Zing Instruments. Just like every instrument, mastering the banjo is going to take a fair bit of time and practice, but learning some fun and easy banjo songs, not so much. In fact, many musicians consider the banjo an easier option than guitar, thanks to it having fewer strings to strum. This record is considered a blueprint for the genre, helping it gain popularity among American radio listeners.
The song itself remains well-known and loved worldwide after it topped singles charts. Incredibly, the track has been played over three million times on US radio alone and covered by famous artists like Madonna!
Don McLean was a unique musician, in that he gave his listeners a more folk-rock-pop performance rather than writing in a traditional bluegrass style. Overall, American Pie is a great tune for beginners to learn as the tempo is slow and steady, with a melody composed of repeating sets of easy banjo chords.
As a musician, Baez focused on writing in a folk style but also highlighted the social protest movements of her time in a similar manner to Bob Dylan. Additionally, she often sung about spirituality and has written and performed several gospel songs in her time. In her version of Hush Little Baby, Baez uses an acoustic guitar to accompany her vocals, but the tune works really well on banjo too. This is by far the easiest tune we mention, as there are only two chords in the entire song. Although originally Ring of Fire was originally recorded with an acoustic guitar, Cash used the key of G, making the tune easy enough to play on both tenor and five-string banjos too.
That said, the tempo is slightly faster than say, Hush Little Baby, but is easy to grasp if you start learning slowly. Whitter tended to strum along strong rhythm sections on his guitar, whilst another musician played the melody sections on a fiddle, so using a tenor banjo is recommendable. This is another easy banjo song thought up by legendary bluegrass musicians Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt. This requires the musician to use picks on the thumb as well as the index and middle fingers to pluck the strings.
Ground Speed works best on five-string banjos, seeing as they have the extra fifth drone string and a loud twangy tone for that characterful country sound. Wagon Wheel has an interesting history, with its chorus being recorded by Bob Dylan in and its verses written by Ketch Secor of the Old Medicine Show 25 years later. The tune itself was finally released in and became a famous country hit. The lyrics describe the long, painstaking journey of a hitchhiker traveling across America to North Carolina to meet his lover.
There are four main banjo chords forming the recorded riff, in the pattern A, E, F minor and D however, alternative chord patterns are available depending on the key you prefer to sing in. This is a traditional country-folk song that is strongly associated with the American Southeast. Cotton Eye Joe is believed to have been written before the American Civil War and was often sung by slaves working in Texas plantations.
The term Cotton Eye has a darker meaning however, as it refers to folks that have been blinded by drinking wood alcohol or moonshine. The tune has been made famous by the likes of Bill Monroe, the Moody Brothers and by the Swedish band Rednex, so most experienced banjo players will likely already know and love it.
Most versions of Cotton Eyed Joe are played in the key of A major, but due to its popularity, several different melodies and phrases also exist. The tune works best on a five-string banjo, using Scruggs style picking for that country vibe. The Dubliners wrote traditional Irish folk songs and are considered one of the most influential Irish acts of the 20th century.
Dirty Old Town actually refers to the bleakness of the city of Salford in Greater Manchester , but having a good time in spite of the industrial atmosphere.
The tempo is nice and slow, so you can easily get away with plucking the melody or strumming the simple chord pattern. Buffalo Gals is a traditional American folk song, said to have been written in by John Hodges. The tune sounds best played on a five-string banjo, using a clawhammer technique to pick out the melody. Buffalo Girls is considered an easy song for beginners, as it consists of several repeating sections of G and D major chords.
To start off with, try playing just the chords to get used to their fingering shape, then build up the pace and pick out melody notes as you gain confidence. The single was released in and became a hit almost immediately, reaching number 10 on the Billboard Hot and spending 16 weeks in the charts! Of course, being a rock-pop song, Brown Eyed Girl is no Cripple Creek, but still makes a good song for beginners to learn.
Better still you can play it on any type of banjo , depending on the tone you want and style you want to play in. If you want to pluck the strings in a country or folk style, use a five-string. If you want to strum the chords and sing along, use a four-string to play the Gmajor, Cmajor and D7 chords that make up the riff. Maddie is one of our resident senior writers at Zing. She plays guitar in a metal band and has a passion for flute and classical music.
And yes, it's her real name