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Lesson 1a: How To Hold the 5-String Banjo

Edited by Paul Race for Creek Don't Rise?

Editor's Note: Between 1999 and 2004, Mitchel "Mickey" Cochran posted an extensive collection of free musical instrument lessons on his FolkOfTheWood.com web page. Sadly, we lost Mickey in 2011. After e-mailing surviving family members for permission to repost some of Mickey's most popular materials, we have begun restoring them to host on these pages. (Please see the Introduction page for more information on that effort.)

This page is Mickey's explanation of how to hold the 5-string banjo. - Paul Race


Lesson 1a: How To Hold the 5-String Banjo

By Mickey Cochran

Comfort Comes First
It's very critical that you learn to hold the banjo properly, yet comfortably. There are numerous ways to hold the banjo; there is no true right or wrong way. A standard hasn't really been set as it has for instance in classical guitar study. I've always felt what's right for one person is not necessarily right for another.

First consider that you'll either be standing or sitting. When first learning to play banjo, you'll want to start out by learning what's comfortable for you in a sitting position. After you've learned some chops, and have gained a good enough foundation to play in a band, then you can practice your standing position. In this lesson, our focus will be on how to hold your banjo in a sitting position.

1. Begin by sitting in a comfortable armless chair.

2. Place the banjo on your lap and let it rest between your legs.

3. Rest your right forearm on the upper portion of the rim, with your right hand situated above the strings. (This assumes you're right handed; if left handed, simply reverse these instructions.)

4. Position your left hand below the the neck of the banjo with the thumb positioned behind it.

The goal is to balance the banjo so that it does not feel as if it wants to fall on its own. You should not have to hold the banjo with the left hand whatsoever. Once you're in the playing mode, your left hand will be dancing up and down the neck and because of this, it will not be practical to have to balance the banjo while playing. Another suggestion, that helps me when sitting, is to find a prop for your left foot. This helps brace the banjo from falling. You can use your banjo case for this purpose.

If you want to stand while playing, you will need a banjo strap. It's critical to try out different straps to determine what's comfortable to you. I highly recommend learning how to play while seated before attempting to play while standing.

Picks

There are a variety of picks available. Two of the most common brands are: Dunlop and National. Usually, when purchasing metal fingerpicks, you'll find that you'll have to shape them fit your fingers. It's important to experiment with the shape of the picks until you've found what works for you. As far as thumbpicks go, there are many sizes and types available. The norm is plastic on the thumb and metal on the fingers.


Copyright ?1999-2004 Mickey Cochran

Conclusion

Mickey's instructions are as valid today as when he wrote and recorded them years ago. Here's hoping that you find them just as helpful as his original followers did back when he was interacting on a daily basis with them.

Please contact us if you're hitting any brick walls and we'll try to help you get therough them.

Best of luck, all, enjoy your music, and support the arts.

Paul Race

And when you're ready to move on, click here to go to the next part of this online lesson.

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All text and any illustrations and/or videos within the white box above are copyright 1999-2004 by Mitchell Cochran. All other materials, illustrations, and content on this web page, including the text reformatting and illustration restoration within the white box are copyrighted ? 2016 by Paul D. Race. All rights reserved.
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