Learn To Play Banjo -ChordOnBlues
The New Bluegrass vs The Old

R.D. Introduction by R.D. Lunceford: Long ago, the rich variety of 5-string banjo styles–once played all over the country in many different styles, many unique to those who played them–has been lost to history. The down-picked clawhammer style has been the predominant stylistic approach to the five string since the Folk Revolution in the 1960’s. Three-finger picking is almost exclusively bluegrass. Although there are some differences between the two camps, the original, highly individualistic methods for picking the five-string, including up-picking and two- and three-finger picking, as well as combination styles, dating back to the 19th century, are almost all gone. However, we have started to see the beginnings of a revival.

Bluegrass banjo and clawhammer have both established melodic schools that specialize in fiddle tunes. However, I believe it is rare for a player to combine these complex melodies with the strong rhythmic approach of traditional banjo-playing. This is not an easy task. The melodic approach is essentially a simple one. It requires the ability to play all the notes in the tune. Although technically challenging, it is conceptually very straightforward. It is much more difficult to take complex melodies and reduce them to their essence, and then create a banjo setting. This requires technical prowess but also an intimate knowledge of the music and a solid understanding of banjo structure.

After playing banjo for almost half a century it is difficult to not become jaded or feel like one has heard everything. It was because of this that I first heard Don Borchelt play banjo. Although I knew Don Borchelt as the BNL’s resident cartoonist for many years, I had never seen him perform. I assumed he was a three-finger picker of bluegrass, which was what I had in my ignorance. However, he wasn’t the typical mold. I could not have been more wrong.

YouTube had some Don videos. I was immediately drawn to his playing of a resonanced banjo with a brass overlay plate and three-finger style. When I listened, I was stunned to discover that he was playing alternate tunings of his fiddle tunes with three fingers. His style was different from the standard melodic three-finger that we have all known for decades. Don has created a unique style that blends the best of finger-picking and many of the more traditional elements we associate with clawhammer. His performances are exceptional in their intricacy, drive and pure banjo-ness.


Don’t fret the first five frets

Many people complain that traditional music is restrictive in its creative expression and requires strict adherence to historical practices. Others and I often try to explain that although there are certain parameters, there is still plenty of room for creativity. Don’s playing is a great example of this. It is both new and fresh, but it still maintains the tradition. Shane, an Irish BHO friend, best described Don’s efforts in a recent online conversation as “…he has created his own unique style of playing that sounds just like it’s been there forever.” This is a perfect compliment and a succinct description. This one line could have been the entire introduction.

Don’s use of alternate tunings is what makes Don’s approach so similar to Tony Ellis, another pioneering three finger picker. They have created some of the most beautiful and effective music that can be played on the banjo. Tony’s playing was once described as a reflection of the sound three-finger might have made if it wasn’t for bluegrass. Don’s method does offer a glimpse into an alternative reality where the three-finger style seamlessly and beautifully blends with the old-time genre.


Harvard Square: Don Borchelt and Ed Britt busking

Don’s musical genius is also evident in his duets featuring Ed Britt, the clawhammerist. Another revelation was that I hadn’t previously liked banjo duets. This could be because they are often played in the same way, with just enough variation in the settings to cause them to clash. This is something Ed and Don completely avoid. Their duet playing sounds like one instrument, which is the best description I can give it. Don’s three-finger playing and the strength of Ed’s clawhammer are perfectly complemented. Their material should be required listening–especially for people like me! It’s both instructive and entertaining.

I could go on and on but I will close by saying that Don’s achievements are extraordinary. Along with a few other stylists, he has demonstrated the viability and value of other approaches to the banjo than bluegrass or clawhammer. I hope other young banjoists follow their lead. Don is a banjoist who has been and continues to be a major figure in this period.

