Lone Hand Western - Old West History

Online Banjo Lessons

Learn how to play banjo with online banjo lessons. Learn How To Play Banjo
You can learn how to play banjo with online lessons.  The Itasca School of Folk Music offers Free introductory online banjo lessons as well as interactive  individual lessons. 

Learn to play banjo.

*You will be up and playing banjo quickly with painless and fun lessons.

*Lessons are personalized for each individual student.

*All age groups are welcome. You are never too old to learn to play.

*Take your banjo lessons in the comfort of your own home, office, R.V. or other location.

*You will be surprised at how quickly you can learn and show progress with online banjo lessons.

Topics covered in your banjo lessons.

You will learn all of the important elements of banjo playing including:

  • The primary banjo picking rolls.

  • Banjo tuning

  • Chord structure.

  • Chord inversions.

  • Playing up and down the neck of the banjo.

  • How to read tablature (It's much easier than you think it is).

  • Traditional bluegrass (Scruggs Style) and melodic playing styles.

  • Playing lead and back up with your banjo.

  • Basic timing

  • Maintaining your banjo and lots of other great information.

Listen to banjo teacher, Mark Bridge, play the song
Blackberry Blossom

Banjo teacher Mark Bridge offers online banjo lessons.
Mark Bridge

Blackberry Blossom - By Mark Bridge

Please use your back button to return after listening.

Learn to play banjo with online lessons

Videos can be a wonderful resource when learning to play your favorite instrument.  The internet is loaded with free video lessons for banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle and every kind of instrument under the sun.  But even videos can be a static method of learning when compared to personal lessons taken in real time.  Nothing can replace having a teacher to guide you step by step as you learn to play your favorite instrument.  Interactive online lessons will help you to avoid the stumbling blocks and hang ups that occur while using books and videos – nothing can replace live lessons with a caring teacher.  Now, no matter where you live, you can take lessons in real time with a qualified instructor from the Itasca School of Folk Music – it’s almost like taking lessons at the local music store.

Teach Yourself Bluegrass BanjoBanjo Books and Supplies

  Most folks don't have a music store nearby and it can be difficult to find lesson books.  When you take your interactive online banjo lessons from the Itasca School of Folk Music we can even supply the books and banjo accoutrements you need to make your venture in to playing the banjo much more enjoyable. A student can have study materials recommended based on his or her roadmap to success.  One of the advantages of interactive lessons is thBanjo supplies.at your sessions are in real time - you are actually sitting with your teacher and being guided as you learn.  No more watching a video and wondering how something was done or struggling with technique - your teacher is right there with you to help you along.  There is also the advantage of having a teacher you can email in between your lessons if you need to.

Music Lessons Email

Learn to play banjo with online lessons

Here is a short presentation on different styles of banjo playing.  It covers songs from the 1500's to the mid 1800's.

It is easy to get started with your lessons.  You can visit my instructor profile at TakeLessons.com,  just click on the box for more information about available session times and more.

Take online banjo, mandolin, dulcimer lessons.

Your personalized online banjo lessons are made possible by using Skype. This is a very convenient way to take lessons in the comfort of your own home. For online lessons all you need is a computer with a fast connection, a web cam, and a free account with Skype which can be downloaded at Skype.com.

If you prefer, you can book your lessons and prepay using PayPal. 1/2 hour, 45 minute and hour long lessons are available.  Please contact Mark about hour long lessons or with any questions and to set up lesson times.

1/2 Hour Music Lesson

45 Minute Music Lesson

Mark Bridge has played and taught banjo for over 30 years and has performed with the Circle B Cowboys, The Blue Bell Lodge Wranglers, The Smokey Hills Wranglers and has performed at venues like Disney World, the National Festival of the West, Medora Cowboy Poetry Gathering, The Journey Museum and many more.

Learn to play banjo with online lessons

Rogue Learn The Banjo Starter Pack

Rogue Learn The Banjo Starter Pack
Please click on picture or link for current price information.

The Rogue Travel/Starter banjo features 18 brackets, high-quality head, satin finish, first-rate tuning machines, and a road-ready open-back design that's light and fleet and produces authentic tone. Accompanying padded gig bag, Banjo Case Chord Book with multiple fingerings, and Beginning Banjo For 5-String Banjo DVD with special interactive features and tab charts make it a complete kit to get you started on the high road to the Grand Ole Opry!
Rogue Travel/Starter banjo:
18 brackets
High-quality head
Open back
Satin finish
First-rate tuning machines
Other components: Padded gig bag, Banjo Case Chord Book with multiple fingerings, Beginning 5-String Banjo DVD with tab charts.

