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Need book recommendations for a true beginner with an open back banjo

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Sep 22, 2020 - 5:32:51 PM
2 posts since 9/19/2020

I would like to find a good book to teach me good practices the first time so I do not develop bad habits or buy a dozen books I can't use. This might be reaching but if I could find one that is spiral bound, I could easily lay it out on a music stand. Thanks in advance for your help.

Lester
If you're not a head, you're a behind.

Sep 22, 2020 - 5:52:32 PM
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639 posts since 6/6/2007

I can’t help you with the book recommendation, but I know that a UPS store will turn your book into a spiral book for a nominal charge.

Good luck.

Steve

Sep 22, 2020 - 8:21:18 PM
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12 posts since 8/24/2020

I suggest the True Fire online course by Cathy Fink. She breaks down each step methodically and has clear instructions. You get additional tab and the player allows you to adjust the speed. It is great and she covers alot of music. There are four courses that are very affordable and you receive hours of instruction. truefire.com

Sep 22, 2020 - 8:38:34 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

23981 posts since 6/25/2005

Dan Levenson:  Clawhammer from Scratch.  Book and DVD.  Excellent, imo.

Sep 22, 2020 - 8:45:02 PM

251 posts since 10/16/2011

Ditto o Bill Rodgers .. on that Dan Levenson book for D tunings or Wayne Erbsen books also for general tunings . Tunes tips & jamming is my favorite Wayne Erbsen book followed by clawhammer for the complete innoranous. Great beginner tab books with words also .

Sep 22, 2020 - 9:21:57 PM

ahuman

USA

1 posts since 7/4/2020

Hello, I am a Banjo beginner and working my way through Jens Kruger’s free YouTube lessons. I am enjoying his teaching. I am a guitar player, so I think that is helpful to some degree. Good luck with your studies.

Sep 23, 2020 - 12:00:23 AM
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AndyW

UK

589 posts since 7/4/2017

I used 'Clawhammer Banjo From Scratch' by Dan Levenson after a bit of a false start with Wayne Erbsens book.

The beauty of Dan's book is that it is very methodical in teaching basic stroke, then double thumbing. and finally drop thumbing in that order before moving onto left hand techniques.

The book is not perfect, after the right hand techniques the left hand is not dealt with anywhere near as methodically and in my opinion his final selection of 'kitchen sink' tune arrangements are very difficult for a beginner to play cleanly up to speed. These could have been easier versions to begin with further more difficult versions as a further section. So after the first 2/3rds of the book have taught you the right hand basics it might be worth just moving on to something else for tunes.

However, I don't think there is a better book out there for a true beginner to learn the right hand technique. Tony Spadero's free PDF download rocketsciencebanjo comes close but gets cluttered with more advanced stuff.

If you come from another string instrument such as guitar Dan's book is even more relevant due to it's right hand focus.

Sep 23, 2020 - 4:25:53 AM
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2943 posts since 4/29/2012

This all assumes that the OP wants to play Clawhammer - In which case the recommendations above are great. But to get a quick overview of the many ways of getting music out of a banjo you still can't beat Pete Seeger's 'How to Play the 5 String Banjo'. Art Rosenbaum's books are also classics - But possibly not beginner material.

Sep 23, 2020 - 5:48:40 AM
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4898 posts since 5/14/2007

Assuming you have no music experience, I suggest at least a few lessons with a teacher, either face-to-face or online. I wouldn't have ever gotten it on my own.

Sep 23, 2020 - 5:59:17 AM
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Eric A

USA

845 posts since 10/15/2019

I'm a Wayne Erbsen fan.

Sep 23, 2020 - 6:13:03 AM
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bigleaf

USA

55 posts since 5/5/2019

Start with Dan Levenson, as has been said. The 12 tunes are each presented four times. The layering of basic technique upon basic technique, as you move from the easiest version through to the complete version was exactly what I needed.

Early success, constant improvement, and 12 tunes you’ll always play in future. All in Double D.

Then, Cathy Fink on TrueFire for G. Then, Hilarie Burhans on YouTube and Patreon.

But do start with Dan.

Sep 23, 2020 - 8:02:59 AM
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jduke

USA

1089 posts since 1/15/2009

I agree with John Gribble about a couple of lessons early on. If that's not possible search YouTube for Clawhammer Banjo instruction and sample everyone's first basic instructions. You can be a successful clawhammer player even with all the flaws in technique you may develop as I did when I taught myself back before videos and YouTube, but flaws can be hard to overcome and may prevent you from accomplishing some advanced techniques.

I own many of the books listed above and agree that all are good, but like Eric A, I'm a Wayne Erbsen fan. My first Erbsen book came with that thin, flimsy, square little black plastic record!

Sep 23, 2020 - 9:26:07 AM
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Eric A

USA

845 posts since 10/15/2019

quote:
Originally posted by jduke

I agree with John Gribble about a couple of lessons early on. If that's not possible search YouTube for Clawhammer Banjo instruction and sample everyone's first basic instructions. You can be a successful clawhammer player even with all the flaws in technique you may develop as I did when I taught myself back before videos and YouTube, but flaws can be hard to overcome and may prevent you from accomplishing some advanced techniques.

