15 Beginner Banjo Songs

Overwhelmed with how many songs there are and don’t know where to start?  This list will help.

Where you start is extremely important because if you start on a song that is too difficult it can be discouraging.  In addition, some songs are not common repertoire so if you learn a song it is possible no one else will know it.  The list I’m including is a list of songs that I’ve heard at jam sessions numerous times through the years or are songs in the public domain that a great deal of your audience will recognize and be able to sing along with.

Here is the list:

Please notice that the majority of these songs have words.  Most are not really fast bluegrass instrumentals.  If you start with songs you can hum or sing then the rhythm will be much easier than something that is purely instrumental that is difficult to hum.  Singing the words along to what you are playing will help you keep your place.  “I’ll Fly Away” is a great example of this, remember to play the words.  “Wagon Wheel” is listed for the same reason, it is a modern example of something with words that most will recognize.  It is very easy to play after learning a few basic rolls and chord positions.

I included songs of a slower tempo such as “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Amazing Grace.”  While slow songs do present their own challenges you at least won’t have to worry about whether your fingers are capable of moving fast enough. “Wayfaring Stranger” is a good song to introduce yourself to minor keys and chords.

Included also are songs in a variety of keys like “Wildwood Flower” (typically in C), “Angeline the Baker” (usually in D).  Playing in keys other than G is not difficult provided a basic arrangement is used.  I believe the sooner you get familiar with the chord shapes of the other common keys the better off you will be as you progress.

If you learn even half of the songs on this list you will have repertoire that you can walk up to most bluegrass jams and play.  This repertoire aids in developing skills that will allow you to tackle a more advanced repertoire.

 

Happy Learning,

Jody Hughes

 

 

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Jody Hughes Written by:

I am a full-time banjo and acoustic guitar teacher, performer and composer. I have performed on the stages of Carnegie Hall, The Grand Ole Opry and The Ryman Auditorium. My interests include developing educational materials for the advancing banjoist and composing Original Music mixing my background in Bluegrass, Jazz, Classical and Latin Music.

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