Like the guitar, the banjo is also an important member of the stringed musical instruments family. It is a versatile instrument, well known for its variances in tuning. You can play it using a plectrum or your fingers. It is largely used in various kinds of music; such as Irish, bluegrass, country, folk, etc. Typically, it comes with four and five strings, however, those with six strings are also becoming more popular. It is called by many different names like guitanjo, ganjo, and banjitar.
Guidelines on Playing the Banjo
Purchase a Good Banjo
The first step in learning to play the banjo is to buy a banjo for a beginner. It is better to take a banjo player with you while purchasing the instrument. If you do not have a professional as a guide during the purchase, you can ask the shop assistant to guide you. Tell him that you need one for a beginner, and he will certainly help you in choosing the right type. Since you are a beginner, it is better if you go in for one that has four or five strings. Do not purchase an electric banjo at first, but just get a starter model.
Learn Holding the Banjo Correctly
A majority of people have a misconception that the banjo is supposed to be held like the guitar, as it somewhat looks like an acoustic guitar. Since you are just starting out to learn the banjo, you need to first learn how it is to be held in a sitting position. The banjo is supposed to be held in the middle of you laps while it being played. Set it comfortably in a way that you will be able to play it easily.
Tune The Banjo
Now you have to take steps to tune the banjo correctly. There are many variances in tuning the banjo, but for starters it is better to learn to play with a standard tuning pattern. If you have got a four-stringed banjo, tune it in a C-G-B-D format, with tuning the thickest string to the 'C' note and the thinnest one to the 'D' note. If you have a five-stringed banjo, the standard tuning would be the open G pattern with the G-D-G-B-D order.
Learn to Hold the Chords and Strum
After you have got the banjo in tune, it is time to get to know some basic chords play. For knowing chords, refer to the websites or to a banjo chord book from a musical instruments store. First learn 'G' and 'C' chords, as these chords will be useful for playing a majority of songs. With holding chords with your fretting hand, you should also learn how to strum. The strumming has to be done as per the beat of the music you want to play. In a five-stringed banjo, the fifth string has to be played using the thumb, whereas the last four strings with the remaining fingers.
After getting the fundamentals of playing the banjo right, you need to practice a lot for being familiar with playing techniques. To learn more on playing the instrument; listen to bluegrass, country, folk and Irish music. Listening to such genres will certainly help you better your playing skills. If possible, take some banjo playing tips from a professional active in the music industry.
This was a general explanation on how to play the banjo. If you want to be proficient in playing the banjo, you necessarily need to practice at least for two hours a day and experiment with different tuning patterns.