Monday, February 26, 2024

A Look at Some of the Easiest Banjo Songs You Can Learn Today.

January 21, 2022 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, Opinion, Tech/Internet, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Everyone knows that the best way to learn a musical instrument is by playing songs. Once you’ve learned your first song, you’re well on your way to developing your skill. But if you have decided to focus on learning to play the banjo, it’s one of the most satisfying string instruments to learn – some would say even better (and we dare say easier!) than the guitar. And if you love country or folk music, you definitely wouldn’t regret your choice. But the beautiful thing about the banjo is that it’s an instrument that’s also pretty spectacular with rock music and even pop, which certainly adds to its appeal.

If you’re determined to improve your skills in playing the banjo, there are some easy songs you can try learning from the beginning. Once you know some of these songs, you can definitely say you’re on the right path. Here, then, are some of the most straightforward banjo songs you can learn today.

  1. Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek is a quintessential banjo classic which always makes it onto any list of easy banjo songs to play. it was first introduced to the global audience by banjo masters Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs way back in the 1960s (1961, to be exact). The song was part of their Foggy Mountain Banjo album, and it cemented their reputation among American listeners and made bluegrass a household name. Once you listen closely to it, you can hear the fantastic (and iconic) three-finger roll technique popularized by Earl Scruggs while he picks away on his five-string banjo. Of course, you may also hear other musical instruments in the tune, such as the fiddle, but the banjo is the sure winner that creates that unmistakable country rhythm. The song may sound pretty technical and fast-paced, but you might be surprised to know that the tune is mostly played on open strings and you can play the entire song using only two fingers of the left hand, which makes it relatively easy to learn and master.

Don_Vappie-banjoplayer2022

  1. She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain

Another classic song is She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, and even those who aren’t too familiar with folk melodies will know and be familiar with this tune. It’s a popular song for kids, after all – but did you know that it’s reputed to come from a Christian song entitled When the Chariot Comes, which first became popular in 1899? At the time, it was featured in a songbook entitled Old Plantation Hymns, and it’s also said that workers on the railroad adapted it to the tune with which we are all familiar today.

The first official recording of the song was by Henry Whitter, released in 1924. In this recording, you can hear Henry Whitter strumming his guitar while a fiddler played alongside. But the song sounds perfect with banjo. It’s usually played in the key of G major, which is the easiest key for beginners to play on the banjo, since it uses mainly open strings.

  1. Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire is another standard folk and country melody, and it was Merle Kilgore and June Carter Cash who wrote it. As you may already know, it was made famous in 1963 by none other than Johnny Cash. His version of the song became a memorable hit in the US, topping the charts and making it to fourth place in the list of the 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music (2003) and ranking 27th in the 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time in Rolling Stone magazine.

The Cash version recorded the song using the G key, making it an easy melody to play if you have a five-string or tenor banjo. What’s even more remarkable about this song is that it has simple verses with strumming in the G chord and with the chorus using simple C, G, and D chords. It may have a faster tempo compared to other songs on this list, but it’s not a problem to get used to it if you do it gradually.

  1. Cotton Eyed Joe

Most everyone who loves country music is familiar with Cotton Eyed Joe, and it’s a fun, lively tune for many occasions. The southeast portion of the country is most associated with the song. Many people believe that it was written even before the Civil War when slaves reportedly sang it in plantations in Texas. Some would even go so far as to say that the song is the national anthem of Southern Texas. But the phrase ‘cotton eye’ may also have a darker connotation, as it is also the term for people who were blinded because of drinking too much moonshine or wood alcohol.

All things aside, the song was popularized by masters like the Moody Brothers and Bill Monroe, and even the Rednex band from Sweden had a go at it. In fact, many of the more experienced banjo players would have already perfected it. Most of the song’s versions are in the key of A major, although it also utilizes other phrases and melodies. But the song will work wonderfully if you have a five-string banjo accompanied by that distinctive Scruggs picking style for a complete country sound and feel.

  1. Wagon Wheel

Like the other songs on this list, the history of Wagon Wheel is fascinating, and Bob Dylan recorded its chorus in the early 1970s. The song’s verses were composed by Ketch Secor (from the Old Medicine Show) after 25 years. They officially released the actual tune in 2003, and it quickly became another country hit. If you listen closely to the lyrics, it tells the story of a hitchhiker who travels across the country to be reunited with his lover in North Carolina.

When Bob Dylan first recorded the tune, he used an acoustic guitar, and if you have a four-string banjo, it’s the best choice for this song. You can play the song with a steady 2/4 signature using the A major key, and you have four banjo chords that form the riff. But you can also use other patterns for the chords depending on your preferred singing key.

There are indeed plenty of other easy banjo songs you could learn, from Dirty Old Town to Brown Eyed Girl to Amazing Grace, Man of Constant Sorrow, and more. You can even watch video tutorials online to get the best feel for the songs and see how other talented banjo players do it. Once you’ve mastered a few, it will give you a good sense of accomplishment – and since practice makes perfect, all you have to do is practice as often as you can. The results will come in no time.

Staff Writer; Jack Jackson


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