Lesson 1


Okay, now let’s play something simple. Here are the first 3 chords that almost everyone learns, in the simplest key, the key of “C” that has no sharps or flats in its major scale. This can be seen on the piano keyboard—the “C” scale has no black keys—sharps or flats.

I will include the fingering of chords as they are introduced. An “o” below the string means “no finger” and the numbers 1 to 4 are index finger to pinky. If there is an “x” below the string, it should not be played at all. These fingerings are the ones I use and recommend. Some players may use, prefer, or better be able to reach other fingerings.

The 3 most basic chords in the key of “C” are:

(III)
C
2
oo12
   
(I)
F
3
o213
   
(VII 7)
G7
3
1oo4

 

 

Here is a little exercise to start practicing playing these simplest of shapes. The goal is to play the chord above each quarter note on the musical staff below it (until the next chord change) evenly, and especially to go from one chord to the next without pausing. Also, keep in mind that the melody note on the staff, in this case the “C” scale, corresponds to the Roman numeral that specifies its shape. The more times you practice looking at the note on the staff and the chord shape and position, the more you will associate notes with chords and their positions on the fingerboard and will be learning to “read” music on your banjo. Notice also that both the F (I) shape and the G7 (VII 7) shape both have the same melody note, that is, “F”.

You can use this metronome when practicing. It will appear above all the exercises in the future as well. Start slowly and increase the beats per minute (BPM) as you get more proficient, especially when the chord changes. Note: Because of some unevenness in the tick sound at high BPM (that I am trying to fix), the maximum BPM is 220 for now.

Beats/Min:

 
C
2
F
3
G7
3
C
2

Listen to the example

Another exercise—just a variation on the first one, using the same chords.

 
C
2
F
3
C
2
G7
3
C
2
F
3
C
2
G7
3
C
2

Listen to the example


Something to Shoot For

Here are the first 8 measures of the 1925 pop standard, “Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue” in the key of “C” included here for those beginners who want a challenge. I have included it here to show the “moveability” of the three chord shapes from this lesson—the A7 (VII 7) is just up 2 frets from the G7 (VII 7)—as well as introduce the dreaded (III 7) chord shape, both D7 and E7. If you feel comfortable with your progress in the exercise above, give it a try!

Five Foot Two (first 8 measures)

 
C
2
C
5
C
2
E7
2
E7
6
E7
2
A7
2
A7
7
A7
2
A7
7
A7
2
A7
7
A7
2
A7
7

 
D7
10
 
D7
7
 
D7
10
 
D7
7
 
G7
5
G9
7
 
C
2
 
G7
5

On to Lesson 2

Back to Plectrum Banjo Chords Intro

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