Washburn B8 Banjo Pack

Washburn B8 Banjo Pack

For current pricing information please click on the picture or the link.

Washburn B8 Banjo Pack

The Washburn B8 Banjo Pack includes a Washburn B8 banjo, banjo gig bag, pitch pipe, finger picks, instructional book, and banjo strap. Washburn includes a limited lifetime warranty on your B8 Banjo.


Learn to play banjo with online lessons

Free Online Banjo Lessons

I have posted some free online banjo lessons for students to refer to as supplemental material to their private lessons.  Since this is good information for all beginning banjo students I have made this information available to everyone.

Lesson 1 - Buying Your First Banjo.

OK, you’ve heard Earl, Bela, Tony and Pete and you can’t stand it any more. You have the banjo bug, really bad, and you’re going to do it, you’re going to jump into the fire and buy your first banjo. That’s great, but you realize you don’t know squat about the crazy things. Help is here, yeah!!!!!!

This will be presented in a question and answer format for easy perusal. We will deal with what to look for when buying a first or better banjo as well as other tasty tidbits to help with your 5-string education. Buy the time you finish this article you should feel intellectually armed when making your banjo purchase.

Here is the first step of your banjo journey - and this is a fun part. Listen to some of your favorite banjo recordings and get a flavor for which type of banjo tone you find the most appealing. Some banjo players prefer a real sharp, bright, cutting timbre (timbre is a fancy word for sound quality) other banjo players prefer a sound that is a little more earthy or tubby. If you are really into newgrass and the hard driving bluegrass or some of the progressive styles you will want to go for a tone that is bright and cutting. If you are more into the old-time banjo styles like claw hammer or frailing you will be looking for a more tubby timbre. We will get more into this style stuff later.
So how much is a banjo going to cost?

Around $200.00 to $50,000 or more.
You may be inclined to think because you are just starting your banjo adventure that a cheap banjo makes sense - but this isn’t really the case. The reason cheap banjos are cheap is because they are cheap banjos. They play like cheap banjos, sound like cheap banjos and feel wrong in general. It’s difficult enough learning to play a banjo – don’t handicap yourself with high action, fret buzz and poor construction. Especially with entry level banjos, saving money for an extra month or two so you can afford around $150.00 more on a first banjo can make a world of difference in playing enjoyment.

How in the world could there be such a spread in price?

Let’s take a look at an average $200.00 banjo and why it costs $200.00.

Planetary Tuners

Reason one - The tuning pegs (tuners) that are typical in this category of banjo. Inexpensive banjos tend to use tuning pegs that are not real stable and can slip out of tune. This can be real frustrating. If you hear or read something about friction tuners stay away. Look for a banjo that has geared tuners, or even better, planetary tuners. It adds to the cost but decent tuners are a good investment.

Banjo Rim

Reason two – The rim. Inexpensive banjos have rims that are similar to plywood (composite rim). This type of rim works but does not add much to the tonal quality of the banjo. In general the more dense the wood of the rim and its thickness the better the sound quality. Look for Mahogany or Maple. If you pick up an expensive banjo and compare the weight to less expensive banjo you will notice the expensive banjo is a lot heavier. This is due to using denser woods and better components.

Banjo Tone Ring

Reason three - The tone ring. The tone ring slips over the rim. The banjo head - that white drum looking thingy - slips over the tone ring. And the thigh bone is connected to the knee bone. Oops, back to the tone ring. Cheaper banjos use less expensive metals for their tone rings. A good tone ring, if struck like a chime, should have a good ring to it. The bell brass, or even better, bell bronze tone rings are outfitted on more expensive banjos and contribute to much better tone. The real expensive banjo makers may use their own metal composites in their tone rings. There is endless debate over tone rings and which type is better amongst banjo players and you'll have a ball joining the debate once you get up to speed.

Banjo Flange

Reason four - The flange. The flange is an ornamental piece that fits between the rim and the resonator and helps to fill the space. There are one piece flanges and two piece flanges. Most of the better resonator banjos (the resonator is the wooden bowl shaped component attached to the back of the banjo) use a one piece flange. Many of the cheaper banjos don't use a flange and resort to four small metal plates that extend from the rim and secure the resonator to the banjo with for thumb screws. Pretty ugly, really. Open back banjos don't use flanges.  When the rim, tone ring, head, etc. are all assembled the end result is referred to as the pot.

Banjo Pot

Reason five - Other woods. Less expensive banjos use Rosewood for their fretboards which is not really any problem. The more expensive banjos, or any stringed instrument for that matter, use Ebony or another exotic hardwood.

