How to Play the Banjo

May 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Playing the banjo is probably not something you should do, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition.   If you don’t, but want one, this is a great way to do so – especially if you are willing to give up credibility.

No cred.

Credibility is something that musicians have, and banjo players are not musicians – they just hang out with them a whole lot.  To be a musician there are very simple rules that almost anyone can follow.  Most important is that your instrument must be in tune.  Banjo players, who spend half their time trying to get in tune, and the other half out of it, do not like this rule.

This is why every banjo player needs a capo, because once you are out of tune all you have to do is put it on your banjo and you can instantly be out of tune in every other key!

Out of tune in any language!

Being a banjo player can be very hard, because people who aren’t musicians don’t know what it is, and people who are musicians wish they didn’t.  This means that you cannot travel through an airport without many people asking you what it is you’re carrying.  This can add 20-25 minutes to your total travel experience, but it’s ok because you now have more opportunity to show off all the cool stickers on your banjo case!

Very bad is that everyone will ask you if you can play “Dueling Banjos,” but because it is not a Scruggs song no one has bothered to teach it to you.

If you decide you are ok with medical conditions but no credibility, then you should probably play the banjo.  First, you have to decide what kind of banjo you want.  This is hard, because you have to make decisions that not even pianists have to make!  How many strings do you want?  You could pick 4, 5, or even 6, and most banjo players can’t even count that high.

You also have to decide what style you want to play.  You can play with little pieces of metal and plastic attached to the ends of your fingers, or you can forego those unnatural extensions to be more in touch with your instrument.  This means that you will spend many months contorting your right hand to look both like a “claw” and like a “hammer” simultaneously, and then a few more months trying to figure out how to play your instrument like that.

Now that you have made all these hard choices, you are ready to learn some songs!  Many people think this will be easy, because you can really only tell banjo songs apart by their names, anyway.  However, every banjo player has a different name for every song, so communication is really not very efficient.

Hammer on...your banjo?

How to make the loud louder

However, once you get past these difficulties, it is really kinda fun.  Playing the banjo really just means you get to pull things off of some other things, and hammer on some more things, all day long!  When you play with musicians, be sure to remember to bump into the fiddle player a few times, to stomp your foot, and to play louder than everyone else.

And if you’re not loud enough, remember, you can always go electric.

WARNING:  A banjo is a dangerous instrument that has been known to kill zombies.  Play with care.


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