Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Must-know songs to learn

What are some most played, should know songs to learn that are played on the mandolin along with a group or solo.


Hmmm, so many tunes, so little time…

Amazing Grace, AK Traveler, Ashokan Farewell
Bill Cheatham, Billy in the Lowground,
Cherokee Shuffle, Clinch Mt. Backstep, Cripple Creek,
Faded Love, Gold Rush, I’ll Fly Away, Keep on the Sunny Side, Liberty, 9lb Hammer, Old Joe Clark, Pig in a Pen, Red Wing, Salt Creek, Soldier’s Joy, Whiskey Before Breakfast…

Just to name a few. And if you can get arpeggios and pentatonics under your belt, you’ll be able to impressively fake your way at any jam. Go thru Ben’s list as well!


Good question! I go to several local jams as a guitar player but just picked up mando for a little variety. My thoughts are:

  1. Learn the I, IV, and V chords in G, A, C, and D. You can chop along all night long with those. If you can recognize guitar chords by sight you can cheat by watching a guitar player to learn chord progressions.
  2. Songs I hear a lot are Will the Circle…, Whiskey Before Breakfast, Cherokee Shuffle, Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms, Nine Pound Hammer, Long Journey Home, and Worried Man Blues. What songs are popular varies by who shows up to the jam.
  3. Find songs you like and bring them to the jam - the other folks will know them or appreciate playing something “new”. Be ready to explain the chord progression and you’ll be good to go.
  4. Don’t feel pressure to play a fancy break on your songs. Leading and singing a song are enough. I usually don’t take a break on my songs - especially if it’s one I’m trying to learn to sing.
  5. I’m a terrible singer!

The most fun I have is playing with other people and just having the basic skill to strum along is enough to go have some fun.



@Fiddle_wood posted this list a while back that I think is a great start.

10 Songs Every Banjo Player Should Know



While the question posed was for Mandolin, I think this makes sense so as to play with banjo players!

Good thought @Mark_Rocka!

1 Like

It’s a great general bluegrass song list. I’d say most of those songs should be in every picker’s back pocket. Note… they’re not all in mine yet, but I’m slowly getting there.


Thank you for all of your help. I have already learned a few of the songs, I have a long way to go and lots to learn. But It is all very enjoyable.