Euphonic Studio Music Lessons
Learn to play piano, guitar, violin, bass and banjo at Euphonic Studio in Mount Vernon, Iowa… call 319.895.8002 today to arrange for a free, no-obligation introductory lesson.
Banjo lessons at Euphonic Studio
“Why would you want to learn to play like me when there are so many other good ways to play?” — Comment made to novice banjo player by expert player at a banjo festival
For those of you who may be wondering why in the world anyone would want to learn how to play 5 string banjo, I suggest that you pick up some recordings by Bela Fleck and Allison Krauss and Union Station. Those were the influences that finally pushed me over the edge to buy one. I worked for about 7 years in two different bands where another musician in the band doubled on banjo. This opened the door for us to play “electric bluegrass”, which may or may not be a correct term but it is at least descriptive. I doubled on fiddle in those bands; it allowed us to hit all of the bluegrass standards like Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Dueling Banjos, Devil’s Dream, Salty Dog Blues, Cripple Creek, and many others. They were great crowd pleasers and I always admired our banjoists’ skills.
Flash forward 20 years. I get to see Allison Krauss at the Cellular Center for my birthday. That changed everything for me about the banjo.
When I bought my Washburn B-14, I got a couple of DVDs from Amazon to learn from. One of them was OK, the other more or less useless because it was at such a basic level. I did learn right away that a metronome is your friend while you’re learning right hand technique and you can plan on spending a few dozen hours (maybe more) practicing that way.
Banjo appeals to a certain frame of mind
To me, the banjo presents a rich tapestry of exciting harmonic and tonal possibilities. I put a 5th string capo on mine, which allows you to turn it from a diatonic into a modal instrument instantly. There are other tuning and fingering tricks to create temporary modal effects, which you can turn on and off as easily as posting a finger on a string an playing around it with your other three fingers. You can detune and retune. Having a drone string gives you almost endless pedal point possibilities and you can really do some cool things with banjos that you would never think of if all you ever play is guitar.
Guitar players who can play finger style should have no major issues with banjo lessons EXCEPT that pesky higher-pitched drone string that’s in an unusual place where the lowest-pitched string should be. I can help you over that hump and a few other ones you will encounter on the way. I suppose another hassle worth mentioning is that you have to learn to play with picks. I never liked the way those felt on my cuticles but, well, sometimes you have to suffer for your art. They feel like old friends now.
Please be aware that I teach Scruggs style at this point and am learning frailing although I don’t teach it at this time. Don’t worry about which style you should be learning. You should learn both styles, and learning one will not prevent you from learning to play the other way.
Euphonic Studio banjo lessons and digital recording services
Mount Vernon, Iowa serving Cedar Rapids, Marion, Solon, Mechanicsville, Ely, Springville, Anamosa, Iowa City and surrounding area
For information about music lessons and digital recording at Euphonic Studio, call Bill at 319.895.8002