Don’s playing is like the best traditional musicians. It breaks down time barriers and connects us with like-minded people. These are the musicians from the past whom we cannot meet except through music. That is when I realized that Don Borchelt was more than a musician. He is a miracle. –By R.D. Lunceford

Banjo Blues and The Invisible Republic

Harry Smith’s 1952 anthology of American Folk Music is the best place to start if you are interested in learning more about the Banjo for sale and the blues or just to get a general idea of American music. Bob Dylan began his journey here. He learned Blind Lemon’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean” from Smith’s anthology. Listening to Roscoe Holcomb’s raddled vocals as well as Doc Boggs’s sometimes bizarre lyrics will reveal that Dylan returned here in the nineties. This is a return datable to the 1991 release of the three volume Bootleg series with its masterful “Blind Willie McTell.” As if his many decades of peregrinations were all about returning to the place he started, the unmapped continent Greil Marcus calls the “invisible republic”.

The Disappearance of Blues Banjo

The guitar is the main instrument in blues as we know it today. Guitars weren’t widely available in the United States until the 1890s. This is clearly not the case. The banjo and the fiddle were both common in the rural bands at the start of the century. Both instruments have been kept in the bluegrass and country musics of the white South while they seem to have almost disappeared from blues. This is why I use the word “seems” in my statement. It is not true of the banjo, which I would like to discuss in this essay.

The banjo appears to have vanished because of an incredibly simple, but crucial fact: market concerns, record labels and concert tours determine our current picture of blues. These categories are too simple for historical truths as wormy-squirmy. Because they sell music, they also need godlike figures who can play the guitar–from Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton.

Piedmont Blues and Minstrel Shows. String Bands

Urban blues is the style of blues that has spread across North America and the globe. It was born in Chicago and developed with electricity in Chicago. But, to fully understand the role of the banjo in blues, we must also consider those blues that have stayed at home. The southeastern US is located along the Appalachian Mountains, in the Carolinas, Virginias, Georgias, Kentucky and part of Tennessee. This area is where a more relaxed version of the blues emerged. It focuses on instrumental virtuosity, rather than the rawness that characterizes blues from Texas or the Delta. This is known as Piedmont, or East Coast, blues and it includes Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, Gary Davis, and the last, a skilled banjo player.

Evidence suggests that the Piedmont’s first black musicians to learn to play guitars was in the late 1800s. They adopted open-tuned banjos and were able to recreate the banjo’s droning thumb string and counterpoint rhythm in the treble. They quickly integrated the guitar into fiddle-and banjo ensembles and adapt their repertoire of banjo-songs and reels to the new instrument.

The Piedmont style of guitar emerged within the black string-band tradition. It is therefore not surprising that many of the oldest songs played by Piedmont players are very similar to 19th-century banjo tunes, reels, and rags. For example, “Boil Them Cabbage Down” and “Get Along Little Cindy” are two of the string-band songs that were also popular among white “old-time” musicians. It is difficult to determine the origins of any particular tune from one ethnic group because there is so much overlap between instrumental dance tunes written in black and white. Some African-American songs, like “John Henry” or “Railroad Bill”, and popular lyrics such as “Going Down That Road Feeling Bad,” are also standard in the Piedmont’s guitar repertoire that predates the introduction of the blues.

Popular culture today tends to link the banjo to white southern music. However, the banjo was not adopted by white musicians until the mid-1800s. Historians often state that black musicians in the south abandoned the banjo by 1890s in response to the Minstrel show, which featured white musicians wearing ragged clothes and blackened faces, and perpetuated racist stereotypes.

This is a part of the truth, but there is more. As Elijah Wild points out in Escaping the Delta (2004), the most popular black bands of the 1920s and 1930s–Jelly roll Morton’s, Louis Armstrong’s, Duke Ellington’s–continued using banjos, and they only stopped when amplification made guitars viable. The guitar, with its “ringing” sound, was not audible in concert and large dance settings. The banjo returned to its original home after the guitar was plugged in with greater versatility.

Present Day Player

The question returns to the present. Blues banjo music is not for museum purposes. Otis Taylor and Taj Mahal are two of the most well-known names in popular blues. We are currently experiencing a revival of string-bands that includes such groups as the banjo-driven Carolina Chocolate Drops. Rounder Records keeps Odell Thompson’s work in stock, as well as Doc Boggs and Elizabeth Cotton. My shelves include the Mountain Music of Kentucky (based on field recordings made in 1959) and North Carolina Banjo Collection which contain cuts by Dink Roberts, John Snipes, and The North Carolina Banjo Collection . Roscoe Holcomb’s work is both bluesy and Baptist church-influenced in the latter.

