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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

6661 reviews in the archive.

Josh Turner: Fire and Rain Banjo cover

Submitted by Lester M (see all reviews from this person) on 2/5/2015

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

Just saw this on you tube. This guy never ceases to impress. Beautiful playing and strong vocals...check it out!!

Overall Rating: 10

Murphy Method: Kickstart Your Jamming

Submitted by somarmd (see all reviews from this person) on 1/29/2015

Where Purchased: MM Download

Overall Comments

I recently downloaded another MM video,  Kickstart Your Jamming.  I have many other MM videos.  They are all good but I wasn't connecting the dots between learning solos and jamming with others.

Kickstart  gave me exactly what I needed to know. What to play when its your turn to take a break.  Granted it's very basic and for beginners (as it's meant to be) but it gets you playing with others quickly. 

I was quite nieve thinking that I would have to learn all the songs that were played at a jam to play along.  That wasn't Murphy's fault but mine.  It was an assumption that for some reason stuck with me, until I viewed the Kickstart video.  I'm not all the way done with it yet but I am understanding how it all relates and fits in with the tunes I was learning.  There are pieces of every tune that can be played as a break.

I'm now starting to go to jams with less fear and something to build on.  Thank you so much Murphy and Casey Henry.

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Murphy Method: Kickstart Your Jamming

Submitted by somarmd (see all reviews from this person) on 1/29/2015

Where Purchased: MM Download

Overall Comments

I recently downloaded another MM video,  Kickstart Your Jamming.  I have many other MM videos.  They are all good but I wasn't connecting the dots between learning solos and jamming with others.

Kickstart  gave me exactly what I needed to know. What to play when its your turn to take a break.  Granted it's very basic and for beginners (as it's meant to be) but it gets you playing with others quickly. 

I was quite nieve thinking that I would have to learn all the songs that were played at a jam to play along.  That wasn't Murphy's fault but mine.  It was an assumption that for some reason stuck with me, until I viewed the Kickstart video.  I'm not all the way done with it yet but I am understanding how it all relates and fits in with the tunes I was learning.  There are pieces of every tune that can be played as a break.

I'm now starting to go to jams with less fear and something to build on.  Thank you so much Murphy and Casey Henry.

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Murphy Method: Beginning Banjo 1

Submitted by five-string fever (see all reviews from this person) on 1/28/2015

Where Purchased: online

Overall Comments

   This DVD/digital download (I own both) was my key to Scruggs style banjo. I prefer the digital downloads because they are easier to rewind or replay and as long as I have a computer and my password and login I will have access to them. I had played guitar, harmonica and bass for years before I took up banjo again. The first time I bought a banjo in 1981, unfortunately, I bought a 4 string plectrum not realizing that it was not going to work for Scruggs style. After I realized my mistake I stuck the banjo in a closet and eventually sold it. 25 years later I knew what kind of banjo to get and I picked up a cheap Korean banjo. I started going to a local Saturday night pick at a bookstore because I knew enough about chords and I had been finger-picking guitar enough that thought I could figure things out. Luckily I did learn alternating thumb roll and forward roll from a book which helped. I also took some group classes and bought some other banjo videos that had tab with them. The good news was that I could play something and improvise my own breaks and play along with most bluegrass type songs. The bad news is my breaks never sounded "Scruggs-y". When I tried tab my playing lost musical "flow" and speed it just never sounded right and I usually forgot whatever I had just played.

