermediate weaknesses. What a great teacher. I'll be looking for any workshops in 2005 that are within
reasonable traveling distance. I'm still having a hard time with the vamping but hope to master it in 2005.

GREAT BOOK: Your Banjo Encyclopedia arrived safely in Australia this week. 
It is a great reference companion to the your terrific "beginner online lessons". 
There is so much helpful material in the book and the CD with all the great audio tracks is very helpful too. Should all keep me happily pickin for years to come! 
Best wishes and thanks from Karl in Canberra Australia.

I order the online course which is great!! So I've decided the get the Banjo Encyclopedia guide,, boy I was surprised how detailed he put it together. In three weeks. I learned to do rolls and the timing of the rolls. I loved it

......Now that I see the qualities of this gentleman, I am REALLY looking forward to meeting him and thanking him for the effort it must have taken to put this together!….

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Table of Contents Listed Below

I've published the Table of contents below for the Banjo Encyclopedia too. I hope you will find it to be a great help in your banjo playing goals. It means a lot to me that I've received so many wonderful comments about this book It means even more to me that so many are learning from it. I was glad to do it. thanks, Ross Nickerson.

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Banjo Encyclopedia Table of Contents

About the Author
Foreword by Ross Nickerson
Tips On Learning The Most From The Book

Chapter 1: The Basics

Holding the Banjo, Using the Picks
How to Read Tablature
Parts on a Standard Five-String Banjo
Tuning Your Banjo
Right-Hand Positioning
Overcoming difficulties
Final tips on right-hand positioning
Left-Hand Positioning
Do's and don'ts for common problems with left-hand technique
Photos of left-hand positions
Final Note

Chapter 2: The Right Hand
Rhythm & Timing
Rhythm and timing exercises
Learning the Basic Rolls
More tips on rolls
Earl Scruggs' contribution
Examples of basic rolls
Timing Review
Using a metronome
Some suggestions about using a metronome
Timing exercises using a metronome
Advanced Rolls
Working with and learning some advanced rolls
Working with the thumb
Working with the index and middle fingers
Middle finger exercises
Index finger exercises
Exercising the index and middle fingers together
Developing Tone and Dynamics
Angle of attack
Balance of tone
More about positioning
The effect of picks on tone
Dynamics in your banjo playing
Dynamic examples
Developing Speed
Technique factors in speed building
Psychology of speed
What if I make a mistake?
How hard should I pick?
Should I use a metronome?
Always use a metronome?
Speed-building metronome?
Tone Exercises
Advanced Rolls for Practice
Final Note

Chapter 3: The Left-Hand
Finger Exercises
Several reminders for practicing the exercises in this chapter
A reminder before you start the exercises
Left-Hand Exercises
Left-hand exercises using thirds
Exercises for learning the notes on the fretboard in the G scale
Learning tips
Ways to Improve Slides, Hammer-ons, Pull-offs, and Chokes
Tips and reminders on slides, pull-offs, chokes and hammer-ons
Improving slides
Improving hammer-ons
Improving pull-offs
Improving chokes or bends
Adding and Improving Slides, Hammer-ons, Pull-offs, and Chokes in a Song
Banks of the Ohio - basic version
Banks of the Ohio - with slurs (slides, pull-offs, etc.)
Bury Me Beneath the Willow - basic version
Bury Me Beneath the Willow - with slurs (slides, pull-offs, etc.)
Final Note

Chapter 4: Practice Habits and Practicing Priorities
Practice builds confidence
Practice priorities and making the best use of practice time
How often should I practice and for how long?
Your practice area
Setting goals
Lesson Plans
Practice outline
Practice outline example
Splitting up practice time in the lesson plan
Working on Physical Challenges and Overcoming Obstacles
Isolating areas of practice
Tablature Discussion
Using CD, Video or DVD
Suggestions for memorizing
Working on the left and right hand separately while memorizing
A few more general suggestions on memorizing
Final Note