Cultural Mixing, and the Old Weird America

As a Japanese citizen, I was able to see non-Americans from Japan playing blues and jazz. It occurred to me that American popular music has become a global music because of the cultural mixing that was part of the democratic social experiment. This was evident in the music’s texture. Cultural mixing creates cultural wealth. Cultural exclusivity makes it poor, which is why museums and government subsidies are necessary to protect “tradition”. The history of bluegrass and the banjo is part of a larger story about inclusion. It’s a story that in the Appalachians created a mix of English, Irish, Scots, and African cultures. Perhaps this was more heady than any other area of the country.

When we listen to the Old Time music from Appalachia, and the Delta in its original form, unpackaged for mass consumption, we can hear what Greil Marcus refers to as “the old, strange America”. This is the America before it was reorganized for corporate marketing and mass consumer and identity was reduced down to ethnic differences and reality television. The Anthology of American Folk Music was its last great musical document. Harry Smith, an eccentric with no fixed address, created it. Smith specialized in music from “traditional” subcultures of America. He recorded it between 1927 and 1932 when accurate reproduction was possible. This was before the Great Depression. Smith brought musicians from the quiet 50s to contact musical forms and subcultures that they might not otherwise have known about. Smith’s six-record collection was the inspiration for the American folk revival. This, in conjunction with the Civil Rights movement, led to the Blues Revival. It also opened the doors to world music.

By the way, subsequent editions Greil Marcus’s The Invisible Republic were retitled The Old Weird America. This phrase was created to describe Harry Smith’s unmistakable blend of blues, country and folk musics. I would like to be able to reach Mr. Marcus and tell him to keep his first title. It is the right resonance for the subject.

Taking My First Banjo Lesson

My first lesson with the banjo was not a success. It was actually a disaster. It wasn’t my first lesson with a banjo. I actually had been taking online lessons for quite some time and thought I knew what I was doing. A website that had videos of a dude strumming and plucking was available for download. There were also tabs you could use to follow along. My first lesson on the banjo was online months ago. I felt like I had made some progress, even though I was lazy about it all. I only learned the songs and techniques I was interested in and then mailed it in.

I was so close to giving up on that banjo lesson. I was able to get there and wanted to be proud. He looked at me like a dufus and I didn’t know a single chord. This is my first instrument and it’s also the first time I have ever played in front strangers. It was easy enough for me. I have never been shy or had any problems speaking in public to large groups of people, so it shouldn’t be difficult for me to learn the banjo with just my instructor. It should have been simple. Wrong. It was terrible.

What I don’t get is how I will ever learn anything from my lessons on banjo if I can’t even find the nerve to play in front of my teacher. He is kind, understanding, and, besides, a talented banjo player. I was able to use some of his great exercises during lessons and put them into practice for my next lesson. It was very helpful. You can learn so much from being able to study and closely observe a talented musician. Will I be any different or will my banjo sound better?

How will he know if my performance isn’t up to his standards? How will I know if I have learned any lessons from the banjo? Are I really making any progress? It’s hard to get feedback when I don’t have the opportunity to play in front my teacher. To play back to my teacher, I have decided to record my playing. It might initially be hard to play the banjo, knowing I am recording it to demonstrate my progress at my next lesson. But it will get easier. I hope.

Music for Banjo

There are many instruments available to entertain and relax listeners in the music industry. The Banjo, a stringed musical instrument, was popular among Africans in Colonial America. Banjo has seen many improvements since its inception. Many innovative ways to play the popular instrument have been developed.


