The sound of the banjo has in a way defined country, rock, folk and traditional jazz music. But it has also made appearances with great bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers, and The Eagles. This versatile instrument is also increasingly seen in pop and other funky improvisations.
The banjo's popularity may have something to with its simplicity in play and the possibility of tweaking to make a range of sounds. You have likely been playing the banjo casually just like many other self-of taught banjoists.
If you are thinking of playing like a pro in a band, or want to up your banjo skills, it is probably best that you take lessons.
It is easy to find a banjo teacher or school near you, because of the banjo’s popularity. However, the quality of lessons will differ. While there are many good banjoists without formal banjo training, they will not be able to give the musical theory that is necessary to lay the foundational skills crucial to developing skills in advanced banjo playing.
You can check out the online classes available for a wider choice of teachers and styles. Online classes also come with the advantage of convenience. Here are some intermediate banjo lessons you can try;
11 Best Banjo Lessons for Intermediate Online Reviews
1) Banjo Lessons with Tony Trischka
Reading tablature is one of the most crucial skills in playing any instrument, and this course is designed to teach you how to do it correctly for the banjo. You will learn how to do 5-string banjo rolls, and get very useful tips on banjo soloing as well as playing in an ensemble. Although this course is for all levels of banjo play, it has detailed lessons on intermediate banjo playing. some of the subjects covered include;
· Bridge placements
· 3 new ways of doing backup off beats
· Fingers exercise for index-middle finger-index play
· Playing intermediate hammer-ons
· Leaving your level in 11 ways
· Improvisation including Scruggs improvisation
· Playing melodic style
· Theory in scales and chords
· Tuning in D
· Playing in thirds and sixth
· Composition for the banjo
· Arpeggios in C, D, and G
· Single and 3-finger styles
There are dozens of backing tracks for practice as well as downloadable music sheets. You can upload your practice videos to the ArtistWorks Video Exchange Learning® platform for tutor review. Find more on ArtistWorks;
2) Banjo lessons on Udemy
Udemy is one of the largest online learning [platforms for different subjects including music. Teachers upload lessons (paid or free), which learners can take online and rate from 1-5 stars. Some of the banjo lessons on the platform are;
· Tenor Banjo with Francis Long
These lessons will teach to play jigs, polkas, hornpipes, and reels using traditional Irish tunes. You will be using in the Irish tuning, which is different from the higher-pitched American tuning.
This tuning, also referred to as EADG tuning, is popular in the UK and places with people of Irish heritage. You will require a bit of tweaking of the strings (D’addario and Dunlop offered strings that are good for this kind of tuning).
· Travis Picking from Scratch with Randy Ritcher
These lessons will teach you to exploit the full range of your banjo, playing hot and popular tunes with the full sound of a band. You will learn how to do Travis picking, and how to use different chords to play bass and melody together. These lessons are easier to absorb if you have played the banjo for at least a year.
You can find these lessons on Udemy;
3) Banjo Lessons on Skillshare
Skillshare is a big online learning platform for a variety of subjects such as music, design, photography, film, etc. There are hundreds of free and paid lessons for different durations. There are banjo lessons for beginner to advanced levels;
· Intermediate banjo for jazz with Jody Hughes
These lessons will teach you to play the banjo for jazz music because the banjo has been an integral part of jazz and blues music. You will learn bebop scale/arpeggios which are very important when you are doing jazz improvisation. You will also learn minor 7th chords in this short course.
· Banjo Masterclass with Caleb Martel
This course is designed to lay foundational skills for beginners as well as self-taught banjoists. You will expand your skills to include fretting hand techniques, forward and backward rolls, the pinch, slide, alternating thumb rolls, hammer-ons and pull-odds, and the G-lick. You will also learn to read tablature competently.
· 5-string banjo Masterclass with Lesson Pros
This in-depth course teaches you to play the 5-string banjo in intermediate and advanced levels by laying the fundamentals you need to absorb skills quickly. You will learn to tune all the 5 strings, G, D and C chords and how to transition from one to the other, backward and forward rolls for different chords.
You will also learn how to play with both hands as well as hand positioning for better and longer play. This 11-hour course also comes with class tools for different banjo styles.
You can find these lessons on Skillshare;
4) Banjo Lessons with Bradley Laird
Bradley Laird has been teaching the banjo since 1982, and now offers free of charge lessons foundational banjo classes on his website. The lessons are to teach you the Scruggs style of the banjo.
