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Meditations on Moving From Guitar Playing to Banjo Playing

If you play guitar, chances are you’ve been intrigued by the thought of playing the banjo as well. However, playing the banjo and the guitar are two different things. It can be done, but it also takes quite a bit of practice. If you are interested in making that transition from guitar playing to banjo playing, there are quite a few tips you should consider. From practice tips to listening to the music, learning to play the banjo can be as simple as just learning the sound. Here are a few things to help you out along the way.

Study the Banjo Quirks

There are quite a few quirks when it comes to banjo playing. Learning the new chords, the plucking style, and even how to use the finger picks are just a few of the quirks that come with playing the banjo. It will take some time to get used to these new things since guitar playing doesn’t require as many quirks. One of the best ways to study the quirks and get used to them is by watching others play and practice them yourself. It might be slow going at first, but watching someone else can help you better your practice by comparing your movements with another’s movements.

Understand the Banjo Strings

Though it is one of the biggest hurdles that guitarist face, when making the transition, understanding the strings, is important to playing the banjo. The strings in a banjo are tuned differently than the strings on a guitar. You could try tuning your banjo to sound like your guitar, but that doesn’t usually work very well. Instead, try tuning your guitar to sound like your banjo. This way, you can get used to the different sound while practicing to help ensure that you are playing it correctly. Many people prefer to ignore the differences in the strings of the two instruments. Instead, they look at the similarities when trying to transition.

Listen to the Music

banjoWhen learning to play an instrument, one of the best ways to learn the sound of the instrument is by listening to the music. When trying to make the transition from guitar to banjo, you should be listening to music heavy with a banjo to help your ears learn the sound of the instrument. If possible, you should listen to just banjo music to hear the chord changes, timbre, and more. Just like learning the musical language of guitar, you should be studying the musical language of the banjo as well. Listening to the music helps you as you start practicing on your own because you can better know what your playing should sound like as you continue learning.

Play the Basics

Many people think that banjo is bluegrass music all the time, but that is simply not the case. Banjo is an instrument used in many forms of music. However, bluegrass is the most basic. When you are trying to make the transition between guitar and banjo, practicing the most basic forms of the music can help you get comfortable with the entire transition. Bluegrass doesn’t have to be your destination, but it should be your starting line. Since this music is classic and simple, it is the easiest to learn and practice when trying to transition to this instrument.

Practice with Friends

Making a huge transition from one instrument to another is not easy to do alone. Perhaps one of the best ways to practice and understand the music is to practice with friends. If you don’t have a band or friends that play instruments, try finding some online classes or online groups where you can practice and listen to others practice. Learning a new instrument is also more motivating when you have friends to listen, critique, and encourage you along the way. Bands are a great way to do this, but if you have several friends that play instruments as well, getting together for a jam session can always be helpful to your practice time. It also helps to have other ears to listen to your music.


Learning to play the guitar is not always easy, but if you already play the guitar and want to transition to the banjo, you might find yourself struggling a bit to transition. Moving from one stringed instrument to another is usually rather stressful. The strings sound different, are tuned differently, and might be plucked differently as well. This is the case between the guitar and banjo. If you want to transition from the guitar to the banjo, there are several things you can do to help make that transition smoother and easier. Try playing with friends, practicing the quirks, and even listening to the music. When you study the musical language, it makes it easier to practice and understand the music itself. By implementing these practical tips, you can easily make the switch from guitar to banjo.

Cameron from Singers CornerCameron (guest post writer) is a contributor to The Singer’s Corner, which is a great place to learn, refresh, and delve into the music world. Whether you want to learn a new approach to singing, give you tips to make you better, and teach you ways to be the best of the best.

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