Let's all get together to exchange ideas and tips on learning to play "Classic Style Banjo".

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Comment by Jody Stecher on April 4, 2018 at 17:08

I know!  Let's ask Cynthia to organize a Weidt tutor study group......

Comment by Eric Womersley on April 4, 2018 at 19:16


Set out below is a summary of what I think we have so far and is largely based on Cynthia suggestions.

Purpose -

The Classic Banjo Study Group (CBSG) is designed to help beginners get off to a good start playing classic banjo with good technique right from the start.

Core text -

Weidt’s Elementary Studies

Methodology -

  1. Participants will work through the first Weidt's book, not only working on the music, but figuring out a collaborative study process that might work going forward.
  2. The book will be divided up into reasonably sized assignments to be worked through according to a given schedule. This should be both quick enough to be satisfying but slow enough to feel relaxed.
  3. Students will tackle the assignments and post a best-effort recording or video of that assignment by a determined due date for supportive commentary aimed at proper technique and to promote learning.
  4. Students will be encouraged to offer each other feedback, chatting about their experiences with the most recent assignment. Mentors will be encouraged to offer their wisdom, advice and explanations where they see a need.
  5. Create a message thread at the beginning of each assignment so that the music can be discussed as needed/as desired.
  6. The cycle would be repeated until the book had been completed.


Hope this helps

Comment by Eric Womersley on April 5, 2018 at 15:50

Hello again

Just trying to keep some momentum in this discussion so I have drafted an assignment for the very first exercise in book #1. There is rather more to it than meets the eye. I'm sure the experts here could do a much better job




Comment by Jody Stecher on April 6, 2018 at 2:22

But this is not from the book we were discussing. This is in a modern font. And I don't think random exercises will be productive because different people have different skills at the beginning. It makes sense to me to start at the beginning and go to the end. This is the book that started the discussion of a study group. It was posted by Joel Hooks.


Comment by Eric Womersley on April 6, 2018 at 5:27

Hi Jody

I used the A book in the tutors section and transposed the first exercise to C, It did not occur to me that Joel's C version would be different. I guess I should have checked!

Comment by thereallyniceman on April 6, 2018 at 10:06

Before we all charge ahead to learn to play Classic Style Tunes maybe I should make a few points:


There are two ways to play Classic Style: The right way and the wrong way.


In my view the RIGHT way is to look at how the banjo WAS played by the major performers of the era and learn their skills, methods and techniques.


The WRONG way is to dive into playing tunes using your own methods and fingering, that seem to work fine for you at the moment, as I can GUARANTEE that as you improve and want to play more advanced and maybe faster pieces the errors in technique, that have become natural to you, will hold back your progress.



Remember the two old adages:






I have posted the following three videos from the LEARN TO PLAY section of the website to show the correct techniques for holding the banjo and fingering the strings.


There are a couple of exercises mentioned in the videos and I have added them here:



Now to really upset the Musicians !!!

In my opinion when learning to play Classic Style it is NOT necessary to know any chord theory, much music theory or, for most of the time, even the notes that you are playing as much of the music available already has a “shorthand” for the fingers of both hands on the score. Learning where all the notes are on the banjo comes slowly as you practise.

I have NEVER found it important to know the chord names that you are playing nor even the Key you are playing in as you can look at the staff to see which are sharp or flat.

.... DISCUSS ;-)

There are 13 standard chord shapes, shown in the videos, which should be practised. You can download them below.



Here is an advanced piece to show that the shorthand used applies to easy and tricky pieces alike!




The numbers are the 1st, 2nd. 3rd, and 4th fingers of the left hand and a O means that the string is played open, or un-fretted.


To read the shorthand REMEMBER that the numbers are read from the FIRST STRING across to the BASS string and that the Position Number eg. 1P or 3P (as in Sports Parade first chord) is where the FIRST finger of the left hand rests.




THUMB:                          +

FIRST FINGER:               .

SECOND FINGER:         . .


These markings are placed UNDER the note below the stave.

As I said before:



This method of Classic Style banjo shorthand was developed to help players and was, virtually, universally accepted. If you have a better idea, you are probably wrong!


Comment by Joel Hooks on April 6, 2018 at 12:25

I think the point of this exercise is to learn using the Weidt system, which is basically the same as what you just posted but travels at a more digestible pace.

The initial info in the Weidt book covers much of what you posted.  In addition I would recommend that people familiarize themselves with up to page 9 in the Grimshaw book.

This study group is intended to be progressive and not get ahead too fast.

Throwing the entire gamut it classic banjo technique up all at once is not progressive. 

I say we start with the first lesson in Weidt Book 1.

I am still trying to get an original copy of Weidt in C.  I know who has one-- now to get the loan.

Comment by Jody Stecher on April 6, 2018 at 16:57

Ian, the problem with Right vs Wrong is that great players of the past did not use only one system of right hand usage. Weidt's way, Morley's way, and Van Eps's way are distinctly different from each other.

I agree with Joel. Let's learn the Weidt system step by step and see how it serves the music. 

As for knowing the chord names, you are right that it is not essential but it  enriches the experience and the happiness and the appreciation of the player.

Comment by Eric Womersley on April 6, 2018 at 17:10

I agree with Joel & Jody.

I understood we were going to work through the Weidt book and share our experiences to help and encourage each other.

The only thing I would add is that we all learn in different ways and that should be allowed for.

Comment by Steve Harrison on April 6, 2018 at 20:39

With regard to the RH fingering, I have larger than average hands and as the result of a rugby injury I sustained in my youth, the first joint of the second finger right hand is deformed and when flexed, it bends about 15 degrees towards the first finger which makes the playing of triplets using T12 very challenging. As a consequence I tend to use my thumb and first finger more than most players. Due to the size of my hands, I also have an issue planting my fourth finger onto the velum therefore I find that playing 'Bill Ball' style using a floating right hand much more comfortable....Steve. 

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