I own many of the books listed above and agree that all are good, but like Eric A, I'm a Wayne Erbsen fan. My first Erbsen book came with that thin, flimsy, square little black plastic record!


Me too!  That original ignoramus book, with the weird tab shorthand?  I still use that kind of tab for myself if I'm just writing down a lick before I forget it.

Fear not, Original Poster, Wayne uses conventional tabulature now.


Edited by - Eric A on 09/23/2020 09:30:13

Sep 23, 2020 - 11:07:53 AM
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12 posts since 8/24/2020

Although I can read music and tab, I find it much easier to learn by ear and example. This is why I suggested a good video course. I second the recommendation for Hilarie Burhans videos. She is a great rhythmic old time player with easy to follow videos. Cathy Fink breaks down techniques in greater detail and therefore she still is my number one recommendation. I will check out some of the other recommendations above.

Sep 23, 2020 - 12:35:40 PM

AndyW

UK

589 posts since 7/4/2017

If going the Dan Levenson book route, these videos will mesh nicely.

Dan Levenson 1
banjohangout.org/lessons/video...sp?id=235
Dan Levenson 2
banjohangout.org/lessons/video...sp?id=247
Dan Levenson 3
banjohangout.org/lessons/video...sp?id=260
RSB Videos
rsb.pricklypearmusic.net/rsbvideos.html
RSB Site
rsb=pricklypearmusic.net/

Sep 23, 2020 - 2:39:04 PM
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131 posts since 9/27/2007

Wayne Erbsen's books. Get the Ignoramus book first.

Sep 24, 2020 - 3:13:57 AM
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barncat

USA

21 posts since 6/21/2006

My biggest breakthrough came when I started using Wayne Erbsens claw hammer for the complete Ignoramus book, he keeps the songs very basic and offers advice on where to add pull offs and such as you get the song down.
you can get the book in PDF or hard copy and comes with mp3’s of the songs basic melody notes and with brushes added.
his website is called native ground .com, also he is very helpful with answering questions

Sep 24, 2020 - 3:48:02 PM

AndyW

UK

589 posts since 7/4/2017

I guess it's a matter of taste. I came from guitar where tablature is pretty much written in a standard format.

Dan Levenson's book is in a similar format, as is Tony Spadero's, Ken Perlman's, and virtually all the hangout tab.

I love the anecdote's and the way Wayne sets a story for the tune in his book, but the tablature is a terrible style in my view. Not just a 'lots of years ago' thing either as Miles Krassen's early seventies book is in pretty much 'normal' tablature.

Learning to follow Dan's tablature will lead to being able to follow most others. Learning to follow Wayne's is a rabbithole.

Sep 24, 2020 - 3:57:38 PM
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Eric A

USA

845 posts since 10/15/2019

Wayne's current books are standard tab. It's just that one from the 70's that is unique.

Sep 25, 2020 - 4:32:50 AM

14 posts since 10/16/2015

Ken Perlman's book, Clawhammer Stlye Banjo, has served me well in learning from scratch over the last seven years. Still coming back to it today: kenperlman.com/clawhammer-style-banjo/

Sep 26, 2020 - 9:08:17 AM
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Nickcd

UK

235 posts since 1/28/2018

+1 for ken Perlman (DVD - think it is extra also ok but not necessary).

Sep 27, 2020 - 7:51:27 PM

2 posts since 9/19/2020

Tremendous response, I really appreciate it.

I have bought:

The Clawhammer book for Ignoramus and Clawhammer Banjo Tunes, Tips and Jamming by Wayne Erbsen
The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo by Patrick Costello
Play of a Fiddle : Traditional Music, Dance and Folklore in West Virginia

Just waiting for them to be delivered and I am on my way. Thanks again everyone for your advice.
Lester

Sep 27, 2020 - 11:48:04 PM

AndyW

UK

589 posts since 7/4/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Eric A

Wayne's current books are standard tab. It's just that one from the 70's that is unique.


The 'Ignoramus' book I bought 3 years ago certainly is not in standard tab.  For example it uses an arrow to indicate a chord brush stroke.  It varies the distance when using a 2nd 8th note and when not. I admit, easy enough to follow once you get the hang of it.  It is not a good lead in to the way most folks write tab. It also locks in to your playing constantly brushing full chords which is in my opinion a pretty bad habit to get into.

Sep 28, 2020 - 1:09:27 AM

AndyW

UK

589 posts since 7/4/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Gorhamite

Tremendous response, I really appreciate it.

I have bought:

The Clawhammer book for Ignoramus and Clawhammer Banjo Tunes, Tips and Jamming by Wayne Erbsen
The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo by Patrick Costello
Play of a Fiddle : Traditional Music, Dance and Folklore in West Virginia

Just waiting for them to be delivered and I am on my way. Thanks again everyone for your advice.
Lester


Good luck to you.  I know I have argued against Wayne's book but that might just be me, there are certainly plenty folks who liked it and got a lot from it.

Sep 28, 2020 - 3:51:26 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

845 posts since 10/15/2019

Bottom line is to order a variety. Different authors and teaching methods will click with different students, and you don't know in advance which will work for you.  Chances are you get an important nugget from one, then something else clicks from another.  And still another has a style that keeps you interested if you hit a dry spell.

Another older book that I think has stood the test of time is the one by Eric Muller and Barbara Koehler.

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