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How Hard Is It to Play the Banjo? [ANSWERED]

This is probably one of the many questions running through your mind now that you’ve made up your mind to take those banjo lessons you have been postponing for a while.

I must also confess that I have been asked this question many times by my readers.

So, I would rather answer you all, once and for all.

Ready to learn? Here we go!

How hard is it to play the banjo?

One of the greatest assumptions spreading around is that banjo is difficult to learn.

In fact, if you ask me, the myths are spreading faster than wildfire, thus giving beginners cold feet.

But, after my research and interaction with various banjo players, I can confidently state that it really isn’t that hard. Well, if you follow the correct steps.

You see, the problem with most beginner players is lack of patience.

They want to wake-up today, play a little and sound like experts the next day!

Well, we all know that’s isn’t possible. Everything good in life has to be earned. And that includes that legend title.

So, when this doesn’t happen, it’s when some will go out there and start spreading assumptions on how hard it’s to learn banjo.

The best way to go about learning banjo, efficiently and fast, is by accepting that there are various learning curves for all types of musical instruments.

And even in banjo, the time you take to learn the 4-strings might differ from the duration one takes to learn the 5-strings and the 6-strings.

Also, the style of playing you wish to adopt will greatly influence the level of difficulty.

But, even then, because the strings of banjos use lighter gauge than the standard guitar, they are also much easier to play as compared to the guitar.

So, if you’ve been considering playing guitar as easy, then you now have an idea of how easier playing banjo can be.

The most popular and played type of banjo is the 5-string. All these thanks to its basic G tuning.

For this, you simply have to strum the strings without pushing them down. You can then add some fingerpicking styles as you gain confidence.

So, as you can see playing the banjo is indeed easy, only if you put your mind into it and focus on achieving your musical goals.

How Long does it take to Learn Banjo

Honestly, giving a definite answer to this question is like trying to answer the question about the length of a string. There’s no absolute answer.

But I will try to be as objective and honesty as possible to help you get a rough idea of what to expect at the beginning of your training season.

First, it’s in your best interest to know that you can actually never learn everything about the banjo.

And before you jump at me with numerous questions, here’s what I mean;

Learning is a life-long process. So, no matter how good you get at the banjo, you will always be discovering new tricks as you mingle with other musicians and get exposed to various content.

And the fast innovations of the internet, generational expectations among other factors, won’t let you “fully” learn in peace. There will always be something you want to add to your music.

The early you accept that the better.it will help you deal will pressure amicably.

Now, that we are on the same page, we can proceed in peace.

You learning banjo might take a little bit longer than you anticipated.

You can’t get hold of your new instrument and start playing all sorts of great tunes in hours or days.

Most individuals find themselves struggling with simple tunes for weeks as they perfect to share with those they love.

So, ensure your attitude is in check. Because, you might find yourself taking a few months 3-6 before you can even play something of standard quality, professionally.

But, that shouldn’t discourage you. If you constantly practice, like a few hours daily, then you can pull off a fair play of some simple tunes in a matter of days.

By constantly we mean, at least 2,000 hours of practice, cumulatively should give you impressive results.

Also, if you already know how to play other string instruments, such as the guitar, then you could master playing banjo pretty fast than someone who hasn’t.

Yes, you will also have to learn some had-moving techniques, but you won’t be as blank as someone who hasn’t felt a string on their fingers before.

Another factor that will immensely contribute to how faster you learn banjo, is your knowledge of some banjo music. If you’ve lived a better part of your life listening to legends play, then it will be easier for you when you try imitating some sounds.

And of course, there comes an issue of talent.  No offense, but some individuals are more talented than others.

And because of that, they grasp rhythms so fast, when it could take the less talented one a little bit longer to master.

What type of banjo is best for beginners?

If you have already gone through our best banjo for beginners’ review, then you must have seen some amazing banjos, which could give you a clue of what to purchase.

But if you haven’t we still got your best interest at heart.

And before I go ahead to mention the best banjo for a beginner, I would like you to know a few things;

The current market place is flooded with various beginner-friendly banjos.

So, you can easily get what you want. But, before you rush into a purchase, as yourself the following questions;

  • Is the banjo I need for my professional life or simply for practicing?
  • Is the price within my budget?
  • How long can it serve me?
  • What’s the ease of play?
  • 4-string or 5-string?
  • Open back or closed-back?
  • Right-handed or Left-handed?

Remember, you want the best for yourself, at that particular moment.

So, for instance, if you want a banjo for practicing, after which you can invest in a professional one, then you can purchase a cheaper one to serve the purpose and save up to buy a pricier one once you’re set for a professional journey.

Most 5-string banjos are easy to play as compared to 4-strings ones and you can easily come across cheaper ones.

Also, since you’re a beginner, you want a banjo that is easy to play. The one whose strings give a smooth feel to your fingers and isn’t difficult to setup.

When I speak of longevity, it should serve you for as long as you want. If you plan on upgrading let’s say after a year, then there’s no need to go all expensive.

