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 Playing Advice: Bluegrass (Scruggs) Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Where to begin

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Dniman - Posted - 02/14/2020:  08:34:34

New banjo player here
Question is where do I start?
If I follow the tab rolls don't come natural
If I work out a melody I can roll around it no problem.
It's the left hand I think is the issue, I play classical guitar maybe that's a hindrance.
Any advice appreciated.

eagleisland - Posted - 02/14/2020:  09:43:59

Welcome aboard, Daniel.

I recommend that if it's at all possible - not sure if it is in your part of the world, but there are a fair number of Brit members here who might be able to guide you - find a teacher to get you started. Books and videos can't give you instant feedback the way teachers can. If there's no one local, some excellent teachers work via Skype.

One of my favorite past students was a classical guitarist (and a damned good one). This dude has had the time to forget more about music than I'll ever know - and even so, lessons were incredibly valuable to him. The banjo is a very different instrument - yes, it shares independent right-hand finger motion and frets with your guitar, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. Subtleties like pulloffs are executed very differently on banjo than they are on guitar.

Find a teacher if you can, and best of luck!

chuckv97 - Posted - 02/14/2020:  09:54:08

Howdy, Daniel, and welcome. I too play some classical guitar and find the slim neck and tighter string spacing takes an adjustment. Also the thumb behind the neck seems more difficult , so on banjo I just have the thumb touching nearer the basal joint, also because I sometimes wrap it over the top to fret the 5th string. However, prominent banjoist Pat Cloud recommends keeping the thumb squarely behind the neck - it all depends if you’re looking to play advanced chords and jazzy passages with long stretches. Good luck,,,,and remember :

Culloden - Posted - 02/14/2020:  10:29:57

Since you can roll around the melody after you figure it out try using tab to find the melody and improvise. That's what most banjo playing involves anyway.
Since you play classical guitar you can use standard guitar sheet music and adapt it to the banjo. I learned to play guitar by note and learned basic music theory. I can play banjo by note just using the melody notes and improvising the background.
For someone of your experience it may be easier to do it that way.

kmwaters - Posted - 02/14/2020:  10:38:42

Get a metronome, put up a tab, and start slowly. Only 2-measures. Then add a measure and play all three. Keep doing this until you are playing the whole tab. Then gradually speed up the metronome.

Mooooo - Posted - 02/14/2020:  10:50:57

Find a teacher so you don't end up playing the banjo like a guitar.

ChunoTheDog - Posted - 02/14/2020:  12:33:28

Keep it fun. start where you feel comfortable. Learn basic songs you're interested in.

Keep it fun ! Always! It will come naturally

Dniman - Posted - 02/14/2020:  14:46:45

Thanks for the encouragement.
A challenge I'm having right now is just finding the right finger position to hit all the melodic notes I want when I roll.
Keeping the mind occupied for sure.
Takes plenty of effort at this stage to just play an ascending scale across the strings. So different to guitar
Any recommended tabs for beginners?

Texasbanjo - Posted - 02/14/2020:  15:49:05

Look at some of the beginner books. All the songs will be beginner types. Might help get you started and figure out where the rolls fit in the melody.

Jack Hatfield's beginner books highlight the melody note, put a roll around them, then add the frills; i.e., slides, hammers, pulls, etc.

One suggestion: if you're playing bluegrass style banjo, think arpeggios, not scales, at least not until you get familiar with how to pick bluegrass style.

chuckv97 - Posted - 02/14/2020:  16:17:51

Here’s one to try.

Richard Hauser - Posted - 02/15/2020:  06:57:34

I recommend Geoff Hohwald's "Banjo Primer" as the first instructional book. It contains simple versions of tunes that will teach a person the initial rolls and noting techniques a player uses. So it will lay down the "foundation" and help you develop your abilities.

IMHO having a QUALIFIED banjoist provide advice will work best. They can provide information on playing technique, provide exercises, and offer constructive criticism. Learn how to do everything correctly when you are beginning because relearning is frustrating and slows down your development. It is best to get this help as early as possible. It can be difficult to find a good instructor. Better a qualified instructor on Skype than a inadequate face-to-face instructor.

Since you already play guitar there are some things you probably won't have a problem with. But your right (i.e. picking) hand will have to learn some new things. You will probably have develop more strength in that hand. When I started learning to play I used a "gripmaster" to strengthen my fingers/hand/wrist. Well good luck.

BrooksMT - Posted - 02/15/2020:  08:26:38

I recommend all beginners read BHO's Josh Turknett's "Laws of Brainjo". The advice concerns How to practice, not what to practice (which the preceding comments covered pretty thoroughly, I think). Josh's ideas really helped me (clawhammer), but I'd been using some of his ideas before I knew of him to help me with various right brain tasks: shotgunning, caligraphy, realistic drawing, and of course banjo.

His BHO "Laws" thread is archived, and missing some stuff, so I recommend Josh's website:

He also has a podcast where he's interviewed by a very savy musician:

The Laws (and podcast) are info dense; I have listened to the podcast twice, and think a 3rd listen would still glean useful information :-)

Hope this helps

nodster - Posted - 02/22/2020:  09:16:57

Are you playing with picks?

Dniman - Posted - 02/23/2020:  12:05:44

Yes I play with picks.
(This helps.with keeping the other fingers off the strings)

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