Bluegrass: Resources for beginners to intermediate players

Learning to play Guitar is easy here in the UK, there are 1000s of books, websites people willing to teach or show you some cool new trick. Now as the internet reaches maturity we can easily find many resources for Banjo including books, youtube videos, message boards and several good tab sites, which were impossible to find 10 years ago. Frustratingly, Banjo teachers are few and far between, and as part of this project I intend to create a list of as many I can find (any Banjo teachers reading this article, who lives in the UK and wants to be listed please comment on this post or send me a email). I have sadly not been able to find a local teacher in Oxfordshire, where I live, so my journey started on youtube, where there are loads of Bluegrass lesson, varying in quality. Many of the lessons are basic, and you tend to have to go to another website and pay for intermediate or advanced lessons, but they are good to get you started. There are also many youtube videos where people just demonstrate that they can play a certain tune, but they offer no explanation as to how, other than what you can see.

Note that tabbed versions of songs vary from player to player, so you don't always get what you want…

As I have mentioned in previous posts, learning this way is OK, but you can skip over learning technique, which can literally slow you down in the future. Feeling I was lacking direction from learning the youtube way I decided to buy a book. I searched amazon and purchased the one with the best reviews, which is called "Complete Bluegrass Banjo Method" by Fred Sokolow, which comes with a CD (always a good thing in my opinion). Now I haven't seen any other theory books on Bluegrass Banjo, and feel to tell me about your particular favourites, but I have found this book to be exceptionally good. It starts with all the major rolls and quickly moves on the moving up the fret board and then so much more, and I feel if I complete this book I will be moving into the advanced levels where only a tutor, experience and my own personal creativity will take me further.

Recommended books

Complete Bluegrass Banjo Method (Book & CD)
There is a vast amount of information in this book, all clearly set out with good examples and includes snippets of music theory, chord charts, and other concepts, while focusing primarily on the right-hand rolls that are at the heart of bluegrass banjo.

Tabs, chords and lyrics
Hundreds of free Banjo tabs, many of which require addition free software to view (usually free to download). You can also request tabs via the forum.
Some good lessons for absolute beginners as well as a small tab archive.

Lessons online
Several excellent free lessons in video and tab (pdf) format and several intermediate lessons for paid download.
Search for the song you want plus the word lesson and the word Banjo, you might just get lucky :)

On your mobile

GuitarToolkit (iPhone)
GuitarToolkit is a handy little applicator, which has a Banjo setting with handy fetures including Chromatic Tuner, Scales & Chords (for most tunings), Metronome and Custom Tunings.

Bluegrass Banjo Basics (iPhone)
Tuition app aimed at beginners where you can play along with tabbed scores and learn simple rolls.

Find a teacher on line
If learning by your self still ain't your thing have a look at this website, which lists many teachers, possibly in your area.

Finally, I have learnt much from many of the freely available Banjo tabs on the internet, but note that tabbed versions of songs vary from player to player, so you don't always get what you want. However tabs and chord charts can give you a good starting point and I will discuss methods for working out song by yourself in my next post.

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About Me

I have been playing guitar for over 20 years, at first playing in indie bands, followed by a long stint playing rockabilly on the streets of Oxford, a short excursion into dance music, followed by looking at early blues styles. Now after a few years of listening to Dylan, Guthrie, and early Americana I find myself in possession of a banjo, and I'm addicted! Currently I play Banjo and Guitar in an Oxford based group called Swindlestock, you can hear our music our myspace page.

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