Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Banjo lesson: Oh, Susanna

This is a great basic version of the classic, “Oh, Susanna!” I actually teach two solos. The second solo adds in some basic melodic licks that anyone can begin to learn!

I don’t think I’ve ever sat down around a campfire with my Banjo, where someone has not asked to hear “Oh Susanne”. If you play banjo, consider this one a ‘must’ to have in your back pocket.

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My banjo does not seem to play a harmonic on the 5th fret. Is there something wrong with my setup? It will play them on the 12th fret, just not 5th.

The 5th fret harmonic is difficult to master. Barely touch the strings and lift off as you strike the string

You just need to practice :wink:

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Try the seventh fret harmonics. They get harder, with 12th easiest, 7th harder, and fifth hardest. Work on getting the 7th clean, and it will improve your technique so you can get the fifth (I think it’s 7th, but not holding an instrument right now. Could be eighth?)

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The 5th fret harmonics ARE tough. Keep working at it. I will say, though, that for reasons I don’t understand, I have a much easier time getting a 5th fret harmonic ring out of my GoldStar than I do my Gibson. I’ve triple checked the intonation, tried playing it a little above and a little below the 5th fret, lightened my touch… no matter what I do, that Gibson just doesn’t ring out as well.

If you convince yourself that it’s your banjo, go to a local music store and try it on one of their banjos. It’s most likely a practice thing.

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Harmonics are possible as you induce additional “nodes” onto the vibrating string. Ordinarily, there are only two ‘nodes’ during normal playing: The bridge and the nut; thus creating a first-order harmonic when the string is plucked. By inducing a harmonic on the 12th fret, you create a 2nd order harmonic, with the string vibrating at a higher frequency between 3-nodes: The nut, 12th fret region and bridge. As Dragonslayer points out; inducing 3rd and 4th order harmonics becomes progressively more difficult as the frequency increases and more “nodes” are required as spacing tolerance must be more precise. Essentially, finger placement tolerance or lateral position of your finger on the string must become more accurate moving from 12th fret harmonics to 7th, 5th etc… In other words, you can be a bit more “sloppy” on 12th fret finger placement, but 5th fret, you might want to try pinpointing the sweet-spot (left and right) a very small amount? More (and better) explanation here:

Nodes and guitar/banjo string movement::