There are a lot of possibilities on the banjo fretboard and today I’m going to talk about playing up the neck. Let’s move up to the 15th fret on your banjo, place your index finger (I) on the second string – fifteenth fret; next place your ring finger (R) on the first string, seventeenth fret.
Press play to hear this example of up the neck banjo: [audio:Neck15-17.mp3]
Here’s a couple more songs that use just three chords on the banjo – G,C and D – When the Saints Go Marching In and She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain. In the last example – Oh Susannah, I indicated a strum with a slash, and the chords were printed above the lyrics, these two songs are done the same way.
All of the songs we have learned so far are in the key of G. Oh Susannah, She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, and When the Saints Go Marching In, all end on the chord G. Usually, the chord that a song ends on tells you what key the song is in, if a song ends on a G, it’s key is probably also G.
If you need a refresher on the chords check out these posts:
- Banjo Chord Changes – Part Three
- Banjo Chord Changes – Part Two
- Banjo Chord Changes – Part One
- Your First Three Chords
What you should know.
- You can play both songs smoothly and from memory.
- You can also sing both song while playing them on the banjo.
The Washburn B9 banjo is one the best starter banjos on the market. The tone and feel of this banjo is great, especially if you consider the price. This banjo is available for about $200 US, but don’t let the low price scare you, this is a great value.
Features include a cast aluminum tone ring, 30 tension brackets, a mahogany resonator and quality machine heads. Washburn is a well respected banjo manufacturer and you certainly won’t be disappointed if you start with a Washburn B9.
The best way to learn to play the banjo is to pick a few simple songs and start working on them. What better song to start with than Oh Susannah – with lyrics like “I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee”. This song uses just three chords – G, C and D. Let’s get started by taking a look at the lyrics and chord changes.
To keep things simple, the chords are written above the lyrics, so just change chords as you sing the word below it. For example when you sing knee in the first line, you will change chords from G to D. It is very helpful to sing along, it makes learning songs much easier and more fun.
Strum a chord each time you see a slash below the lyrics. So, in the first line you play G six times then you strum two D chords. Make sure that you play at a steady tempo – if you are having trouble staying in time, a metronome will help. Practice this song until you can play it from memory, without any mistakes.
Once you can play a song on the banjo, you are well on you way to becoming a real bluegrass player. The next post will include a few more songs and soon after we will start picking the banjo.
Listen to “Oh Susannah” strummed on the banjo: [audio:Oh Susannah-c.mp3]
What you should know.
- Play the song “Oh Susannah” on the banjo without mistakes.
- Sing the song “Oh Susannah” while playing it on the banjo.
Banjoblogger.com is introducing a new feature : Music Jokes – We will be adding new posts regularly, so check back often and have a few laughs. Just click the tab above labeled Music Jokes, pick your instrument and enjoy.
A kickoff is a musical phrase that starts off a song and is usually less than a measure long. A lead-in is similar but starts a lead break.
This example starts on G and ends on G, which is the third string open on your banjo. Count the notes as you play them: and two three four one.
Here’s how it sounds: [audio:Lead In 1.mp3]
Note by Note Breakdown
- X -rest (do not play).
- and – G - third string open.
- two – D – fourth string open.
- three – E - fourth string, second fret.
- four – F# – fourth string, fourth fret.
- one – G – third string open.
In the last lesson we learned how to change from the C Chord to the G Chord. This time we will talk about the D Chord and how to play it on the banjo.
As we did with the C Chord, the D Chord will be explained one finger and one string at a time. Start by placing your index finger (I) on the third string – second fret. Your middle finger (M) is next, on the second string – third fret. Your pinky (P) or little finger is last and is on the first string – fourth fret.
Now that you have all of your fingers in place on your banjo, strum the chord one string at a time and let the strings ring. If all of the strings don’t ring clearly, go back and check to make sure that you are forming the chord cleanly and not touching adjacent strings. In this chord we have an open string, the fourth string, which is the note D. Try the strum again and play all four strings.
Hear a D Chord: [audio:D Chord.mp3]
For your reference, here is a diagram of the D Chord:
Of course this chord will need to be practiced until it can be played without hesitation, just as we did with the C Chord.