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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: 6 String Banjo

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Keek - Posted - 07/24/2007:  17:56:27

I am an absolute new guy to the banjo, other than I like the sound. As a kid I always wanted to play one, but never had the chance. Now as an adult, well, I'm older anyway, and after hearing lots of adds for the Dearing 6 string banjo, I decided if I could find someone to teach me guitar, I could learn to play banjo at the same time. So, I've ordered a Dean, Backwoods 6 string banjo.

As soon as it comes in, a guy who plays guitar with our church praise team said he'd help teach me to play.

Any comments from those here who know how to play are welcome.

Not only do I not know any answers, I don't know the questions.

Edited by - Banjoman on 07/24/2007 21:11:49

strungout - Posted - 07/24/2007:  18:09:08

I got my banjo about a year ago. I was totally burnt on the guitar after twelve years of country blues fingerstyle and hit my dead end. I thought what I needed to spice up my playing was a banjitar and asked my girl for one for my birthday. She came home with a banjo instead on the deadset advice of the woman at the music shop. At first I was put off but then I decided, why not a fresh start? I started learning clawhammer style immediately and played so long and hard I hurt my arm. But I stuck with it and I've never been happier as a musician.

The guitar and the banjo are worlds apart and I don't think that learning one in order to learn the other is a good game plan. If fact, switching gears from up-picking guitar to down-picking clawhammer was a brutal adjustment.

I know your Dean is on it's way, but I'd still think long and hard on what your want to have mastered 10 years from now. Trading a guitar for a banjo now, will be easier than trading in everything you learn if you ever decide you made the wrong choice.

Good luck.

"don't hate me because I'm beautiful, beautify me because I'm hateful"

canerods - Posted - 07/24/2007:  18:20:10

The guitar and banjo are two totally different instruments. A five string banjo uses the 5th short string as a drone note and the banjo is tuned in many different ways quite different than a guitar. That's not to say that a banjitar isn't a cool sounding instrument. But, it's not a 5-string banjo -- so don't be confused about that.

"A gentleman is someone who knows how to play the banjo, but chooses not to." Mark Twain

J-Walk - Posted - 07/24/2007:  19:00:59

I've played guitar for a long, long time. I bought a Deering 6-string banjo, thinking that I could get banjo sounds from a guitar. I hated it, and never played it. 18 months ago, I bought a real banjo, and I love it.

If you want to hear a master, try the two 6-string banjo downloads at Harvey Reid's site:

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 07/24/2007:  19:20:33

Any guitar fingerpicking technique will work on the 6 string. Papa Charlie Jackson, a great bluesman made good use of one in the 1930s.
Banjo techniques won't work on it - at least not very well. Most 5 string techniques are based using the short string for a melodic or rhythmic kicker. Most 4 string banjos are chord strum oriented - you can do this with a 6 string but the extra strings tend to make for a cluttered sound.
There are plenty of good books on fingerpicking guitar. I don't know what is currently on the market but if Ken Perlman's book is in print - that would be an excellent start.

The Whiskey Before Breakfast variations and "F" tuning tabs are now available on the web at:
There are mp3s of G tunes in F tuning on the web at
Rocket Science banjo is on youtube now. Here are the addresses:
Lesson 1 The Basic Stroke
Lesson 2 Drop Thumb
Lesson 3 The Big Cluck
Julie Anne Johnson

banjothumper5 - Posted - 07/24/2007:  19:53:56

Guitar style finger picking is what really make these stand out, especially rag type stuff. If you flat pick it, you just about as well run over it with your car. The satisfaction would be about the same. 2 pickers that used these well were Papa Charlie Jackson and Sam McGee. Robert Montgomery from Alabama plays one some and has a couple tunes on cd. He has a web site I think.


John Gribble - Posted - 07/24/2007:  20:14:01

Just what kind of banjo music are you drawn to? Bluegrass? Old time? Dixieland? Who's recordings do you own or listen to? That should help you decide what sort of an instrument to get. Your guitar playing friend can still be a help, but a six string banjo is a hy-bred, not truly a banjo or guitar.