The website has all the resources you need to become a competent banjo player. If you would like to try a hand in playing bluegrass banjo, Bradley offers video lessons to teach you how to play by ear. You will learn;
· How to tune the banjo by ear and do tuning checks
· How to put on the picks correctly
· Techniques for both right and left hands
· Basic picking patterns for the right hand
· Three chords and two common rolls
· How to play slides and hammer-ons
You will learn step-by-step to play two popular tunes; Cripple Creek and Boil ‘Em Cabbage Down. These lessons come with tablature in downloadable PDF and close up video lessons for clarity.
You can also refresh your skills with free lessons on subjects such as the thumb pinch in, thumb rolls, fingerpicks, banjo chords and how to play rolls while transitioning between chords. There are lots more learning resources you can view and download for practice. Find out more on the website;
5) Banjo Lessons with Ross Nickerson
Ross Nickerson is a 5-string banjo maestro with multiple awards and prestigious performance contracts to prove his mastership with the instrument. He has played the banjo since the age of 17 and won the Telluride Band Contest, Newspaper Readers’ Poll Best Band, and Four Corners Bluegrass Bands Festival Contests.
He has been contracted to perform at Opryland in Nashville and Tokyo Disneyland. He has collaborated with the legendary Earl Scruggs and others in his recorded albums. He has also taught in the US, Africa, Europe, and Asia.
Ross offers banjo lessons for beginners to advanced players. Some of his lessons for intermediate and advanced players include;
· Backup banjo-picking backup, vamping, chords, and backup exercises
· Up the neck play- Transpose up and down the neck, create. neck solos and licks
· Building speed in the right hand
· Adaptation for easy melodies in bluegrass banjo – techniques to help you play Scruggs style
· Performing different chords up and down the neck – Play chord forms without depending on chord charts, and save time
· Effective banjo practice for faster learning and better results
· Playing in Keys C, D, E, F, and G
You can find these lessons on his website
6) Banjo Lessons on Peghead Nation
Peghead Nation is an online platform for learning musical instruments including the banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, dobro, ukulele, and the bass guitar. It is tutored by accomplished instrumentalists coaching beginner to advanced levels. The intermediate banjo lessons here are;
· Bluegrass banjo with Bill Evans
This lesson will teach you to add roll patterns to the classic 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home.' You will also learn to create bluegrass banjo breaks by combining roll patterns, melodies, and licks. These lessons will also introduce you to the melodic style and its smooth sounds as popularized by Bill Keith. The teaching includes playing Scruggs style and accompaniment techniques for playing in a band or ensemble.
· Clawhammer banjo with Elvie Landin
Learn clawhammer basics and make your first clawhammer tunes in this course. You will also learn the drop thumb technique, syncopation, movable chords and playing tunes is D, G, A, and C. There is an introduction to waltzes and tips for banjo practice.
· Wade-Ward style banjo with Bruce Molsky
You will learn to play in the style of the legend Wade Ward Bruce using his hits Reuben, Mississippi Sawyer, June Apple, and Married Man's Blues.
7) Banjo Lessons on Deering Banjo Company
Deering Banjo is renowned as the maker of banjo brands Deering, Goodtime, Vega, and Tenbrooks banjos. The company has sponsored banjo lessons for customers who would like to lay a skilled foundation in the banjo. There are two instructors;
· Barry Hunn – He is the Deering sales manager and has been teaching new customers for over 30 years. He teaches the clawhammer style in 2 parts. The introduction will assume a fresh start and lay a firm foundation in playing the clawhammer style.
The second part teaches you to play the popular ‘This Is Your Land’ while incorporating more advanced techniques. Barry also offers several practice videos to play along and perfect the techniques discussed.
· Tony Trischka – His lessons are offered on ArtistWorks, where he teaches banjo to players of all skill levels. His course has hundreds of video lessons, which you can take in a self-paced mode by slow-motion or looping.
He discusses topics such as Harmonics., bridge placements, Endings, backup off beats, Fingers exercises for index-middle finger-index play, hammer-ons, Transposing, Scruggs improvisation, Playing melodic style, and Theory in scales and chords.
8) Banjo Lessons with Banjo Ben
‘Banjo’ Ben Clark is a banjo recording artist, performer, and teacher of long-standing. He has been teaching the banjo online since 2011 and has been on national TV several on shows like Saturday Night Live, Leno, Good Morning America and others.