If youre looking to purchase a banjo for sale to begin your musical journey, Check out authentic banjo manufacturers out in the market,

Banjo music

Many people love listening to banjo music, but others are more interested learning how to play the instrument. Anyone can learn to play the banjo. Online lessons are available as well as a wide selection of tabs for banjo. Access to free sheet music and tabulator can be obtained in PDF format. Access to detailed information about the work and audio recordings will help you learn the instrument. You can also get free guidance and tips to help you interpret the arrangements.

You can find the banjo tabs at a variety of places. There are many options for you to choose from, including old and new compositions in local stores and department stores.


A collection of banjo tabs can be used to improve your musical skills, whether you’re a professional, student, or amateur banjo player.


The banjo is often associated with many music styles, including American folk songs and English folk songs. Stephen Foster is known for his contributions to banjo music compositions. His banjo tabs rank high on the internet.

Banjo music has a soothing effect on the soul and mind. It is relaxing to unwind after a long, hard week of work and listen to the music from the five-stringed banjo.


Banjo Straps: Selection and Use

Banjo straps look similar to guitar straps. To keep the instrument stable and at an appropriate height, they are worn across the chest and over the shoulder. You can adjust most of them by one of the two methods. A buckle with a sliding strap is the most popular. It’s similar to backpacks. The loop button method is also popular. This gives the strap a modern, clean look, even if it isn’t worn with a shoulder pad. Although there are many materials that can be used to make straps, leather is the most common.

Many players attach the banjo strap by attaching the front end one bracket below their heel and the rear one bracket below their tailpiece. You can also use cradle straps or web straps. They can be threaded through all brackets. Because of the differences in weight between banjo types, it is suggested that cradle-straps be used with heavier instruments. It offers greater stability. There are kits that can be modified to fit a banjo with an existing guitar strap.

When shopping for a banjo belt, there are some things you should keep in mind. A leather strap is a good choice if you have trouble balancing your instrument. A leather strap is more stable than a synthetic one. It should be adjustable. Although most of them are adjustable, you may find one that isn’t. Consider a wide, cushioned strap that measures between 3 and 4 inches if your instrument is very heavy. This will reduce discomfort when worn for prolonged periods. Avoid elastic straps. Although it may sound cool, elastic straps are too flexible and can be a hassle rather than a convenient option.

There are many options available, so no matter what your style preference, you can find something that suits every budget, whether it’s modern and edgy, vintage and laid-back, or bejewelled and hand-tooled. It is important that you choose a strap that looks good. Copperpeace has a wide range of straps, from leather and hand-embroidered leather to leopard print and laces.

The Banjo’s Early History and Origin

Banjos originated in West Africa and were brought to America by African slaves. In America, the first references to the banjo describe an instrument made from a gourd with a body that is covered in hide or skin, a fretless neck and strings. Banjar, banjil and banza were all common names for the banjo, as well as bangoe, bangoe and bangie. The Spanish word “bandurria”, the Portuguese “bandore” or West African “mbanza” are the sources of the word “banjo”. More than 60 instruments that sound like the banjo are plucked in West Africa. Many of these likely influenced its creation. The instruments most closely resembling the banjo in West Africa are the kora and ngoni. Below is a video showing Ekona Diatta performing the akonting.

Early sources mention the banjo being played mostly by slaves but also by the “lower classes.” This means that it was likely picked up by white slave-hands during the 18th century.

Because of its association with minstrel shows, the banjo gained popularity in 1830’s. In the latter half of 18th century, blackface actors first appeared on stage. Minstrel plays were a form comedy that portrayed common stories and new stories about slaves. Minstrel characters were often happy, carefree slaves who enjoyed servitude, but lacked the adult mental abilities. This was far from the harsh life slaves had to endure and the perseverance necessary to survive.


Joel Sweeney was a minstrel musician. He had learned the banjo from African Americans in Appomattox in Virginia. Around 1839, he began to incorporate the banjo into his shows. Sweeney is the first documented white banjo player, and the first person to play the banjo on stage. Sweeney was a member the successful band “The Virginia Minstrels” and popularized the banjo making it an instrument for the middle class and key part of the minstrel show. He popularized the use of a drum-like body for country music, replacing the gourd banjo body.

