By Ross Nickerson
Your first banjo lesson will be an exciting day filled with anticipation and expected nervous energy wondering what to expect.
In your first banjo lesson you will likely be first instructed on how to put the finger picks on and how to hold the banjo. Now that you have your picks on you will be shown where and how to place your hand while picking. Next off you should be instructed on the basics of how to tune the banjo with an electronic tuner. This is important, your instructor will not be there to help you retune when you are practicing and it’s very hard to practice when you banjo in out of tune, nothing will sound right.
Here is a free video lesson of how to put your picks on, hold the banjo and attach a banjo strap along with another free lesson on how to change a string, tighten the head and position the banjo bridge in the right place.
Also, in your first banjo lesson you will learn at least one banjo picking pattern or “banjo roll”. These patterns are easy to learn and you will be asked to practice them over and over till your next lesson. The “banjo rolls” are from the technique of Earl Scruggs.
It would be very helpful to get your fretting hand involved right away in the first lesson too and learn a couple of easy chords. Getting the fretting hand involved early will help avoid staring at the picking hand while practicing which is a common mistake beginners make. The idea is to learn to pick without having to look at your picking hand, the same way you do in typing. You will need your eyes later for covering the full length distance of the fret board and it is good to get in the habit of looking that way at the start.
Banjo Learning Tips
From the beginning, when using tablature to get information of what to practice, learn small amounts of tab, for instance, one measure at a time and practice that a lot before going to the next measure. Resist the temptation to learn banjo by sight reading and reacting to tab. Frankly that approach does not work. The tab should be used as an aid in learning the correct technique and songs but your goal is to play by ear, not hold down a chair in the orchestra. Playing a banjo with music in front of you was not likely in the picture when you envisioned yourself on the back porch picking your worries away…so…. don’t get started learning by strapping yourself to a music stand. Learn what you need from tablature and develop your abilities without looking at it. Leave your other senses like your ears and fingers free to develop your skills.
Thanks, Ross Nickerson
Ross Nickerson is the author of The Banjo Encyclopedia “Bluegrass Banjo from A to Z”
and has written and recorded over twenty books, cds and dvds designed to help banjo players learn the banjo more effectively.