Ultimate Banjo FAQ
5-string banjo Ultimate Frequently Asked Question Guide
No, clawhammer banjo doesn’t usually use picks. You can also play fingerstyle banjo without picks. At the same time, if you want to play bluegrass in the style of Earl Scruggs or Ralph Stanley, you are going to want to use picks. Find out what your favorite banjo players do and emulate them.
To play the 5-string banjo in the bluegrass style, you’ll need three picks. Two metal finger picks and a plastic thumb pick. I recommend metal fingerpicks so you can shape them to the contour of your fingers. Some people also use a metal thumb pick; however, it isn’t something that is common.
My advice is if you want to play bluegrass banjo, then you’ll need a resonator. The resonator helps amplify the sound. In addition, it helps give you the bluegrass sound in the style of Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, and more. At the same time, if you are more interested in resonator, classical, or other styles, then no, you don’t have to use a resonator banjo.
It is believed the banjo originated in Africa. Check out the Akonting to see one of the banjos ancestors that is still played in Africa today. It came to America via the slave trade. The modern day fourth string was added to the banjo in America (not the drone string).
Most resonator banjos that have a tone ring weigh around 12-15 pounds. Banjos without resonators or tone rings can weigh much less (7-8 pounds).
The tone ring inside of a banjo acts as an amplifier. It makes the banjo louder. It enhances certain tones and brings clarity to higher frequencies. It also makes the banjo heavier.
Bluegrass is the most common banjo music. However, you can play classical, jazz, and even popular music on the banjo. Lastly, before bluegrass was old-time music; you can play that on the banjo as well.
This is like asking how long does it take to learn chess . It takes as long as it takes. Learning an instrument is a lifetime endeavor, depends on how far you want to go with it. For reference, It was about two years before I felt comfortable joining in and taking breaks at jam sessions.
There are an infinite amount of banjo rolls. However, in my school of teaching there are five main banjo rolls you need to know to play most bluegrass/folk tunes on the banjo. Everything else is derived from there