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Quickly Discover How Hard Is It To Learn The Banjo? (2023)

We are often asked how hard is it to learn the banjo? While it may seem challenging, the truth is that it’s not hard to pick up the basics of a banjo rather quickly.

Quick Answer

One of the biggest challenges of learning the banjo is mastering its unique playing style, which involves fingerpicking rather than strumming. The intricate picking patterns require a high level of coordination between the right-hand fingers, which can take some time to develop.

Additionally, the banjo has a unique tuning and fretboard layout that can be difficult to navigate for beginners.

With consistent practice and dedication, anyone can overcome these challenges and develop proficiency in the banjo.

Let’s get into it! (Click here for the YouTube video)

How hard is it to learn the banjo?

While it may seem a difficult instrument to learn, the truth is that it’s not hard to pick up the basics of a banjo rather quickly. In fact, with enough practice and dedication, you could even play a song within a month!

How Hard Is It To Learn The Banjo

What separates the newbies from the seasoned players is the way the latter can play the banjo with excellent timing, tone, well-practiced technique, and famously fast tempos.

When you listen to a banjo player picking at the strings at the speed of lightning, trying it yourself can be a daunting thought. But with practice, you can get there too!

Learning to play the banjo takes quite a bit of physical endurance as well as mental focus. To build up the speed needed to play the 5-string banjo a lot of repetition and physical exercise are required.

The three-finger Scruggs’ style is so appealing because of its simplicity, and how it delivers simple, solid rhythmic music in a very straightforward fashion. It’s not only pleasing to the ear but is a good place to begin learning. 

Of course, you have to put your mind to it when you’re playing the banjo – as with any other musical instrument. But you also have to develop control of the instrument. It’s helpful to think of sports analogies.

For example, it’s easy to learn to do one push-up, but harder to do 50 of them.

Likewise, it’s easy to learn a chord but harder to play a whole song, especially with a dexterously demanding instrument like a banjo.

Another sporting analogy would be how golfers spend time perfecting every aspect of their game such as putting, driving, chipping, and their short game. Banjo players also need to put time into picking practice, hand flexibility exercises, as well as developing muscle memory with repetitions. 

Muscle memory is often more powerful and effective when playing an instrument than relying on your actual memory.

After all, your mind can only store so much information, and it can only store so much information that you can recall quickly and relay to your fingers in a split second.

Muscle memory on the other hand lasts for years and years and involves virtually no thinking. 

Related Article: 12 Of The Best Tips On How To Memorize A Song (2023)

When learning the banjo, the most important thing to focus on is learning basic techniques and repeating them until they are ingrained into your muscle memory.

This is so when you pick up your banjo you can play a song without having to think about what you’re doing.

Just sit back and let your fingers find their way around the strings! If you really get into practicing and find you can’t put your banjo down, the more you will build up your muscle memory.

This is one of the most fascinating and appealing things about playing the banjo, the physical sensation you develop when picking the strings makes it truly addictive!

Related Article: How long does it take to learn to play the guitar?

Is banjo harder to learn than the guitar?

The banjo is certainly not harder than playing the guitar and in fact, some aspects of the banjo are easier.

For one, the strings are a lighter gauge than a guitar and are easier to push down. Mastering a few simple things on both instruments doesn’t take long at all. 

However, playing in a bluegrass band with a banjo may require more practice than only playing rhythm guitar, if you’re simply strumming chords. But if the guitar player takes on soloing, then their job will become just as difficult as the banjo player and require just as much practice.

The banjo player even has the advantage of using three fingers to pick at the strings, as opposed to one flat pick a guitar player uses when playing bluegrass music.

Releated Article: How hard is it to learn to play the guitar?

What’s a good banjo for a beginner?

You must make sure the banjo is stable and stays in tune. Tuning a banjo or keeping it in tune is harder than tuning a guitar, so it’s important to pick a banjo that tunes well. Otherwise, you’ll be starting on the back foot.

The banjo should have good ‘action’. This means that the strings are not too high up over the fretboard, and not too low. This will cause the strings to buzz. This can be adjusted, but if you experience this problem with an old banjo it could mean a problem with the neck, warping, or a cracked rim. 

New, good-quality beginner banjos cost around $350-$650. They’re definitely worth it though, as learning on a good quality banjo will only speed up your progress, while a bad banjo will just slow you down.

Do you need to learn to read music to play the banjo?

There is very little ‘written music’ for a banjo. Anything that is written down for banjo is mostly in something called tablature. Tablature is a simple number system that is great for playing the banjo. Due to the lack of sustain on a banjo, you only use ¼ notes and 1/8th notes.

This means that there is no need for written music, and makes using tablature even easier.

Can you learn the banjo at home?

Due to the accessibility of the internet, there are plenty of online resources available for free that can teach you how to play the banjo. Not to mention the more traditional teaching mediums too, such as CDs, DVDs, or books.  

Due to them being a visual medium, books are probably the most difficult way to learn the banjo at home, especially if you purchase a book that does not come with audio or video demonstrations. 

Final Thoughts

I hope that I have been able to put your mind at ease about giving the banjo a try. Although it does require a lot of practice and determination, it’s certainly not impossible.

Plus, there are so many resources out there that will help you to improve, and the online banjo community is brimming with nice, helpful people from all walks of life who have lots of knowledge to share. 


Is it difficult to learn to play the banjo?

Learning to play the banjo can be challenging, particularly for beginners. The unique playing style, fingerpicking patterns, and tuning can take some time to master. However, with consistent practice and dedication, anyone can learn to play the banjo at any level.

Do I need prior musical experience to learn the banjo?

Prior musical experience can be helpful, but it’s not necessary to learn to play the banjo. With a good learning plan, proper technique, and consistent practice, anyone can learn to play the banjo regardless of their musical background.

How long does it take to become good at playing the banjo?

The amount of time it takes to become proficient at playing the banjo varies depending on factors such as the individual’s natural talent, practice routine, and learning style.

However, with consistent practice and dedication, it’s possible to develop basic proficiency in a few months and become an advanced player in a few years.

Is it necessary to take banjo lessons with a teacher?

While it’s possible to learn to play the banjo on your own with the help of instructional materials, taking lessons with a qualified teacher can be beneficial.

A teacher can provide personalized feedback, help you develop good habits and techniques, and keep you motivated and accountable.

Can I start with a 5-string banjo or do I need a different type?

The 5-string banjo is a common type of banjo used in bluegrass music, and it’s a good choice for beginners. However, there are other types of banjos such as the 4-string tenor banjo and the 6-string banjo guitar, which may be better suited for different styles of music.

Ultimately, the type of banjo you choose will depend on your musical goals and preferences.

YouTube Video: Can I learn the banjo?

Happy Playing!

Passionately invested in the music world for over 20 years, Jake studied music for 14 years at the Royal Conservatory Of Toronto. He has a degree from Champlain College & Bishop’s University in Business & Music. He is the owner of Fly Away Music & Media Studio in Montreal since 2014, with over 500 happy artists recorded, mixed and mastered.

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