    Luckily for me I came across this instructional video a few years ago. A big point of Murphy Henry's "Method" that differs from most other teachers video or live "in-person" lessons is "No Tab" (written down tablature). She really doesn't want the student to be dependent on looking at a piece of paper to play music. She also doesn't want you writing down notes or creating your own tab to refer to later. She considers her style "by ear". I would more consider it "by example". She tells you what to do as well as showing you what to play with close-ups of her left "fretting" hand and right "picking" hand. Here's what's amazing to me, if I try to learn something from tab I usually don't remember it and it doesn't sound musical while I'm playing it. With the Murphy Method I feel like I remember it and it sounds "musical" right away even at slow speeds. She goes through tuning the banjo near the start of each song.  This was originally recorded before electronic tuners were affordable or common. You can skip over the tuning segment or actually check your tuning against hers which is actually good ear training. The video has 5 songs "Banjo In The Hollow, Cripple Creek, Cumberland Gap, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, and John Hardy". It's 1 hour and 50 minutes long. She spends a short amount of time covering 3 rolls; Forward; Backward and Square (alternating) Roll and picking technique. She also briefly covers 3 chords G; D7 and C. Most of the focus for the rest of the video is on the melodic "breaks" on each song, which is really what I needed the most help with, and enough chord information to play along. The majority of time the lessons are focused on notes, licks and timing and executing them with both hands. All the songs are in the key of G. Even though at the time (and since) I have never been to a pick where somebody played "Banjo in the Hollow" or "Cumberland Gap" (a song I have come to love, especially after seeing Earl playing it on the old Martha White videos). I learned them all in order which I would advise everybody to do. They are chosen in this order so that the skills and licks you learn in earlier songs can be used later not only in this DVD but her other DVDs. On her website Murphy actually suggests learning the first two songs from this DVD and then some from "Banjo for Misfits" which is also a great beginner's DVD with these 5 songs on there "Boil Them Cabbage Down, I Saw the Light, Worried Man, Do Lord, and Two-Dollar Bill" and going back and forth. I learned the songs well enough to play them on my own and I would occasionally practice "Cripple Creek" or "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" on my own or play them at a pick. By the way lots of mandolin and fiddle folks will want to do "Cripple Creek" in the key of A, so if you go to open picks that is a good way to practice it. The Murphy Method breaks and kickoffs are real "Scruggs style" material and sound more accurate and "right"  than my own improvised breaks. After I felt like I had learned the songs, since I  could play through them on my own from memory, I did not keep reviewing the material. I went to a few banjo camps and I kept going to picks. I learned a lot more songs but I felt like when I tried to play fast my playing got sloppy and I felt like my progress was slow. 

     How to play banjo faster and cleaner may be common knowledge or obvious to some of you so please forgive me if that is the case. This is what helped me improve. About a year ago I was frustrated with my progress, so I started reviewing the Murphy Method songs I had learned years before, which was all of BB I, "Old Joe Clark" and "Salt Creek" off of BB II. As I was reviewing them and cleaning up my mistakes I realized that I had never played these songs at her fastest speed. The idea came to me that to get faster I should pick out a few songs and just repeat them at the fastest speed which I could pick them clean. Over a period of time I could ramp up the speed on those core songs. Even if I was still learning new songs I had to practice those core songs on a regular basis. I also figured that they may as well be the songs on BB I since they had licks that were building blocks and re-used throughout Scruggs style banjo. I should also compare myself, as in play simultaneously, to a really good example of those songs such as are on the Murphy Henry videos or an audio version of those songs such as a backing track or the original song (double check your tuning ((not always A 440)) and Key) or with a metronome. At first I played the songs slowly note for note along with the DVD at the slowest speed, usually the second example she plays, to make sure they were right. If I made mistakes there I reviewed her instructions. I would play them several times at that slow speed or second slowest speed, usually "slow with guitar" to lock the song in and warm up. Then I increased the speed to play those songs faster by practicing the same songs unaccompanied or with a metronome or a backing track or with the faster speeds on the DVD (remember there are several speeds). I will say that Murphy usually has a big jump in speed between slow and fast, so I spent a lot of time reinforcing my playing at the in between speeds on metronome or more recently "GrassTrax" backing tracks. I also own some of Murphy and Casey's "Slow Jam" and  "Fast Jam" play along videos, which are good to play with as well. If there was a lick or place that caused me to stumble on a repeated basis I made a loop and repeated that. Finally I played with her fastest speed usually after being substantially warmed up and dialed in to that song. Even if I could not keep up with her fastest version all the way through, it was usually clear which parts I was playing slower or poorly that I should work on. The best way I found to make progress on those was not to play the whole song through, but to start playing a little before where the hard part started until a few notes or a measure after the hard part. Now I try to go back and review songs at least once a month from this DVD or BB II or Jam Session Standards. I can play her fastest speed on everything on this DVD except for "John Hardy" (I stumble on the D part) on this DVD with less warm-up time. I can play "Salt Creek" along with her at her fastest speed but not "OJC" yet but I am making progress. I think going to picks and making live music is critical to my musicianship but Murphy has given me an ideal to shoot for and a way to get there if I stay focused and dig in. I will also say that I feel like her instruction helped me get to a point where now I can use tab and it is easier to play and remember without becoming tab dependent. I have also read comments that people thought you if you didn't play along with her DVD you would get lost or have a hard time playing the songs on your own or with other people which has not been my experience at all. I will finally add that since I played guitar so much before I got to banjo, as well as since then, I needed less help and direction on the backup and chordal aspects of banjo playing. If you are entirely new to music I think it is very important to spend time listening to this music especially Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs, etc... and learning your chord shapes, usually open position first then closed position, then playing along by vamping or rolling through chords to get a feel for this music and get t into your head. There are lots of books, DVDs and free online You Tube videos as well as Murphy's Fast and Slow jam DVD's.

