Learning to Play Banjo
Learning to play banjo or any other instrument for that matter will require some dedication. Before running to the music shop and buying the first banjo closest to the cash register, take some time to consider what style you like. The range available is vast and rather intimidating. Although the difference between banjos might not seem important, it will have a great effect on the playing experience. It is best to ask for guidance from a professional in order to make an informed decision.
There are 4, 5 and 6 string banjos currently on the market. Each one has its own distinct features. The 4 string is normally recommended for beginners because of its simplicity. It is the classic among the rest and is typically used for Dixieland type of music. By no means is it limited to this style, but it is the optimal choice. Five string banjos are the most popular, but it is not recommended for beginners.
The two basic designs consist of an open back or resonator. An open back is exactly as stated. It is completely open at the back and tends to cost a little less. A banjo with a resonating back is enclosed with the resonator acting as an amp. This one is louder and preferred in a band setting. In most cases beginners will go with the open back because it's not very loud and should be cheaper.
An action scale determines the space between the neck and the strings. Newbies should go for a low action scale due to the fact that it's easier to press a chord. After buying the desired banjo, a great first step is to tune it. For this there are tuners available, but to try to play it by ear as time goes by. This will help the musician to become accustomed to how notes should sound and what keys the strings should be tuned to. The tuning can be done by turning the knobs located on the neck.
Regardless of whether the musician is left or right handed, one hand will be pressing the chord while the other plucks the strings. In regards to the pressing hand, the wrist should be slightly pushed to the front while holding the neck. Many beginners fail to do this and end up killing the lower strings with their palm section. Although it resembles a guitar, the banjo is much more sensitive and doesn't need to be pressed as hard. On the contrary, pressing too hard can lead to another tuning session.
For the hand which handles the picking, only the thumb, index and middle fingers are needed. With these fingers the player can strum or play individual strings. It is best to assign the fingers to certain strings in order to avoid confusion. Basic exercises like keeping time while playing a steady rhythm are good places to start. When this can be done while changing chords or picking rolls on the other end, more intense exercises can be attempted. Most importantly, explore and have fun.