Alternate Tunings

Chord Shapes for Alternate Tunings

Do you know and understand your chord shapes across a variety of common banjo tunings?  Most clawhammer banjoists know their basic chord shapes in the standard tuning of open G (gDGBD) but, for many players, when they migrate to alternate tunings (sawmill, double C, open D, etc.), there tends to be a disconnect. In my… Read more »

Banjo Basics

How to Tune Your Banjo – a beginner’s guide

Probably the most important (and least glamorous) part of playing the banjo is learning how to tune. It doesn’t matter how well you can play; if you’re out of tune, it’s not going to sound good. Stringed instruments are always in a state of flux. Your banjo strings are held taught at a constant high… Read more »

Tablature – What is it? How do I read it?

      Tablature (often called “tab” for short) is a simple, written system of musical communication. Although it looks very similar to standard musical notation, it’s quite different in many ways and much easier to learn and use. The Lines You’ll notice that, in the example above, we have five parallel lines running laterally… Read more »

Fingernails or Fingerpicks – which option is the best?

Here’s a series of questions that most clawhammer players ask early on in their studies: Do I need to grow a nail on my right hand playing finger? Can I use a fingerpick instead? What if I don’t want to grow a nail or use a pick? Is there another way? These are all legitimate… Read more »

Banjo Essentials

Intros & Outros

Knowing a few standard intros and outros is an essential part of any aspiring banjoist’s skill set. Intros Playing a short musical introduction to a tune or song serves a couple of important purposes: 1.) An intro relates the tempo to the other players in your band (or jam circle) allowing them to join in at the correct… Read more »

Chords

Chord Shapes for Alternate Tunings

Do you know and understand your chord shapes across a variety of common banjo tunings?  Most clawhammer banjoists know their basic chord shapes in the standard tuning of open G (gDGBD) but, for many players, when they migrate to alternate tunings (sawmill, double C, open D, etc.), there tends to be a disconnect. In my… Read more »

General

Some thoughts on music theory, algebra, light bulbs, cars and learning to play the banjo

*note: This article makes excessive and gratuitous use of analogies. Consider yourself warned. Consider algebra Some folks see algebra as a hopelessly confusing set of formulae and equations that seem to have no relationship to real life. Others see it as a perfectly practical tool for understanding and predicting real world events and phenomena. Both… Read more »

Tablature – What is it? How do I read it?

      Tablature (often called “tab” for short) is a simple, written system of musical communication. Although it looks very similar to standard musical notation, it’s quite different in many ways and much easier to learn and use. The Lines You’ll notice that, in the example above, we have five parallel lines running laterally… Read more »

Fingernails or Fingerpicks – which option is the best?

Here’s a series of questions that most clawhammer players ask early on in their studies: Do I need to grow a nail on my right hand playing finger? Can I use a fingerpick instead? What if I don’t want to grow a nail or use a pick? Is there another way? These are all legitimate… Read more »

Lessons

Alternate String Hammer Ons

This segment (complete w lesson video and tab) is coming soon!   Please standby…

What does “Modal” mean?

If you’re one of those clawhammer players who likes to play old time fiddle tunes then you’ve no doubt seen and heard references to “modalism“.  You’ll see some tabs listing the key of a tune as A modal, for example. Or you’ll be in a jam and someone will say, “This is a modal tune”…. Read more »

Music Theory

Some thoughts on music theory, algebra, light bulbs, cars and learning to play the banjo

*note: This article makes excessive and gratuitous use of analogies. Consider yourself warned. Consider algebra Some folks see algebra as a hopelessly confusing set of formulae and equations that seem to have no relationship to real life. Others see it as a perfectly practical tool for understanding and predicting real world events and phenomena. Both… Read more »

What does “Modal” mean?

If you’re one of those clawhammer players who likes to play old time fiddle tunes then you’ve no doubt seen and heard references to “modalism“.  You’ll see some tabs listing the key of a tune as A modal, for example. Or you’ll be in a jam and someone will say, “This is a modal tune”…. Read more »