 

Overall Rating: 10

https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL462096A73954E26C&v=_iAnYfACjp8: DREAMBOAT BANJO

Submitted by Stringcritter (see all reviews from this person) on 12/29/2014

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

Saw this little chic online playing about as good as Jen Kreuger. I dont know if it was photo shopped or not. It was a young blond teenage girl....not "Mean Mary" but somebody else. Expect this youngster to be a CYCLONE!!   JAMIE PEREA is her name. Look her up online.....put in "Jalapeno Flashback" and her name.....You will faint dead away!

-Stringcritter
 

Overall Rating: 10

Homespun Video: Pete Wernick Putting It All Into Practice

Submitted by kmwaters (see all reviews from this person) on 11/2/2013

Where Purchased: Homespun or drbanjo.com

Overall Comments

Pete Wernick's DVD entitled "Putting It All Into Practice" is a must for your instructional library if you are an intermediate or beginner/intermediate and want to grow and climb the learning curve.  This DVD opens up your mind and shows you various shapes with the left hand that moves all over the neck, changing shapes, transitioning to other chords, and establishing chord progressions.  And all the while he makes use of different roll and picking patterns with the right to make it even more imaginative.  He uses a few different songs to illustrate these new maneuvers and lays it out in a very easy to understand manner.  I like Pete's delivery as it is very thorough and seems to follow an excellent and coherent order. The split screen is clear and close up with great clarity for viewing both right and left hand at the same time. There is no jumping around from topic to topic which I have found from other instructors from time to time. I have to give Pete high marks for this one, as I have all of his DVD's.  But I think this could be his best for (me at least).

Overall Rating: 10

Arrandem Music Co.: Advanced Earl

Submitted by kmwaters (see all reviews from this person) on 7/23/2013

Where Purchased: Murphymethod.com

Overall Comments

Murphy's lessons on classic Scruggs tunes are excellent. There is this one entitled Advanced Earl, and then she added "More Advanced Earl" with a few more of Earl's best known favorites. I give her high marks for the job she did here, just as she does on all her instructional material. Nice work, Murphy.

