Very Easy Banjo Songs © 2013 by Wayne Erbsen

The Internet is abuzz with people wanting to learn to play the banjo. My guess is that you are one of them! Of course, you want to learn the easiest songs possible. Who wouldn’t?

The songs that are the easiest to play are the tunes you already know. They’re the ones you’ve had in your head for years. So instead of having me teach you a totally unfamiliar tune on the banjo, let’s get you to learn how to play the tunes you already know.

I suggest you start making lists of your favorite songs. If you write them down on the computer, you can move them around into various sub-lists by cutting and pasting. As you’re looking over your list of favorites, you’ll want to think how the melodies go. As you sing them in your head, notice that melody notes either go up or down, or stay the same.

I would divide your list into easy songs and not-so-easy songs. The easy songs tend to be the ones you know the best. They’re also short. The shorter the melody, the easier they are to learn. Keep in mind that some melodies are very notey. (Celtic tunes are all that way). These kind of tunes will be more difficult to learn. On the other hand, some tunes use only a few notes, and these notes are repeated several times throughout the tune.

To illustrate an easy tune that you probably already know, think of the tune “Skip to My Lou.”

Lou, Lou, skip to my lou,
Lou, Lou, skip to my lou,
Lou, Lou, skip to my lou,
Skip to my lou my darling.

There’s several reasons why “Skip to My Lou” is relatively easy to play. 1) It’s extremely well known. 2) it’s short (just four lines), 3) the melody of lines one and three are identical 4) the melody of line two has the same rhythm feel as lines one and three. 5) starting with the word “to” on line four, this line is nothing more than a descending scale.

Let’s figure out how to play “Skip to My Lou,” on the banjo. If your banjo is tuned in regular G tuning, if strum all the strings, you’ll get a G chord. What could be easier?

Then try to sing the first line of “Skip to My Lou,” which is, “Lou, lou, skip to my lou.”

Your goal is to sing it so it sounds good with the G chord. This may take some practice. Hint: The first note of the song is the 2nd string open,(Lou), 3rd string open (lou),  2nd string open (skip to my) and 1st string open (lou). When you get that, you’re on your way!

I hope that this little article will give you some things to think about, and hopefully be of some help.

In addition or instead of finding free articles on the Internet, I would honestly suggest you purchase my recent book and CD set, Bluegrass Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus. It has tons of easy tunes, is fully illustrated, and the friendly and easy instructions will keep you from developing BAD HABITS that will be difficult to break. It will send you down the road of happy banjo playing. Why don’t you give it a try? If you don’t learn anything of value from it, return it, and I’ll give you a total refund. How’s that?

Thanks, and keep pickin’.

Wayne Erbsen

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