OK, lets sum up what we have learned so far. Generally the cheaper banjos are using composite rims, tuners that work but are not real accurate, tone rings that lack a good ringing tone, woods of lesser quality and not as dense as the more expensive banjos and, in a lot of cases, have no flange.

Another factor in the price of the banjo is the obvious consideration of imported verses American made and the amount of inlay work and ornamentation on the banjo.

I've found a banjo that has all of the good stuff, what else do I need to look for?

Let's discuss action. Action is the distance of the string above the fretboard. The lower the action the less a person has to depress the string to produce a note. Striking the correct balance with action on a banjo means having the strings at just the right height that they don't buzz against the fret wires farther up the neck when depressed. High action on strings will eliminate fret buzz but can cause a banjo to go sharp when playing up the neck and, in general, make the banjo more difficult to play. Things that contribute to high action are the height of the nut, the height of the bridge, and neck bow or neck angle. All of these factors can be corrected or adjusted to create comfortable action. A banjo, if properly set up, will have had these factors addressed.

String gauge or thickness can also affect feel or action. The thicker the string the more effort it takes to depress them. This is more a matter of personal taste than function.

Intonation. If the bridge on your banjo is properly set the strings will play at pitch where ever they are fretted on the neck. A quick test for this is to pluck a string while it is not fretted. Listen to the pitch. Play a harmonic on the same string at the 12th fret - the pitch should be the same. Then fully depress the string at the 12th fret - if the pitch sounds higher or lower than the harmonic tone the bridge needs to be adjusted. Compensated bridges are also available to help create more precise intonation.

Head Tension. A banjo head should be good and tight. Think in terms of a drum head - if you give a banjo head a thump it should have a good ring or snap to it. You shouldn't see too much of a depression under the feet of the bridge. In general, the tighter the head on a banjo the brighter the timbre will be. A banjo head that is too tight will tend to lose some of it's liveliness and will hinder tone. If a head is too loose it can make the banjo sound like you are playing a rubber band.

Playing Style. What do you want to play? Do you like bluegrass, jazz, or blues? You are probably going to want a resonator banjo. If you want to play the real old timey music and play in styles like clawhammer, or drop thumb, or frailing you will want to consider an open back banjo. A lot of people play just any thing on what they have. That's part of the fun of being a banjoist.

Learn to play banjo with online lessons

Lesson 2 - How To Tune a Banjo
This lesson covers how to tune your banjo to an open G tuning as well as relative tuning on a banjo.

Learn to play banjo with online lessons

Lesson 3 - How to Read Tablature

Tablature is a type of music notation that can be traced back to the Renaissance and Baroque time periods.  Tablature is based on indicating finger positions on the fret board as opposed to musical pitch.  Through a series of string and fret numbers, tablature can show a musician exactly how to play a musical piece including embellishments such as bends or chokes, pull-offs, hammer-ons and slides.

Let us begin with the string numbers.  As you hold the instrument, the string closest to the floor represents the number 1 or 1st string.  In ascending order the strings would be counted up to 4 or 5 or 6 depending on the instrument.  Double courses of strings, like those on a mandolin or twelve string guitar, count as one string in tablature.

String numbers in tablature

The frets also have numbers in tablature.  When holding the instrument the frets closest to the left hand represent the lower numbers and increase in value as they move toward the right hand.

Fret numbers in tablature

Below are some illustrations of tablature for the four techniques of the slide, the hammer-on, the pull-off and the choke.  Embellishments such as these will usually be indicated by the first letter or letters of the technique.  In the first example, slide is represented by the letters SL.

_____5 - 6_________
This example represents tablature for a slide on the second string from the 5th to the 6th fret
_____5 - 6 ________
This example represents tablature for a hammer-on from the 5th to the 6th fret on the 2nd string.
_____6 - 5_________
This example represents tablature for a pull-off from the 6th fret to the 5th fret on the 1st string.
This example represents a choke performed at the 2nd fret on the 2nd string.

Learn to play banjo with online lessons

Lesson 4 - The Banjo Rolls

Here is a video of the three primary rolls used in playing bluegrass banjo. You will also find three exercises to print out to practice the forward roll, backward roll and the forward/backward roll.

Forward Roll

Backward Roll

Forward / Backward Roll

Learn to play banjo with online lessons

Banjo Lesson 5 - Chord Inversions or Movable Chords

Here is a presentation on movable chords or chord inversions.  Movable chords are closed chords that can be played all over the banjo neck.  Chord inversions can make back-up banjo much more interesting and learning these positions helps when trying to create up the neck breaks.