Overall Rating: 10

Watch and Learn: Banjo Rhythm and Backup 101

Submitted by five_string (see all reviews from this person) on 3/18/2013

Where Purchased: Online from Watch & Learn

Overall Comments

This DVD and book (1st of a series of three) has opened my eyes to learning to play the banjo. For years I have been using TAB to memorize songs. The result has been that I can read Tablature very well, my timing is good because I would practice with "Band in a Box". I had learned the various rolls and even phrasing so that I believe I sounded like a fair banjo player.
The result has been that I am limited to those songs that I have memorized really couldn't participate in jams very well and I would become bored with the songs I know which led to less interest in practice.
I recently purchased this series by Geoff Hohwald and the lights have really come on for me. Geoff is an excellent instructor and the material is exactly what I have needed all along. I am still in book one and am able to hear and play chord changes up and down the neck in the three major shapes and in all keys. This means I can now play along with nearly any song. Practice is exciting now and, although practice songs are included in the video, I can play along with any song I choose when practicing.
As I gain proficiency i will be adding various licks and rolls as I progress into the next two videos.
I would highly recommend any beginning or intermediate banjo player to base their learning on this series of videos.

I now feel I am becoming much better acquainted with the banjo neck. Up to now I have been shy about venturing up the neck.

Overall Rating: 10

Watch and Learn: Geoff Hohwald - Banjo Backup Licks and Rolls

Submitted by hankfan (see all reviews from this person) on 3/6/2013

Where Purchased: freebanjovideos.com

Overall Comments

There's no better way to get started playing bluegrass banjo. You follow a step-by-step lesson plan, and enjoy applying the new licks and rolls to a rhythm track. There's a lot of advice on how to jam with other musicians, and enhance a song with simple banjo accompaniment.

Overall Rating: 10

Watch and Learn: Geoff Hohwald - Geoff's Favorite Licks

Submitted by hankfan (see all reviews from this person) on 3/6/2013

Where Purchased: freebanjovideos.com

Overall Comments

The Favorite Licks series is a great way to embellish what you've learned from Backup Licks and Rolls. There's a movie, backup tracks at different speeds, and tablature you can print or view on your computer screen. Progress at your own pace, and enjoy making music right away.

Overall Rating: 10

Watch and Learn: Geoff Hohwald - Dueling Banjos

Submitted by hankfan (see all reviews from this person) on 3/6/2013

Where Purchased: freebanjovideos.com

Overall Comments

If you're holding a banjo, sooner or later someone is going to ask you to play 'Dueling Banjos.' When you decide to add this crowd-pleaser to your repertoire, this is the way to go. Included are a backing track (with and without banjo), full tablature and instructional video. If you can play 'Nine Pound Hammer,' and 'Oh Susannah,' you're ready.

Overall Rating: 10

Homespun Video: How To Play The 5-String Banjo

Submitted by PickinFool (see all reviews from this person) on 11/15/2012

Where Purchased: Homespun

Overall Comments

How to Play The 5-string Banjo, taught by Pete Seeger is a complete waste of money. All Pete does is play the songs and talk. He does not show you how to do a thing. You're better off going on YouTube and watching Pete "teach" you how to play "Skip To My Lou". And it's free!

Overall Rating: 1

Acutab: Steve Huber: Killer Tone

Submitted by jswkingsfield (see all reviews from this person) on 7/16/2012

Where Purchased: BHO Member

Overall Comments

A helpful visual walkthrough on how to affect tone with proper set up of your Mastertone-style banjo. Steve explains the basics of head tightness, bridge placement, tone ring to rim fit, adjusting the height of a Presto, truss rod adjustments, and how to hunt down and fix the common sources of annoying buzzes. He also shows you how to break down a banjo, replace the head, and put the instrument back together. Pick placement technique and proper maintenance of nut slots, also are covered.

John Lawless of Acutab did his typically excellent job producing a very useful DVD, but there are some minor shortcomings. When Steve removes the Presto, it would have been nice if there had been a close up shot of how he removed the tailpiece nut and bracket. Close-ups of his removing the nuts of the coordinator rods also were absent and would have been helpful.

This video includes a video documentary of Huber Banjos. Keep in mind that since the time this DVD was produced during 2002/2003, the Huber line-up has changed significantly, and much of the DVD’s information for ordering Huber Banjos is out-of-date.

