New to it all


#1

Hi everyone.
As it says, I am new to it all. New to the forum, new to banjos and in fact don’t even have one yet. :open_mouth:
I just wanted to do a bit of twiddling nothing important. :laughing:
So I needed some words of wisdom.
I have been playing guitar since I was a kid; in fact I first picked up a ukele banjo that was my uncle’s but never really got into it. So I turned to guitars. I am now retired and fancied playing a** four** string banjo. :slight_smile:
Here is my question and bear in mind I am not a finger style player though I play bass (used to until I retired a few years ago) so have some finger style ability in the first two fingers. :wink:
Should I get and tune a banjo to guitar and if so should I used a bass tuning like EADG or guitar tuning DGBE or even something off the wall like ADGB? Or should I use the standard tunings which I anticipate will be hard for me at my age to switch to!!! :blush: I do not want to use finger picks. :unamused:

I will probably use a plectrum but I would like to use two fingers like on the bass. :confused:

I am not really able to read the black dots on paper called music - I can if you all can wait ten minutes per note - and tab is slow. I tend to play by ear.

All advice would be appreciated. :smiley:


#2

Howdy helijohn!
I don’t want to try to over analyze what you wrote, but it sounds like you are really doubting your ability to learn new things and to that, I say “don’t worry about it.” Most of us here aren’t spring chickens. None of us know everything and all of us are learning. That’s why we are here.

If there is a style of string banjo you have seen and you want to pursue that, then find out what they play, how they tune and go for it. On the other hand, if you want to play Scruggs style bluegrass (the most common style for grassers), I’d get a 5 string like Earl, tune like Earl, and try for the most part to play like Earl with two fingers, a thumb and pick on all three of them. I might even dress like Earl for a while. I am not a banjo player and I didn’t play one on TV. I did try picking 5 string up for a month on a borrowed one, and honestly the tunings on banjo are easy to navigate. The picks seem odd at first, but you get used to it. As far as not reading music, no worries. Ben’s vids make it pretty easy to learn and I suspect you’ll be reading tablature pretty quick just from playing along with the vids (the tab scrolls along below).

Don’t get me wrong, if there is something you want to do with a four string banjo tuned like a guitar played with a flat pick or two fingers… go for it. But if you want to play bluegrass banjo, I am afraid starting off as you suggested wouldn’t be the way to go. If you aren’t sure what style you want to pursue, go listen to a bunch of banjo and find out what calls to you. When you find the style you want, that will shape how you go about it.

Best of luck!


#3

— Begin quote from "mreisz"

But if you want to play bluegrass banjo, I am afraid starting off as you suggested wouldn’t be the way to go.

— End quote

I agree with this. I’m not a banjo player, but if I were to start out, I would look for the right way to learn from the right teacher and Ben is definitely one of them. It’s easy to learn things the wrong way and develop bad habits that will be hard to break and when you do, you’re just starting over. If you use guitar tuning on a 4 string Banjo, (or you can even buy a six string Banjo that’s designed to be tuned to standard guitar tuning), I think the whole technique would be different and it would only sound like a guitar with the tone of a Banjo. The biggest part of the Banjo sound is the rolls and techniques used.

As for tablature, it’s much easier than it appears at first. You will pick it up quickly and you will only need it until you have a particular song memorized. Once you get to that point, it’s just a matter of working out the tricky parts and getting it up to speed. And you can change things to suit you. The tab is one person’s interpretation of a song and a guideline to learning that song.

“Clawhammer” Banjo may be another option if you wanted to go without the fingerpicks. I don’t recall if Ben’s ever done any lessons on that or not. It’s alot of fun and much less annoying. :laughing: It goes well with old time fiddle tunes and good rythym guitar.

Good Luck and like Mike said, we’re all still learning. Have fun with whatever you decide.


#4

Thanks for the ideas. Still not truly sorted out. I’ve watched lots online over the last week or so and it has made me more bewildered rather than sort me out.
I was hoping to play it like a bass fingerwise; can I get away with two fingers and no picks? Is that sort of similar to clawhammer!!
I am only going for a 4 string, not five, not six.

I like the fact that open is a chord. Am I right it is often tuned to G? So I could twiddle in key G.
I don’t think I will get to ‘Deliverance’ levels but don’t think that is the style I am searching for cos actually the stuff I like seems to be all over the place. When I was a kid I used to strum the George Formby stuff on my ukebanjo but that is not where I wanna go today.

Mostly I was wondering what will be a natural progression from guitar. I am really really no spring chicken either.


#5

sounds like you want to invent your own new way to play…if so go for it.

You can find many tunings for a 4 string on the banjo hangout site. There are many and no one is exactly “the” tuning unless you are attempting a specific sound/feeling.

4 string (tenor) banjo is usually played with flat pick. If you want to pick it with two fingers do so. I’ve never heard of anyone playing it that way but that doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be done.

The biggest problem in inventing a way to play is the lack of being able to learn from others who have weathered the path before you. Good Luck! Enjoy your journey.


#6

— Begin quote from "jwpropane"

— End quote

you can even buy a six string Banjo that’s designed to be tuned to standard guitar tuning

A 6 string banjo would still have a short string and next to that a larger string tuned to a C when in standard tuning.

The instrument you are referring to is called something else…Maybe a banjitar? or is it a guitjo? I forget which is which.


#7

— Begin quote from "fiddlewood"

Maybe a banjitar? or is it a guitjo? I forget which is which.

— End quote

Banjitar rings a bell. I think Guitjo is that camp where they kept terrorist POWs.


#8

— Begin quote from "mreisz"

Banjitar rings a bell. I think Guitjo is that camp where they kept terrorist POWs.

— End quote

:laughing: :laughing:


#9

Hehe, enough of the terrorist chatter, I need help!!! :laughing: :laughing:


#10

— Begin quote from "fiddlewood"

— Begin quote from "jwpropane"

— End quote

you can even buy a six string Banjo that’s designed to be tuned to standard guitar tuning

— End quote

Maybe a banjitar? or is it a guitjo? I forget which is which.

Here it is. :wink:

ebay.co.uk/itm/Eastcoast-Tob … 339cb99f52


#11

Thanks for setting me straight on that Fiddlewood. The one Helijohn posted from Ebay is what I was referring to. I didn’t know what it was called. :blush: I would not recommend this if someone wants to truly learn how to play Banjo.

BTW, I didn’t know a six string banjo with a short string existed.