It's OK to Strum the 5-String Banjo

It's OK to Strum the 5-String Banjo

I know this statement seems like a “given” but I have spoken with many folks who feel they have to apologize because they “only” strum their 5-string banjo. My favorite way to play the banjo is to strum it! It’s relaxing, it’s easy, and it’s fun.

There are many wonderful advantages to strumming a banjo:

1.     For those who have hand issues, the strumming movement is easier to accomplish than either the 3-finger picking patterns or the clawhammer/old time method of playing the banjo.

2.     When you become successful with music through strumming, and given that you have no hand issues, it does encourage you to try to expand your playing style to possibly include the bluegrass finger picking or clawhammer/old time style. The “desire” sort of “sneaks” up on you; you begin to yearn for “more” from your playing. There is nothing like a little success to spur you on.

3.     It is a great way to practice your chords!  Because banjo is traditionally tuned to an open G chord, you already have your first chord without any effort.  By adding D7 and C, you open a huge world of songs for practice.

Some examples:
If you use a simple Barre Chord method for C (at the fifth fret) and D (at the 7th fret), you have an easier time making your chords. For a great illustration of this, please look at our “Two-finger Method” DVD. With this method, you learn 3 songs; This Land is Your Land,Tom Dooley, You are My Sunshine

4.     Barry Hunn, whose articles on musical inspiration you have read, offered this further insight to the advantages on strumming the banjo.

Many, many folk, popular and bluegrass songs have three chords that make up the song.  All chords have a certain “character” in the way they relate to each other.  In the famous Scruggs masterpiece, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” the magic of starting with a G chord and then going to the E-minor chord has unique “sound” or a unique “relationship".  Playing a G chord and then changing to a C chord, has a unique “sound” or character in how the two chords relate.  The more we strum chords and sing songs, the clearer these “relationships” become. Guitar players, who play chords a lot, have an advantage in that they learn to hear the chord relationships, because they are playing the chords all the time.  Sometimes banjo pickers who play notes and mostly leads, don’t have the opportunity to “get a feel” for the chords and how they relate to each other.  Strumming chords on your banjo will train your ears and your “musical sense” about how a G chord relates to a C chord and how G chord relates to an F chord.  You might not be able to verbally describe this relationship, but you hear it and it helps you learn new songs because you recognize the common chord changes that are the same in many songs.

Whether it’s “Cripple Creek”, “Oh Susanna”, or “Happy Birthday”, the chords and their relationship to each other will become clear after strumming your banjo.  This is priceless training in addition to being just plain fun.

In short, STRUM THE BANJO! Not only is it ok, it’s a great way to expand your song repertoire and have fun with folks.

June 07, 2012 by David Bandrowski
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Comments

James Smith

James Smith said:

I have been house bound in a wheel chair now for close to 3 years therefore I purchase a guitar and messed with it for a while. Very ackward to work with due to arm rest so decided to try a banjo. Purchase a used ANJO banjo found almost to heavy to lift up over the arm rest. Decided to try a Deering banjo. Bought one. Now with this encouraging though of just strumming cords etc to get started “I Like Very Much”
Thank You!

AL BODDY (australia)

AL BODDY (australia) said:

Hi What a fantastic website to learn from!
Its so full of so much information and inspiration in every page!
My banjo arrives tomorrow can`t wait to put into practice whats on your site!
On your pages about boredom etc It was one of your Presidents (R Nixon)
who said It`s not actually BECOMING PRESIDENT THAT THE BEST PART!
ITS THE CHALLENGES OF THE JOURNEY TO GET THERE (OR WORDS TO THAT EFFECT!)
thanks for all your info!
ps I `M GONNA START BY STRUMMING AND LEARNING G C D7 Then
with confidence move on to two fingers then other stuff (CLAWHAMMER)
I`ll order your two finger thingy!
BEST WISHES
Al

Carolina

Carolina said:

Thank you for sharing your musical journey. If you need any further advice, please feel free to email us again at info@deeringbanjos.com.
Good luck and keep on strumming!!

Carolina

Carolina said:

Al,
What great comments! Thank you so much for writing. It is comments like yours that help us know we are doing the job we mean to do.
Thanks for choosing Deering for your banjo and enjoy your new journey with banjo! With your enthusiasm as foundation, you will
be strumming and picking along in no time.

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