Overall, an excellent review of banjo set-up basics, especially for beginners. If you don’t mind paying for a subscription to Tony Trischka’s banjo teaching site, which is part of www.academyofbluegrass.com, Mike Munford’s video banjo set-up lessons (located under the “Special Guests” tab) goes into some of most of these topics in greater detail, although as of the date of this review, Munford’s lessons did not discuss tone ring fit or how to tap for the source of a buzz.

Overall Rating: 8

The rookie series: Banjo rookie

Submitted by johnboy70 (see all reviews from this person) on 11/20/2011

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

I bought this DVD off amazon because of the good reviews and for a beginner it's perfect.
It takes you from the very beginning and walks you through every aspect of learning the banjo without being too complicated. The layout is very easy to follow and it's explained in lots of detail.
It's not for someone who been playing for a while and wants to improve, it's strictly for the 'banjo rookie'. It even has a on screen banjo tuner to get you started. Great fun and perfect for the beginner who wants to give it a go.

Overall Rating: 10

deering banjos: Greg Deering Master Banjo Workshop

Submitted by peewee (see all reviews from this person) on 10/29/2011

Where Purchased: Deering Banjo

Overall Comments

This Video is poorly done. Very little information pertaining to Setup is given. Most of the info is Greg D. taking a banjo apart and putting it back together during an open forum with terrible video quality. Really basic stuff.

Deering charges close to $30 dollars for this video which included shipping.. Deering should be nothing less than Embarrassed to charge for this DVD.

Look elsewhere if you need a Setup DVD.

Overall Rating: 1

Jamie Boss/Hot Strings Guitar Shop: Set-Up & Maintenance of the 5-String Banjo

Submitted by Tinfoot (see all reviews from this person) on 10/21/2011

Where Purchased: Amazon (Hot Strings Guitar Shop)

Overall Comments

Aside from one icky aspect, a truly worthy addition to a banjo reference library... Jamie Boss is a superb restorer (I have seen his craftsmanship on Ebay - NICE!! ) and a clear, illustrating speaker (coming from a near zero-point of knowledge, not once did he leave me scratching my head going, "huh?"). In fact, I would go as far as to say this DvD SHOULD be included in any aspiring banjo player's "Welcome to the Pickin' World" introduction. ;)

HOWEVER!! Now for the icky part:

Be aware that there is no menu selection on the 2nd Disk (Set-up and Adjustments). So tracking down a particular part, like fret harmony tuning, is relegated to hitting your chapter skip and looking for it by eyeball.

Honestly, for me this would drop my rating to even lower if it wasn't for the fact that the content itself is excellent... I really want to give it a 10 ... but that lack of a menu kills me. A technical oversight in DvD presentation that I can hope Mr. Boss will consider fixing in the future.

Overall Rating: 8

Homespun Video: Get Started on 5-String Banjo

Submitted by HankFXST (see all reviews from this person) on 9/29/2011

Where Purchased: amazon.com

Overall Comments

I'm a total beginner, never played anything before. This DVD leads you by the hand but does in quickly enough so that you don't get bored or discouraged. I really like David Holt's style of teaching and the video is not only fun but entertaining.

Overall Rating: 9

Steve Huber: Killer Tone

Submitted by Yosh (see all reviews from this person) on 7/24/2011

Where Purchased: Mel Bay online Download

Overall Comments

Very informative video explaining all the parts of the banjo and how to set up everything for "Killer Tone." I found a few things I was doing wrong. It's now available from Mel Bay as a download. I recommend it.

Overall Rating: 9

Hunter Robertson: The Unfortunate Pup and Other Fine Tunes

Submitted by oldwoodchuckb (see all reviews from this person) on 3/16/2011

Where Purchased: On line

Overall Comments




“Unfortunate Puppy & Other Fine Tunes”
By Hunter Robertson
http://hunterrobertson.com/


It isn't often that one is present to witness a real revolution, but I feel I have seen the future of Banjo Instruction with Hunter Robertson's new video “The Unfortunate Puppy & Other Fine Tunes: Lessons in Intermediate & Advanced Clawhammer Banjo”. The work Hunter and his associate, videographer Jonathan Vanballenberghe (www.openlensproductions.com/) have done with this video has brought the standard for DVD lessons up from mostly supplemental material to a new and vastly improved method of teaching stringed and fretted instruments.