He partners with fellow banjoist Paige Garwood to offer banjo courses for people of all ages and skill levels. There is an in-depth intermediate course that is heavy on teaching using popular tracks. Some of the topics you will learn about include;
· Banjo Fretboard Geography
· How to Play in "D"
· Intermediate Banjo Kickoff
· Introduction to Melodic Banjo
· G to C Transitions
· Soloing and Backup
· Touch and Go- Pull-Off Exercises
· How to Play Rolling Backup
· Backup Banjo Utility Rolls
· Rolling Back up in C Position
· 6th Interval Banjo Backup in G, C, and D Chords, Patterns, Real World Application
· Playing Bag O' Licks-Blues, D Lick Endings, Melodic Transitions, Up the Neck
· Waypoints- Learning the Banjo Neck- G Chord, and C Chord
· Scruggs Style with Bill Cheatham
You will be learning with all-time favorite tunes like Fishers Hornpipe, God Bless America, God Rest Ye Merry, Jingle Bells, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Shady Grove, and Silent Night.
9) Banjo Lessons with Joff Lowson
Joff Lowson is an accomplished banjoist having played the instrument from the age of 5. He met legendary banjoist Bill Keith at the age of 15 and got inspired to become a pro banjo player.
He joined the band Jalapeno Pickers, one of the big bluegrass bands in the ‘90s before moving on to the Highland Boys with whom he won the Best Band award at the Leeds Country Music Festival.
Joff is a master in both the frailing and Scruggs style banjo. He has performed in numerous countries around the world and appeared on national TV shows in the UK. He occasionally joins the Buffalo Gals for UK performances. Joff offers banjo lessons for people of all ages and skill levels, with free lessons for beginners.
Joff teaches clawhammer style also known as the frailing in step-by-step videos starting with the basic bum ditty, progressing to rhythms and more advanced techniques to make your first banjo song 'Black Eyed Susie.'
You will also learn how to play the popular 5-string banjo tune, 'Duelling banjos.’ There are looping audio clips you can play at different speeds (20,30,40,60,72 bpm) to practice Duelling banjos.
10) Banjo Lessons at the Online Academy of Irish Music (AIM)
Are you in love with Irish folk songs but don’t know where to look for lessons to play these tunes? AIM is a platform that teaches things Irish; music, food, culture. It was founded by Kirsten Allstaff and her husband Matthew Curly as they came across more people interested in learning how to play Irish tunes. The academy teaches a variety of instruments including the banjo, tin whistle, fiddle, bodhran, uillean pipes, and Irish songs.
If you have a familiarity with the banjo, you can enroll in the Irish tenor banjo technique course. The course is designed to help you build advanced skills in the banjo by adding twelve popular Irish tunes to your repertoire.
You will get 13 lessons that are delivered in 4 tutorials each for easier understanding. Each lesson comes with downloadable mp3 and sheet music. One interesting feature is the Virtual Reality Irish Pub Session which gives the learner a hyperreal experience of being in an Irish pub.
Paid membership will give you access to learning materials for all instruments. You will also be able to participate in the lively community forum discussing all things Irish.
11) Banjo Lessons on Banjo Compass
You can access both free and paid lessons on this site. The site features a free lesson each week, mostly for beginner skills. Some of the intermediate subjects discussed on the site include;
· Rhythm and backup – You will learn to make correct rhythms by using the left hand for scales and the right for rhythmic picking. You will also more advanced skills in playing rolls and licks while in an ensemble.
· Improvisation – You will learn how to create lead breaks. You will also learn how to vary the tempo, do neck movements, and soloing in the melodic or Scruggs style.
· Clawhammer – You learn how to use the nails of the index and middle finger to play downstrokes, and the thumb to pluck the fifth string.
Many of the lessons on this website were previously on freebanjovideos.com, but premium content has since been added. The free lessons mostly on foundational topics such as;
· Switching chords
· Tone and the XY position
· Scruggs backup lick
· Up the neck lick
You can find these lessons on the website
Choosing the Best Banjo Lessons for Intermediate
The banjo is one of the easier string instruments to learn. The distinct folksy sound of the banjo is an instant hit wherever you play. Learning to play the banjo perfectly could be one of the most gratifying personal projects you ever invested money and time in.
There are so many styles to experiment with, that learning the banjo becomes a lifelong journey which opens new musical vistas with everything new you try. The good thing is that there are many banjo teachers and courses you can access online.
You can learn at your own pace from the comfort of your house, making this one entertaining project you will never regret.