Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Best lessons for learning chords up and down the neck?

feeling a bit overwhelmed. i know the three positions - bar, F and c# (or the bar , x and y - forget which is which ) but intimidated by learning up and down the neck - how to memorize them all. which lessons are best? thanks!

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Hey Deborah!

You don’t actually need to memorize every single chord up and down the neck. Instead, start out by learning the G, C, and D chords with all 3 chord positions. Then, you can use your theory knowledge to figure out other major chords– e.g. you know that the A chord is one full step up (two frets) from G.

If you don’t have the fundamentals of theory down yet, you can learn most (if not all) of the theory you need to get started from the Essential Banjo Theory and Intro to Banjo Backup lessons. Hope that helps!


This lesson is great for what you are talking about.

If you look at the tab, it goes through what @Michael_Mark was talking about. G Y position, G X position. Then the same for C and D.

Since Christmas is coming up, I was literally just practicing backup with these shapes for Silver Bells (the progression is G C D G: lather rinse repeat).

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One of the coolest things Katy taught us at the first cabin camp is a trick to know how to move between different forms of the same chord. I’ll use G as the example. Start with a G Y shape (Alan Munde calls it the 1 position because your 1st string is on the root note) where your pinky and ring fingers are on the 5th fret. From there, move up and skip over 1 fret (the 6th fret) and make an X shape (AKA the 2 position) for the next G chord. Now skip 2 frets (10 & 11) to barre (the 3 position) at the 12th fret for your final G.

This trick works with any major chord. Y, skip 1 X, skip 2 barre.

Way easier than memorizing everything. If you’d still like help, I made a whole chord chart cheat sheet on my pc. I can send it to you if you want to PM your email address to me.


I get the overwhelmed part. The mind hears what the fingers cannot do yet, and the language is totally alien.
My first question is , “What instrument are we talking about?” Somehow I don’t think it’s the banjo simply because you know the F position. F is/was an awkward one for many banjo players to make. But that’s not really important, because my answer is the same - follow the Banjo Ben learning track for your instrument of choice, pick up and play the instrument every chance you get and keep taking baby steps. You many not go fast, but you will go far. And in the not-so-distant future you will suddenly wonder, “How did I get here?”*** :thinking:

**** The same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice!


thanks! I actually wasn’t trying to memorize every single chord - just G, C, D and F with all three chord positions. i’ll check out the lessons you mentioned. not yet a member - trying to figure out which one to join. also taking lessons but i just want to learn everything and learn it now :slight_smile:

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i’ll check out that lesson! thank you!

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i’ll have to work with that trick - my teacher calls it the F shape and a the C# shape. I think the Y shape is the F shape, but I’ll have to check So Y, skip 1X, Skip 2 barre. so you are counting from the fret your pinky is on? i need to try this out. thanks!

not sure how to PM my email…

Tap on my name, tap on Message and send me your email address. Then I’ll email you the document.

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While searching for my chord chart file, I found a list I made for lessons to learn solid banjo backup. That’s not necessarily chords, but a lot of it is, so here’s the list I came up with in case anyone finds it helpful.

Lessons for learning solid backup

Licks Lessons

Apply what you’ve learned to these lessons

Lessons with backup tab to study


Let’s see if the forum will allow me to attach the PDF chord chart here.
BanjoCombinedChordInversions.pdf (318.3 KB)


Wow! Thanks for sharing, @Mark_Rocka. That’s a great reference.


Awesome Mark! Thank you.

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Error message when I click on you pdf link @Mark_Rocka


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Yeah, as usual the board doesn’t like the file I uploaded. Just PM me if you want the file. I’m happy to email it.