Chapter 5: Earl Scruggs' Style
Learning the Basics of Scrugg's Style Picking
Accenting Notes
Accenting Exercise
Bringing out the Melody
Sitting on Top of the World
Blues in the Scruggs' Style
Nine Pound Hammer
Learning a Breakdown in Scruggs' Style
Banjo Students' Breakdown
Final Note

Chapter 6: The Melodic Style
Melodic Style Exercises
Learning Songs in the Melodic Style
Sailor's Hornpipe
Turkey in the Straw
John Hardy
Playing in Harmony in the Melodic Style
Devil's Dream - Lead part
Devil's Dream - Harmony part
Playing the Blues in the Melodic Style
Blues Scale Melodic Exercise
Final Note

Chapter 7: The Single-String Style
Exercises Using the Single-String Style
Learning Some Scales in the Single-String Style
Chord shape single-string exercises
Don Reno Style Exercise
The Darktown Stutters' Ball
Learning Songs in the Single-String Style
Wildwood Flower - basic single-string version
Wildwood Flower - more complex single-string version
Arkansas Traveler
Whiskey Before Breakfast

Chapter 8: Mixing the Scruggs', Melodic and Single-String Technique, Learning to Play
Up the Neck, and Learning More About the Blues

Mixing the Scruggs', Melodic and Single-String Styles
Banjo licks that serve a similar purpose in each style
A Song Mixing the Three Styles With Some Blues
The Scruggs, Melodic, Single String Blues
Playing Up the Neck
Licks serving the same purpose, up and down the neck
Learning Both Down and Up the Neck Versions of a Song, for Comparison
She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain - lower neck version
She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain - up the neck version
Bonus Song, Mixing the Styles
Oh, Susanna
Learning More About the Blues
Blues Scales
Making Common Banjo Licks "Bluesy"
Blues comparison licks
Learning the blues scale exercise
The Blues Scales Blues
Another Song Mixing the Styles
Whiskey Before Breakfast
Final Note

Chapter 9: Rhythm, Chords and Playing Backup
Learning Chords and More About Them
F form chords
D form chords
Barre form chords
More about chords
Chromatic scale for finding any chord
Chord Inversions for G, G7 and G Minor
Chord Inversions for D, D7 and D Minor
Chord Exercises - Blackberry Blossom
Chord Progressions for Practice
Augmented, Diminished and More on Seventh Chords
Augmented chords
Diminished chords
Learning More About Scruggs' Style Backup
Scruggs' style backup lick examples
Passing Tones
An exercise using bass run passing tones
Bass Run Passing Tone Exercises With Chords
Four Examples of Playing Backup
Backup example for verse and chorus
Song Example for Verse and Chorus Backup
Playing backup on a slower tempo song
Slow Backup Song Example
Backing up a fiddle
Fiddle Backup Example
Waltz backup
Waltz Backup Example
Using Seventh Chords
Seventh chord form chart
Seventh Chord Exercise
Final Note

Chapter 10: Improvising and Learning to Play by Ear
Taking what you know and turning it into ten things
Improvising in small steps
Thinking in terms of playing by the chords
Improvising practice assignments
Sample Chord Progression Using a Specific Roll
Reverse Roll Chord Breakdown
Building Up Your Chord Changing and Locating Ability
Sliding into the Chord Exercises
Tip on changing chords
Recovering from mistakes
Knowledge of the neck
Notes on the fretboard chart
More on Improvising
Plugging in licks that work with the chord changes in the song, and other
Comments on improvising
Improvising using chords
Writing your own arrangements and playing songs that you have never
Heard before
Learning to play without tablature
Cautions when improvising
Importance and joy of not using tab
Final Note

Chapter 11: Beginnings, Turnarounds and Endings
Common bluegrass song beginnings or "kickoffs"
Bluegrass Song Kickoff Example
Pig in a Pen
"Bluesy" Kickoff Example
Kickin' Blues
Basic turnarounds
Some common endings to bluegrass songs
Final Tips on Beginnings, Turnarounds and Endings
Final Note