Also, the closed-back banjos offer better sound quality as compared to the open-back ones. But it will still depend on the kind of music you want to play.

As a beginner, you want to work with decent quality, favorable pricing, and ease of play.

You also don’t want to go cheap because you might end up giving-up playing because of various quality issues that might arise.

And for that, we recommend the Oscar Schmidt OB5 Banjo. If you have more cash to spare, then Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo or Jameson 5-String Closed-Back Banjo at best would do you great justice.

Learning Banjo vs. Guitar: Comparison

“How difficult is it to play banjo vs., guitar?” this is one of the commonly asked questions, especially by string instruments players.

The best basic answer we can give is that although they’re both similar, they’re equally different and as such enjoy a different learning curve.

That said, the 5-string banjo still remains the easiest to learn as compared to the guitar.

But hey, here is an in-depth comparison to help you decide for yourself!


The ease of play of various string instruments, the guitar and the banjo included, largely depends on the size of their neck.

And here, the slimmer the neck of the instrument, the easy it’s for you to reach around it to fret the strings.

Therefore, we can comfortably say that in this case, the banjo beats the guitar hands down, as its neck tends to be slimmer.


Tuning is what determines the sounds made by the string instruments.

The guitar, for instance, uses a standard tuning of E, A, D, G, B, E. The banjo, on the other hand, uses open G-tuning, which is (G, D, G, B, D)

And because of this, beginner players find it easy to learn the open G tuning of their banjo as it doesn’t require a lot of practice. You simply have to strum the strings, and they will produce pleasing sounds.

But, if you tried the same on a guitar, then the sounds will only be dissonant.

Thus, you can typically start playing “good” sounds on banjo on your first trial and then focus on learning various techniques as you get acquitted.

But with the guitar, you will have to figure out how to twist your fingers to produce sounds around the chords from the first trial.


The guitar has thick gauges, and they are pretty hard on the fingers. So, you might get hurt for the first few days, as you try to adjust, thus making it difficult for you to learn fast.

On the contrary, a banjo has a pretty light gauge, which makes it easy for beginners to fret. Thus faster-learning process.

Music Styles

The ease of play of these two amazing musical instruments sometimes depends on the type of music style you want to learn.

And although most individuals consider the banjo to be less versatile than the guitar, the modern banjo can do pretty well like the guitar.

For instance, the banjo can now not only play bluegrass music but also jazz, country, and even hip hop.

So, as you can see, when it comes to music styles, the banjo gives a guitar a run for its money. And since it’s easy to play for beginners, you can as well begin playing it before you learn the guitar.

Banjo Songs for Beginners To Practice

  1. Hush Little Baby

You probably must have listened to this song in your lullaby tunes back in the days.

However, unknown to many, the Gush Little Baby was a creation of a famous singer, composer and activist Joan Baez. And it can be traced to 1963 when it was 1st released.

The lyrics of this childhood song were written in a folk style and although she mainly used an acoustic guitar during her performances, the song can go well with a banjo.

The best part is that it contains only two chords, so should be the easiest to master.

  1. American Pie

The American Pie is loved throughout the world thanks to its award-winning captivating tunes.

It was first featured on Don McLean’s American Pie album, which was released in 1971.

The song is a mixture of folk-rock-pop and can easily be played in bluegrass style. The chords are simple and easy to pick. Making it beginner-friendly.

  1. Cripple Greek

The fact that this song was composed by bluegrass masters (Earl Scruggs &Lester Flat), should be enough reason for you to want to play it.

It’s one of the most famous banjo tunes and very easy to play.

It gives you a feel of the 3-finger roll on a 5-string banjo. So, you better try it out for yourself!


Should I learn banjo or guitar first?

If you’re quick at mastering notes and finger athletics, then you should learn the guitar first.

But if that seems like an uphill task, then you should start with the banjo, which has fewer strings, thus making it easier to play.

Ukulele or Banjo: which is easier to learn?

Ukelele seems easier to learn than a banjo. It has simple and easier notes to pick and it’s a bit smaller than banjo, making it favorable even for younger beginner players.

Do you need finger picks for banjo?

No, you don’t have to play picks with a banjo.  But you will need them for advanced techniques, so it’s important to learn essential finger-rolls.

How do you play clawhammer banjo style?

In banjo, the clawhammer style involves striking the strings with the help of your middle fingernail or index finger’s back.

Afterward, you alternate them with plucking using your thumb.

Check out this YouTube video on how to do it, correctly;


The time you require to learn banjo isn’t constant to various individuals.  It depends on various factors such as your dedication, consistency in practicing, your previous history with string instruments, your musical talent and much more.

So, to avoid stressing up yourself to learn at the same pace as your peers, it’s advisable to focus on your individual goals and work towards achieving them, the best way your know-how.

If you do everything properly, then you should be able to play professionally acceptable banjo tunes in a couple of months.

We wish you all the luck in the world!

Lee Cardwell
Owner and Chief Editor of Music Tech Hub. I play banjo, mandolin and I am currently learning how to play the harmonica.

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