Welcome to Banjo Boot Camp

So, why do I call this the Banjo Boot Camp? Anyone that has been in the military has gone through boot camp (or basic training). It's just something you must get through and graduate to move on with your military career.  So, you suck-it-up and get through it.

The same holds true with the banjo. Every accomplished banjo player you see or hear has been right where you are now, and every one of them learned what you are about to learn. It can get a little monotonous early on at times, but you just stick with it and push through. I promise you will see improvement week to week and you will learn to play this instrument.


I will push you probably a little harder than most online teachers. Here's the deal...if you are learning online, you don't have an instructor sitting with you each week critiquing your progress. Most online video instruction will say, "practice this a lot before you move on." That's correct, but that leaves you subjectively critiquing yourself. The major problem here is you will most likely try to move on to the next lesson before you are ready. Then it becomes a death spiral. You get to a point that you feel you just can't do it and quit. My goal is to help you reach your goal of playing the banjo. I have developed milestones for you to accomplish before you move on. They require timing and a little speed. If you can pass my milestones before you move to the next lesson, you will have a strong foundation to go to each successive next level. You will have a good foundation for lead breaks and backup that come next. Most try to learn too much too soon and give up. Stick with the program and push through to the end, and you will reach your goal of learning to play the banjo. 


I started putting songs in my unique format around 2012. It is a simple format for beginners to follow and learn chord progressions. That combined with my melody tracks makes it easy for beginners to play along with songs from the start. We will start with the Pinch, playing along with Sally Goodin, and move on from there. From day 1, you start playing along with music, and learning the essential timing and rhythm needed to play the banjo. If you haven't already done so, watch the video, or read through my short tutorial on my music format. You'll quickly see how easy it is to follow the music.


By starting to play with songs from the start, you will be ahead of the game for playing backup. You will already be used to rolling through a chord progression without being concerned with playing the melody. You will already have begun to feel the chord changes. You will be set to pick up on the few new techniques for backup and be jam ready quickly.


The Basics

This video starts from the absolute beginning. We will go over:

  • The parts of the banjo
  • Needed accessories
  • Tuning
  • Posture & Right hand positioning
  • Practice schedule

The Pinch

Practice pinching through the song Sally Goodin. This is a simple 2 chord (G & D) song. We'll use the D7 chord instead of the full D chord for this exercise.

The Forward Roll

We'll add the C chord and play the forward roll along with Molly and Tenbrooks. With the open G, C, and D7 chords, you can play along with most every song on this site, and hundreds more!

The Alternating Thumb Roll

Learn the Alternating Thumb Roll and then complete your milestone by playing along with Foggy Mountain Top.  

The Slide

Here we will learn our first left-hand technique called the Slide. After a few exercises, we will add the slide to the alternating thumb roll and play along with Bile Them Cabbage Down.

First Melody Break

You are now ready for your first melody break! We will now mix the rolls to play the melody to Bile Them Cabbage Down. I will build the break from the melody notes so you gain a better understanding of what we are doing and why. 

Bonus Lesson

Up-The-Neck Bile Them Cabbage Down.

This bonus lesson is a continuation of lesson 6. There is no milestone for this lesson. I thought it would be fun to move up the neck and play another version of the song. You will learn some partial chords and start moving the left hand as you continue a roll. I hope you have some fun with this one!