Chapter 12: Jamming
Priorities in Preparation for Jamming
Preparation and practice
Practice timing
Know you chords and how to back others up
Learn songs that others should know and standard bluegrass
Taking the scare out of it
Learning How Standard Bluegrass Arrangements Work
Typical bluegrass vocal arrangement
Popular Vocal and Instrumental Songs at Jam Sessions
Other Tips and Suggestions for Learning How to Jam with Others
No One is Perfect and Everyone Makes mistakes
Final Note

Chapter 13: Adapting an Easy Melody to a Bluegrass Banjo Arrangement

Music Reading Basics Made Easy
Learning the notes
Counting time
Creating a Bluegrass Banjo Arrangement Using Quarter and Eighth Notes
When the Saints Go Marching In
Red River Valley
Final Note

Chapter 14: Playing in Different Keys, Tunings and Using a Capo
Using a Capo
Types of capos and tips on using them
Capoing the fifth string
Playing Chords in Different Keys
The I - VII chords in seven different keys - chart
Playing a song using roman numerals rather than chord names
Chord Progression Practice
Learning to Play the Same Song in Three Different Keys
Don't This Road Look Rough and Rocky - Key of G
Don't This Road Look Rough and Rocky - Key of C
Don't This Road Look Rough and Rocky - Key of D
C Tuning
Wildwood Flower
D Tuning
Home Sweet Home
Jesse James
G Minor Tuning
Pretty Polly

Chapter 15: Playing at Slower Tempos and ¾ Time
Different Techniques Used in Playing Slower Songs
Learning Some Songs in ¾ Time
Some suggestions for learning the songs
Silent Night
Amazing Grace
The Streets of Laredo

Chapter 16: Banjo Maintenance by Mike Munford

Introduction by Ross Nickerson
Preface by Mike Munford
Bridges and tone
Tuning, intonation and setting the bridge
Changing the Strings
More on Strings
The Nut
The 5th string nut
5th String Spikes
Actual spike location
The head
Action Adjustments
Neck and Resonator Woods
Good Tools
General Maintenance Tips
Final Note

Chapter 17: Advanced Song Section
John Henry
Train 45
Glossary of Common Banjo Terms

Closing Comments and Credits
CD Track Sheet

Apr 2, 2024
MUST have for any banjo player!!
This book literally has everything, and I mean everything, banjo. You want history?..its got it. You want Scruggs techniques? ..its got it. You want Melodic or single string style?..its got it. Want to know how to put together your own arrangements?..yep, got that too. Enhance your right and left hand techniques, rolls, slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, learn backup, chords, up and down the neck...yes sir, got all that too! And, its even got a CD that comes with it. My only criticism? No DVD's...although with all of the info it would probably take 8-10 DVD's to cover everything I would be willing to bet that if enough of us aspiring banjo pickers out there were to whine, beg, plead, and bribe him maybe he would make DVD's for it. Who's with me?

Dec 22, 2021
The first two chapters in your book covers more of the basics than all my others combined
Ross. Did not expect these to arrive so quickly. Thank you. I just sat and read thru the first two chapters. I have a small collection of books and they all have snippets of information in each, but nothing that covers in a bit more depth. I constantly go thru them to find the information I'm looking for. The first two chapters in your book covers more of the basics than all my others combined. And its explained in better detail. Just from what I have seen, so far ,I know I will enjoy it. Will break out the practise banjo and basically start from the beginning. Waiting for the new one is a killer. But at least I can get back into my routine of spending an hour or more each day on the practise sections. Thanks again

