The banjo is one iconic instrument, and learning to play it can bring a sense of real joy and accomplishment to anyone. But like the guitar, playing the banjo can be tricky and come with its unique challenges, and if you’re a beginner, you will have to get attuned to your instrument and get to know it as much as you can. It’s worth noting that some musicians believe that the banjo is easier to play compared to the guitar because it doesn’t have as many strings. But one thing’s for sure: it takes time and effort to master it, but when you do, you can delight your family and friends with your skill.
If you love country and folk music, you may already have a good idea of banjo tunes you can play, from Cripple Creek to Ground Speed to Ring of Fire. But there are more than a few songs out there, and if you want to be better in no time, here’s your best guide to the most straightforward banjo songs you can learn as a novice.
- Cotton Eyed Joe
Cotton Eyed Joe is up there in terms of popularity with banjo enthusiasts, and it’s a traditional folk and country song that features prominently on the list of easy banjo songs. It’s a charming song that can take you to the southeast portion of the country, and many banjo players identify with it. Many artists have made the song famous, although its origin is way before the music industry as we know it started! It’s rumored to be sung by workers in plantations in Texas in the mid-1800s. But if you want to hear some modern versions of it, listen to the Moody Brothers, Bill Monroe, and Rednex, a band from Sweden. The song is played in A major if you listen closely, but you can also hear various phrases and melodies. The song works well with a five-string instrument along with Scruggs-style playing or picking.
- Brown Eyed Girl
Van Morrison sang Brown Eyed Girl, and the single was launched in 1967. As you may already know, it was a big hit and is still seen as the signature tune of Van Morrison. Although Brown Eyed Girl is not a traditional bluegrass or country song (it’s a pop-rock tune), you can take advantage of it as a beginner because you can play it using any banjo, and you can choose the style and tone you prefer, too.
- Buffalo Gals
Another easy song to learn and play is Buffalo Gals, and it is one of our country’s classic, traditional songs. Many believe that it was written as far back as 1844 by a minstrel named John Hodges. The song was a hit in the 1940s as well because they featured it in films like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘Dixie.’ If you would like to play the song, keep in mind that it works best on banjos with five strings with a clawhammer style. It is easy for beginners to learn as it has only several sections that repeat in the chords of D and G.
Other easy songs are readily available, but you can gain more confidence as you learn with these first three. Just remember to have fun!
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