An African slave had created the clawhammer stroke style of early banjo-playing. Following the civil war, James Buckley and Frank Converse published their finger-picking instruction books. These books spread European finger-picking styles just like the guitar. Around this time, the fretboard was also introduced. Two distinct banjo traditions developed in the United States. One was more influenced classical finger-picking, while the other was based on the older clawhammer styles.

Everything You Need to Know About 6 String Banjos

Introduction to the 6 string Banjo

The banjo can be used in many different types of music. Rock and roll bands are discovering that the tone of the banjo adds depth to their music when it is part of a score. The banjo is coming into its own, despite having humble beginnings.

Many collectors still have original banjos. These instruments are quite primitive. These instruments have long necks and round heads. They may not be able to produce intricate music. Horn instruments were a regular part of music for many years. The stringed instruments that were not mainstream were often overlooked.

With dedication and perseverance, anyone can learn how to play the banjo regardless of whether they are right-handed or left-handed. When played by a master, the instruments are more complex and offer a wide range of quality. The length of the neck is a major factor in the quality and depth of the music. There are many length options for necks, with adjustable mechanisms. The tonal quality also depends on the wood used to create the banjos.

Banjos can be made from either soft or hard woods. This soft wood, mahogany, produces a soft and mellow tone. The sound and quality of Walnut are clearer and crisper when it is used as a hardwood. The grain of the wood will be clearly visible on the banjo when it is made. Cross grain can result in a noisy tone that doesn’t carry through smoothly.

A banjo’s unique design and style require a player to have specialized skills. This instrument is difficult to pick up and play. Without instruction and practice, most people will have trouble mastering the skills.

There are many aspects of the banjo, just like other stringed instruments. A banjo’s quality music is dependent on its height, pitch, and the quality of its pegs. The bridge should be flexible and adjustable. Banjos can be used on many different types of bridges.

The six-string banjo is the closest to a guitar of all banjos. This instrument can actually sound almost identical to a guitar if the strings have been adjusted properly. It’s the player’s ability to play intricate and detailed music that makes this instrument unique. The instrument’s true beauty is revealed when it is used in unexpected music. Most people wouldn’t consider a six-string banjo playing classical music. The sounds and tones produced by the master are magical, however.


Shopping for Your Banjo Lessons

Did you just enroll in one of our Banjo lessons. Here’s how to choose the right banjo for you practice sessions.

The Budget Building

A new banjo can cost anywhere from a hundred dollars to a thousand dollars. It’s not possible to be Earl Scruggs this generation so buying a $1000 banjo may not be the best decision. You wouldn’t want something that sounds bad or plays poorly.

You might consider buying an instrument between $150 and $300. You can buy a more expensive instrument if that’s what you desire, but you will be spending money on something that isn’t going to teach you banjo lessons.

Banjos are a lot of fun

This applies not only to banjos but to all musical instruments. You’ll quickly be able to tell which banjo sounds good or bad if you test every banjo in your local music shop. The inlays, wood and materials of the banjo are not important. This is your first instrument. The sound your banjo makes is what you should be concerned about. You’ll find the banjo you love and can play it for hours. It doesn’t matter if it looks okay.

Examine the Strings

It might not be worth it if you are unable to play it comfortably. Don’t buy a banjo with excessive warps. Make sure the strings are easy for you to push down from the top of the neck to the bottom. Your right hand should be able to make a clear sound when you press the strings. You should be able to make a decent sound with your fingers without needing to pick hard.

Tune the banjo up

Although many music shops offer this service for no charge, it is a good idea to ask them to tune your instrument before you purchase it. They should make sure the head is tightened properly, the bridge is re-stringed and any other maintenance items are done. You should also get a few basic items such as picks, extra strings, and an instruction book.

How do I buy a used banjo?

Let’s just say that buying from a music shop was not a wise decision. You’re now looking to save money by buying a used banjo. Before you make that purchase, consider this: If you are a beginner, it might be difficult to see the problems with a used banjo. To inspect the quality of your second-hand banjo, make sure you have someone who is familiar with it (preferably your teacher).