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This lesson may be used for Plectrum and/or Tenor banjos. The chord formations will be different but the balance of information will apply to both Plectrum or Tenor banjos.

This is a starting point where I assume the reader has little or no knowledge of playing the banjo. First you will learn three chords, different ways to play these chords, and a song you can play to practice the chords you've just learned.

It is normal for beginning players to experience sore finger tips on the hand that presses the strings to the fret board, but this will go away after a few weeks of practicing. The idea is to press only as hard as necessary to sound a note. If you are Right-handed you will use your left hand to form the chords and if you are Left-handed you will use your right hand to form the chords.

 

All audio files will be as short as possible so that the download time will be minimal. Also I will sometimes record myself explaining about the content of the audio file, to help you understand better what I want you to do. You can at any time remove my talking by just changing the "Balance" setting of your computers audio. I will always record my voice on the left audio channel. Just move your balance control all the way to the right side. OK---Lets get started!

The drawing on the right is an example of your banjo neck's fret board, or another name for it is "Finger Board"

The thick black horizontal bar at the top indicates the "nut", which in most cases will be a shade of white, Bone or Plastic, at the Top of your banjo finger board.

Next are the narrow horizontal metal bars that indicate the "Frets". They will most always be a silver color on your banjo. There are 22 Frets on a Plectrum banjo and there are 17 or 19 Frets on most Tenor banjos.

Now, below is a drawing of three chords that we will learn. The first chord is "C" major or just "C" chord. The next chord is "G" or "G" major chord. And the last chord is "F" chord or "F" major chord. The letters above the "Nut" are the notes that the strings are tuned to when all strings are "Open" or, not held down by any finger. CGBD is standard Plectrum tuning. C is the thickest or 4th string and D is the thinnest or 1st string.
Plectrum Banjo
For Plectrum banjo: The number on the right side of each chord diagram indicates which fret is the highest for that chord on the fret diagram--most times this will be the 1st or "D" string--but not always!. As you can see the "F" chord has the 1st or "D" string held down at the 3rd fret. The "G" chord 4th string is held at the 2nd fret and the "C" chord 1st string is held down at the 2nd fret also.
Tenor Banjo

Now lets learn about the flat pick (the standard style pick used for plectrum or tenor banjo). Do not be fooled into thinking a thin pick will work best because it flexes better--for that very same reason it's not the best choice.

I think a pick gauge of around .60 is a good place to start. Most picks are either labeled: Thin, Medium, or Heavy, or by their decimal gauge like: .56, .60, .73, ETC. If you can, buy a lot of different gauge picks and try them out to see which one you like---chances are, after you've played for awhile, you will change your pick gauge any way.. Visit my Banjo Tips Page to see the proper way to hold the Flat Pick and listen to my demonstrations of the two different methods used to play the banjo with a flat pick, and other useful information.

 

Now click on the next page and lets start playing! Page 2
Please note: The lowest fret is closest to the "Nut" and the highest fret is closest to the banjo head.
Question: Just who am I, and who do I think I am giving banjo lessons? Click for Answer.
For Tenor banjo: The number on the right side of each chord diagram indicates which fret is the highest in that chord on the fret diagram--most times this will be the 1st or "A" string--but not always! As you can see in the diagram to the left: The "C" chord 1st string is held down on the 3rd fret. The "F" chord is held at the 3rd fret but on the 2nd string.
Banjo Lessons #1