So you play the banjo but aren’t drawn to the really fast bluegrass songs?
I’ve had many people come in to my banjo studio and say that same thing. The incredible speed that a lot of bluegrass music is played at is intimidating for someone completely new to music, especially those that have never played an instrument before. Why not start out with some slow songs?
Hopefully this list helps out those wanting to play a slower repertoire. These tunes are some slow beautiful melodies, that won’t have your right hand playing “catch-up.”
Here is a list of slow songs I’ve heard played on the 5-string banjo through the years; in my opinion, they all work really great on the instrument. In some cases, I provide links to banjo versions of these songs. The list includes hymns, Christmas songs, Beatles, Old Classic Country and Great American Songbook Classics. It has something for everyone-peruse the list and pick out at least two of your favorites to work towards learning:
Slow Banjo Song List
Beautiful Dreamer Beautiful Dreamer TAB
Faded Love-A quick run through the melody ME PLAYING FADED LOVE
Just a Closer Walk ME PLAYING JUST A CLOSER WALK
Roxanna’s Waltz-A quick run through the melody My arrangement of Roxanna’s Waltz
Somewhere Over the Rainbow-Here is a version I did Rainbow Arrangement
Ashokan Farewell ASHOKAN FAREWELL BY LEON HUNT
Don’t Let me Cross Over-There is a GREAT version by Raymond Fairchild and Chubby Wise that I learned
How Great Thou Art- Jim Mill’s version
I Will- Alison Krauss
Here There, Everywhere Tony Trischka Beatles melody
Red River Valley My arrangement
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms: My version Gospel Video and TAB
Danny Boy- Sonny Osborne did a great job of this one, not to mention he played a lot of really nice slow material
Banks of the Ohio (Click for my TAB)
Crazy Arms Allen Shelton’s version (Two of my favorite things are Allen Shelton and Jim Reeves), so this was a bullseye for me.
Maiden’s Prayer-Raymond Mclain had an INCREDIBLE version of this recording that I got a lot from.
Please keep in mind that just because these songs are slower doesn’t mean they are easier in every way. Many times the challenge with slow tunes is keeping them interesting and staying in time; in addition, they often require more chord shapes with your left-hand.
Unfortunately, not enough banjo players take the time to learn waltzes, ballads and a few basic melodies in a more chordal style. Being able to play in a variety of tempos is part of being a well-rounded musician.
If you discovered something on this list today you’ve never heard of, I’d love to hear from you in the comments, what are your favorites? Many of the banjo songs on the list, I have TABS for on my site, so be sure to look around under my
I highly recommend my Slow Banjo Backup Article packed with free banjo tips on playing behind slow songs. Free Slow Banjo Videos
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