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Banjo Crash Course

December 9th, 2006

Here is a crash course in Scruggs style banjo playing. Below are the fundamental building blocks that will get you up and running in no time. All of the examples that follow are played on a five string banjo in standard G tuning using two metal finger-picks and one plastic thumb pick. If you’re unfamiliar with G tuning then here it is:

D – 1st String
B – 2nd String
G – 3rd String
D – 4th String (The wound one)
G – 5th String (The short one)

Now that you’re in open G tuning you already know your first chord so let’s focus on the right hand picking patterns commonly called “rolls”.
There are four basic patterns that can be applied to any combination of strings.

Alternating Thumb

Next try adding the basic C and D7 chords to your rolls.

And finally here are three closed position chord shapes that you can play anywhere on the neck. You’ll quickly find that you need to be selective about when to add the fifth string to these shapes since it has the possibility of sounding very dissonant. Another trick is to use fragments of these movable chords

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