I'm not joking. The two camera widescreen videos have as much to teach banjo teachers as they have for banjo students, and it will influence All fretted and stringed instrument teaching DVDs for decades to come.

Most banjo videos, consist of a medium shot of the player/teacher with a downright dinky close-up of either the left or right hand inserted into the blank space off to his left side. Both hands come out quite small, and the actual playing is really too fast to be caught on normal video. Hunter and Vanballenberghe have dumped that format entirely and created a new one that shows off both hands large and clear while eliminating everything that is not necessary for the lessons. The view appears to be what you would see sitting in the usual student's position across from your teacher. However, instead of wasting screen space the picture has been sectioned, leaving out wasted space above the instrument and even cutting out the dull, unchanging landscape between the frailing and the fretting. Why Didn't I think of That?

While this innovation alone would be a major improvement over most videos, it is only after extended viewing that I realized each of the hands had been filmed to be seen at the best angle for catching the details of the playing. It is easy to see exactly what happens at the fingers and frets level of the left hand and to catch exactly which string is being plucked by the right.

While this alone would be revolutionary there is another big improvement in the presentation. The video was probably filmed with the camera running at double speed (60 frames per second) so that when it is slowed down to 30 there is remarkably little of that low speed video mush in the picture. You can see the hands working side by side in smooth slo-mo. Every detail is right smack in your face. You can't miss a thing.

Each of the tunes is presented in four ways – First Hunter plays the tune at full speed, complete with variations. Then there is a section at half speed using the slo-mo technique described above. Next Hunter goes over the tune in full detail, showing each melodic figure complete with spoken playing notes explaining the various techniques as Hunter demonstrates them. Finally there is a simple medium speed version designed so the student can play along with the teacher just as at a live lesson.

The tunes go from very easy (Candy Girl) to moderately difficult (The Unfortunate Puppy). Learning each tune will also add new techniques to your playing repertory. In “Lonesome John” there are several Alternate String Hammer-Ons (ASHOs), the less known brother to the world famous Alternate String Pull-Off (ASPO), While in “Boatin' Up Sandy” you will find M Skips, Double ASPOs, syncopated M Skips, and the undeservedly rare “Down Slide”. “Ducks On The Millpond” Unually is taken from Tommy Jarrell's fiddling but Hunter uses a refreshingly different version from Emmett Lundy and adds a lesson on grace notes to boot. For those who (like me) love Triple C (or Triple D) tuning there is W. M. Stepp's superlative version of “Bonaparte's Retreat” and for the straight “G” tuning set, you'll find an exceptional version of “Cripple Creek” from the playing of Hobart Smith. While you could play this with your local jam group, it that has a voice and ambiance all its own. In fact the techniques used in these ten tunes will bring sparkle to all your current and future Old Time repertoire. Every new technique you learn becomes another tool in your kit, and another voice in your musical choir. Hunter recommends listening to the original versions of these tunes, and all are available on the internet.

Along with the 10 tune videos there is also a “Techniques Video” jam packed full of extremely useful stuff. This one video alone, is well worth the price of the entire DVD. There is also an (all too brief) demonstration of Up Picked styles. The DVD cannot have much space left over. I suspect most players will return to all the lessons from time to time in order to gain new insights from them.

While Hunter describes this video as being for Intermediate to Advanced students I am going to respectfully disagree. I don't think you have to be “advanced” much beyond beginning player to get more than your money's worth from The Unfortunate Puppy. Anyone with the basic strokes down comfortably, who can play the common clawhammer rhythms and follow clearly presented examples should be able to use these videos to one degree or another, and will know more about clawhammer in general than most other Beginners or Intermediate or even Advanced players. Furthermore you will be learning from a master player and a master instructor – these aren't always one and the same person. The banjo world is extremely lucky to have Hunter Robertson. He is a great banjo player and The Unfortunate Puppy, sets the Gold Standard for teaching videos.