John Gribble
Tokyo, Japan

1four5 - Posted - 07/24/2007:  20:44:13

Hi Keek!
If you want to get into old time clawhammer playing, it's gonna be tough with a 6 string. If you want to play Scruggs blugrassy stuff...again, not really on a 6 string. HOWEVER, if you have a free spirit and an open mind and love the sound of a banjo, especially if you are working with a guitar player...and are going to work it into gospel praise music, I think you are going to have a blast!


The BellyCaster - Posted - 07/24/2007:  20:47:13

Okay, there's lots of opinions out there. I've just started learning clawhammer, but I've played guitar banjo for about 10 years. My suggestion is, play the Dean for a while, you might like it, and even if you take up a 5-string later you'll won't be disappointed. The guitar banjo can sound wonderful. It can be played effectively with a flat pick or finger picks. For me, it works especially well with a flat pick--sounds a bit like drop thumb but lower and woodier on some instruments. I use finger picks, too, but I like how it plays with the flat pick the most. Your experience and opinions will likely be different, but you are going to have fun.

Your Dean has a resonator, I believe. Try it with and without that. Harvey Reid sometimes removes the resonator from his Dearing for a different sound.

Just don't let any of these guys here tell you it is not a real banjo. What is that, for cryin' in a bucket? None of our banjos are "real" if you compare them to what the slaves brought from Africa.

So, I say fly in the face of convention. Play any banjo any way you like. I've always wanted to play Rock 'n Roll on the clawhammer banjo...


The BellyCaster

guitar fan - Posted - 07/25/2007:  01:49:22

Originally posted by J-Walk

I bought a Deering 6-string banjo, thinking that I could get banjo sounds from a guitar. I hated it, and never played it.

That really depends on what kind of music you play.
For example I would not play "tears in heaven" with a 6 but "hotel california" could be very nice.

Keek : I sold mine and ...I regret it !
I don't know your playing level, ever tried to play guitar before?
You could start to learn playing alternate bass with a melody.
For example check out my music page : "white horse" is played with a 6 string.Your friend could find easy exercises to begin.

Edited by - guitar fan on 07/25/2007 02:08:03

Scarecrow - Posted - 07/25/2007:  07:43:23

Keek, the 6-string banjo works well with fingerpicking and with thumb-finger strums. It's not a way into 5-string styles such as clawhammer and frailing, but neither are they ways into fingerpicking the 6-string. I think you've chosen well, as the 6-string will lend itself to church music and it's versatile too. Just don't use a plectrum, please!
If anyone suggests that the 6-string is in some way not a proper banjo, you might gently encourage them to look into the history of the instrument.
Hope you have years of enjoyment from sharing the joy of the music.

"Music is a social act of communication, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is."
- Malcolm Arnold.

Keek - Posted - 07/25/2007:  12:30:29

The banjo came in and I picked it up. It looks nice and has an attractive finish. It does have a resonator. I went by my buddy's house with it and we tried to get it to tune. Had a bit of trouble as the bridge won't hold the largest string in place. My buddy says it'll sound better once we get it "Set up". Keep in mind that I'm totally a newbie to this and don't have the terminology down yet. But for what we were able to do, getting it tuned up "close", although close doesn't count, my buddy strummed some chords and picked some melodies and it sounded pretty good.
For the most part, I'm gonna use it to have some relaxation sittin on the back porch, and when or if I get good enough, to play when singing with the praise team. My buddy did say that when we got it set up, he thought it'd be fun to play along with the other guitar player and that the blend of guitar and banjo sounds would be very nice, especially on some of the old time songs.

By coming to this forum, I'm learning a bunch of terminology and opinions. I really appreciate it.

Not only do I not know any answers, I don't know the questions.

1four5 - Posted - 07/25/2007:  22:02:34

when or if I get good enough, to play when singing with the praise team. My buddy did say that when we got it set up, he thought it'd be fun to play along with the other guitar player and that the blend of guitar and banjo sounds would be very nice, especially on some of the old time songs.

Hey Keek,
we have a lot in common! Shoot me an e-mail one of theses days and we'll have to get together and compare notes and do some jamming.


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