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 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 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 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. 

Comment by thereallyniceman on April 7, 2018 at 7:03

Joel, Jody et al. I fully agree that this should be a Weidt Study, so let the fun begin. My post was for anyone new to banjo and intended to demonstrate the BASIC skills and methods used on the music scores. The reason I explained the shorthand is that in the Weidt Book kindly posted by Joel and Jody someone has handwritten "their" methods for notating the score. Check out Elfin Waltz and Marionettes Frolic, and if you don't find that confusing you are a better man than I am !!!!   It would be good to find a clean copy.

Now over to the "practical" discussion from you Weidt fans. I have never played anything by Weidt so it will be good to see your take :-)

Comment by thereallyniceman on April 7, 2018 at 8:17

From my side, blog or thread are both OK. If it turns out to be of long term use I can easily add a box on the Home Page promoting and linking to the discussion.

I will be there in the background as a facilitator and will leave it to the originators of the idea to sort the logistics.

Comment by Jody Stecher on April 7, 2018 at 20:36

Eric: I think that the order to use is the order in which each item is presented. I think the pages to chose are all of them, in order, skipping nothing.  I think we should leave the guidance of this project ("taking the lead") to Cynthia. The study group was her idea and she has experience in such projects. I think it should begin when she is ready. 

Ian: yes, the personal shorthand notations are from outer space. But they are easily ignored.

Cynthia: YOO HOO!  whenever you're ready....

Comment by German David Patarroyo on April 8, 2018 at 4:02

Hi all,

Lot of info in this forum!!...A humble proposal...Why not a tune as a banjo orchestra? Videos with several musicians (no matter the distance) at time is quite common on internet...We could use apps such as appcappella in order to make a video, just as the ABF propose a tune for their rallies...What do you think Joel?...Personally, as a Stewart user (and also fan), I would like to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Stewart´s death with an orchestral arrange of some of their tunes...Ok, I don´t know about banjo orchestration but it could be a nice challenge to someone who might be interested...

Again, is just an idea....:)

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