In conclusion: While I think Hunter's technique video alone is worth the price of the DVD, everyone has to make their own decision as to when they are ready for this material. Still I would recommend it to my students on the early side rather than wait. This DVD costs less than a movie for two with popcorn. I think that most people will get their money's worth time and time again. Obviously the quality you get out will depend upon the work you put into it. Nothing actually “teaches” you the banjo – you still gotta do the work.
That said, this is the best instructional video I've ever seen. It is not only worth your money, more importantly, it is worth your time.

Overall Rating: 10

Homespun Video: Learning Plectrum Banjo

Submitted by sethb (see all reviews from this person) on 3/7/2011

Where Purchased: Private sale

Overall Comments

In my opinion, Buddy Wachter’s VHS tape, “Learning Plectrum Banjo,” would be worthwhile for almost any banjoist, regardless of age or experience. I say this because Buddy has apparently gathered the best tips, techniques and secrets from the old masters –- Eddie Peabody, Perry Bechtel and others –- and passed them along to a new generation on this 90-minute tape from Homespun Video.

Although I’ve been playing plectrum for over 40 years, I was essentially self-taught, working only from a Mel Bay chord book and a “Volume 1” fake book. So I never really learned the proper way to position the banjo on your lap (NOT parallel to your body). More importantly, I never learned the various basic strums; I just sort of guessed and imitated as best I could. But Buddy breaks everything down into the smallest component parts and explains HOW and WHY to do them, in simple and understandable terms.

He has a very commonsense and effective approach, by beginning in focusing solely on the RIGHT hand. This way, that you can learn the various strum techniques without worrying about chords. He teaches the proper way to perform the basic strum, and then offers eight different variations. He goes on to teach tremolo technique and finally, how to combine that with two of the basic strums to produce a very neat rhythmic syncopated beat, in either 4/4 or 3/4 time, which he calls “riverboat style.” These last two combo strums made my jaw drop, because they produce a very clean and pleasant sound, as opposed to the sometimes “twangy” result of always strumming all four strings all the time. Now I can produce a cleaner sound, with more emphasis on the melody notes, and with actually less effort –- amazing!!

Buddy then discusses just the left hand, and explains the basic techniques of fingering the chords. I had forgotten some of these and appreciated the refresher. For example, Buddy notes that you do not always have to use the same fingering for a chord; it all depends on where you are going for the next chord or the next note. So you can finger a “C” chord at the nut with either the first and second fingers, or the first and third fingers. Who knew –- I was only doing what it showed in the Mel Bay chord book pictures!! Buddy also demoed the use of barred chords, which could be helpful in moving some otherwise unmoveable chords (such as a G7th) up the neck. He also provides some good advice on making your glisses neat, clean, and easier to accomplish. Finally, he explained some basics of chord melody. Although he noted that more would be explained “on the next tape,” a sequel was never produced. But there is more than enough great information on this 90-minute tape.

All in all, a very good reference for the beginning or the experienced banjoist. The tape will get the beginner off to a good start, and will likely provide many good tidbits even for an experienced player. It would be helpful, but not necessary, to know how to read music, because Buddy does refer to things like “quarter notes,” “eighth notes,” “time signatures” and “triplets.” But even if you can read music, it’s very helpful to watch Buddy demo all the strums and the syncopation. For a 1990 production, the picture and sound are very good, with lots of close-ups of both the left and right hands.

This 1990 tape is apparently out of print at this time (2011). However, Buddy also made a similar tape for the tenor banjo, which is still available on DVD from Homespun Video. Although I have not seen the tenor version, I am assuming that it contains the same basic strum information, which would still be of great value to the plectrum player. Ditto on left-hand technique, even if the chord fingerings would be different for a tenor banjo. SETH

Overall Rating: 10

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