You might have been playing guitar for a while and you’re getting a bit bored with it or you want to try something else. You might want to look into picking up a banjo. Banjo is a fun instrument to learn and it’s not too difficult (If you already play some guitar). If you pick up the banjo after guitar, here are some tips to help you get started.
Is Learning Banjo Easy If You Already Play Guitar?
Learning banjo after you already play guitar should make it a lot easier to learn. This is because banjos and guitars are both string instruments, this means that you’ve already developed strength in your hands and that you’re already used to putting your fingers on the strings the right way. Chords are fingerpicking are also much the same except for missing one or two strings in most cases.
Is a Banjo Similar to a Guitar?
Yes, a banjo is a lot like a guitar:
- They are both string instruments.
- They both have frets on the neck (unlike a violin for example).
- They both are played with very similar chords.
- The fingerpicking is also quite similar. Although with a banjo you usually use three picks, which doesn’t happen too often when someone plays normal guitar.
Of course, although these two instruments are very similar, they sound completely different, and both have a different playing style. It usually is easier for a guitarist to start playing the banjo compared to someone who has never touched a guitar. But there are some key differences to keep in mind. Like the ones below.
How is Playing Banjo Different From Playing Normal Guitar?
- A banjo is smaller than a guitar, making it easier for kids to learn how to play. The slimmer neck makes fretting the strings on this instrument slightly simpler too!
- Most guitars have steel or nylon strings, banjos on the other hand mostly have metal strings. This means that they are a bit harder to press down on the fretboard but you’ll get used to it fast.
- A normal guitar (six strings) in comparison with a four or five-string banjo has more notes and more complex fingering than a banjo because of the added strings and longer neck. Making it a bit harder to play.
- Banjos are also tuned differently, normal guitars when tuned in “standard” tuning are tuned like E, A, D, G, B, E. While banjos are generally tuned in “open G” Which means that when you strum across the strings it makes a sound like a chord is been played.
- The banjo sounds very different from a regular guitar. Even someone without any experience playing guitar can hear this straight away. banjos are usually higher pitched and have a sharper sound than a regular guitar.
Learning How to Play Banjo
Learning the banjo after you already play some guitar makes it a lot easier, and you can start learning how to play right away! There are tons of video tutorials on YouTube showing you what positions your fingers should be in, teaching strumming patterns and other stuff like that.
But keep in mind that playing the banjo takes time; you probably need some getting used to at first but after a while, you’ll see progress if you stick with it. Just pick up any beginner tutorial book or watch some videos online and remember: practice makes perfect!
To give you something to get started with, here are some (arguably) good songs to learn on the banjo:
List of Songs to Learn on The Banjo
To give you something to get started with, here are some (arguably) good songs to learn on the banjo, I’ve linked to instructional youtube videos of the songs and the tab of the song so you can start learning!
- The Lumineers – Ho Hey (Banjo Tab) (Helpful youtube video)
- Mumford & Sons – Lovers’ eyes (Banjo Tab) (Helpful youtube video)
- Bob Marley – Redemption Song (Banjo Tab) (Helpful youtube video)
- Ed Sheeran – I See Fire (Banjo Tab) (Helpful youtube video)
- Bon Iver – Skinny Love (Banjo Tab) (Helpful Youtube video)
- Mumford & Sons – I Will Wait (Banjo Tab) (Helpful Youtube video)
Shout out to Happy Banjo Dude for making these videos and tabs so we can watch how to play the tabs!
Can You Play Normal Guitar Songs on The Banjo?
Yes! And the best part is that it sounds good, you can play the same chords on a six-string banjo (or rather a banjitar) as on your regular guitar. The only difference is the tuning. you could just tune your six-string banjo to E, A, D, G, B, E and go from there.
For a 4 and 5 string banjo, it’s a bit different. The easiest way is to look up some banjo tabs for specific songs you want to play. Like I mentioned earlier Happy Banjo Dude has some great tabs on his website to start with.
How to Tune a Banjo?
Tuning a banjo is quite easy. Like I said earlier, they are usually tuned in “open G” which means that when you strum across the strings it makes a sound like a chord is been played. The strings are tuned like this: g, D, G, B, D
Here is a video explaining how to tune a 5 string banjo:
Can You Play Banjo With a Guitar Pick?
You can play the banjo with a guitar pick if you want to. But you’ll only be able to strum the strings. This is not the way banjos are usually played. Most songs with a banjo are played fingerpicking with guitar picks specially made for banjos. Those are three picks, one around your thumb, one on your index finger, and one on your middle finger.
You could also just use your fingers, some people experience this as harder to play though because your fingers are obviously a little bigger than the picks, making it harder to hit the right string.
If you’re going to do this make sure your nails aren’t too long or else it’ll be uncomfortable on the fingertips when playing for longer periods of time. If they’re short enough then go ahead and give it a try!
Tips For Buying Your First Banjo
You can buy one new or used one at any music store, but try and go into the shop if possible; some of those mass-produced Chinese instruments are pretty bad. If you’re buying second-hand make sure it’s not warped (you’ll see it right away) and that there aren’t any loose parts on the bridge/neck since you don’t want anything coming apart during your playing sessions.
Also, make sure the banjo has a good sound and that you like it. If you’re planning on playing live gigs or recording your music, this is important since all of those things will be affected by how your instrument sounds.
And don’t forget: even if they look similar to guitars (or violins), banjos are not guitars! Don’t buy one expecting something close because there’s going to be a bit of an adjustment period before you learn what exactly makes them different from other string instruments. You’ll have a 4, 5, or 6 string banjo but most people say that these won’t take long at all for you to get used to.
Are Banjos Expensive?
Compared to a regular guitar banjos are more affordable. The manufacturing process of a banjo is a bit simpler than a normal guitar making it less expensive in general. This makes it nice to buy as a kind of add-on guitar to your collection, that you grab every once in a while when you’re bored from your normal guitar(s).
For a beginner, you can get away with paying around $150 or so. If you want something of better quality it’s recommended to spend at least $400 but even then you don’t have to go crazy, anything less than that will do just fine for the beginning stages.
The most important thing is getting your hands on one (or more) because once you start playing them there’s no turning back.
Once you have your banjo you can start learning how to play!