Jun 21, 2021
Your encyclopedia is unbelievable
Hi, Ross. I just had to share my appreciation to you.As far as the Encyclopedia. I started w/ the Earl Scruggs book about 45 years ago, and learned a lot from it; some songs, rolls, little bit about chords, etc. But your encyclopedia is unbelievable. In addition to Earl's book, I've taken lessons online, and in person with a banjo teacher here in Seattle, and none of these options have taught me things I've already learned from your book. None have started me with the basics, step by step for each part of playing the banjo. Makes me wonder why none of these other sources got the importance of that.For example, I initially had a reaction to your strong recommendation about using a metronome. The voice in my head told me, "I grew up in a musical family, learned piano and trumpet, so I know how to keep time." But I decided to try the metronome, and started with your exercises on using it. It hasn't been easy to get comfortable with it, but I'm getting there. I've already found out that in, "Cripple Creek" , the song I learned 40 years ago, for all these years I've been leaving a note out of one of the basic rolls, in the past causing my timing to be totally off, forcing me to have to figure out some way to make up for it. When I played it with the metronome it was immediately clear I was missing that note. What an epiphone! Now I use it in, at least, part of my practice everyday. Thank you for that.In addition, I have just gotten to Chapter 3 in the Encyclopedia and started the exercises on learning the notes on the fretboard in the G scale, and it is amazing! Particularly, saying the notes aloud as I move up and down the neck. No one else had ever shown me this, and now I understand why I have had so much trouble remembering chords. How could I remember, if I didn't know where the notes were? I didn't want to take up much of your time, but wanted you to know how much I appreciate all the benefits I've gotten from doing business with you. Thank you for your time, Luke

Jan 4, 2021
compliment Ross on his great teaching
I also wanted to take a moment to compliment Ross on his great teaching. The Banjo Encyclopedia contains a lifetime of information. I am a total novice hoping to get better at playing (hoping for retirement from work within 10 years). Although I haven't done anything musically in years (and not banjo), I did once attend a music college (in prehistoric days). It was a great experience, but I wish I had heard more of your words of wisdom back then. Especially the stressing of memorization which you discuss! It does seem to become easy to fall into the habit of needing tablature and charts as a crutch. Thank you for your great videos! -Marty

Apr 30, 2020
working on the rolls and finger exercises
Hello Ross - I ordered several of your books a couple of weeks ago and just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy them. I know you put a lot of time getting these books together and I appreciate all of your efforts. I'm working on a couple of songs now. Something I want to also mention to you is in your Banjo Encyclopedia book how much I enjoy working on the rolls and finger exercises. I'm so glad that you put these in your book. These really help with finger dexterity and I use the metronome as I play them and I can already hear an improvement in my playing. I also have Earl's book (of course) and with help from you and Earl - I gotta be good for sure with such good books and teachers! Keep up your good work Ross - you are appreciated! Take care, Teresa Ledford Huntsville, Alabama

Oct 1, 2019
the best info on how to play the banjo from scratch
Got the banjo encyclopedia today looks great can’t wait to dive in fast service thanks a lot

Sep 8, 2016
Banjo Encyclopedia
As a songwriter, I play a number of instruments. And I have many instructional materials to help me along. The Banjo Encyclopedia is absolutely one of the best instructional books for its instrument ever written. I purchased it years ago after one of Ross's live instructional sessions and still today refer to it on a regular basis for banjo. There is so much good information and so well communicated that there will always be something I can learn from this book. The material was excellent for when I was "re-learning" the instrument back in 2004, and excellent now that I am a little more accomplished. Highly recommend the Banjo Encyclopedia to any banjo player at any level.

Apr 6, 2016
Arrived promptly and promises to keep me busy for a long time. i am just getting back to bluegrass banjo after a long hiatus. Been playing guitar but sold my banjo 29 years ago. Just what I needed.

Mar 12, 2016
picking has improved dramatically
Please tell Ross that my picking has improved dramatically since I purchased The Banjo Encyclopedia. Just wish I had done it earlier!

Mar 3, 2016
A must have book
This book is very good for a beginner, it teaches you how to play the banjo and not just songs and gives a lot of great right and left hand exercises along with a lot of other tips. I highly recommend this book

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