5 sting banjo

All About 5 String Banjo

A 5 string banjo is an American folk instrument with 4 tuning pegs and one tuning peg for its short fifth string. The fifth fret of the highest (fourth) string and the open first and second strings tune this extra bass note. This standard tuning produces the ‘low-bass’ drone sound that gives the banjo its distinctive tone.

How 5 String Banjo Played?

5 String Banjo

The 5 string banjo, originally played with fingers using multiple patterns, has evolved to be commonly associated with playing ragtime melodies and improvisation. Today’s modern styles play off of this heritage but also blend in elements of other genres like Jazz, Irish music, Blues, Classic banjo style music, and Bluegrass style music.

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Basic Finger Positions for Beginner on a 5 String Banjo

banjo finger positions

Here are the basic finger positions for playing a 5 string banjo. Though you can play anything on the five-stringed instruments, these are some of the first things to learn how to play.

The Clawhammer Picking Pattern

This is one of the most common picking patterns on the 5 string banjo. It involves using fingers 1 and 2 to hold down strings while you pick with your thumb.

The Forward Roll Pattern

Like the clawhammer picking pattern, this is one of the most common patterns used on a 5 string banjo. It involves using fingers 1 and 2 to press down the first two strings while playing with your thumb under those two strings.

The Flat Picking Pattern

This pattern uses the pick to make quick pauses in between the melody notes. This is great for playing fast tunes like reels or jigs.

How 5 String Banjo is Tuned?

banjo tuning

The fifth string is tuned to a lower pitch than the fourth, third, second, and first strings. For example, it can be tuned an octave below the fourth string or at about one full step below the concert pitch (A=440). The fifth string is generally tuned to C but can be tuned down further to B♭ for jazzier stuff.

The second string should banjo sound two octaves above the 5th string when played open. And the 1st string sounds up an octave higher again from that. However, there are alternative banjo tunings where this may vary slightly depending on what you’re playing and who you’re playing with.

What Music is Played on a Banjo?

Many different playing styles of music can be performed on a 5 string banjo, including:

  • Traditional Folk Music
  • Bluegrass Jazz
  • Classical 
  • Blues
  • Improvisation
  • Spirituals
  • Clawhammer
  • Slap-Style

The 5 string banjo has been used in many different genres of music but is most commonly associated with the folk genre.

Learn about Banjo Playing Styles and Sounds.

How to Learn Playing 5 String Banjos?

banjo learning

There are several ways to learn how to play the 5 string banjo. Whether you’re a beginner banjo player learning on your own, picking up the musical instrument in a band, or auditioning for an ensemble such as an orchestra or jazz ensemble, there’s always something new to learn.

If you’re interested in learning the five-string banjos, there are several resources you can turn to, such as:

1-Banjo Method Books

Banjo Books are great for learning how to play the banjo at your own pace. If you enjoy listening to particular bands or modern banjo players which have inspired your interest in playing folk, Irish music, or bluegrass music, then there’s almost certainly a corresponding method book out there that will help you get started.

2-Banjo Instructional DVDs

DVDs are a great alternative to standard banjo books if you prefer learning from a visual medium. And they’re perfect for more professional banjo players.

3-Banjo Tutorial Videos on YouTube

YouTube is an excellent resource for free banjo lessons and tutorials from thousands of other professional players and teachers. You can easily learn specific techniques, such as bluegrass flat-picking or clawhammer style, while also developing your rhythm and timing skills.

4-Banjo Jam Sessions

Listening to and playing with other musicians is one of the best ways to improve your own playing and understanding of styles and genres. Whether you join a local jam session or make your own recordings to send to friends, jamming is a great way to take things further.

If you’re looking how to tune a 6 string banjo, then visit this article.

Top 10 Artists Who Play 5 String Banjo

banjo artists

Following is the list of 10 artists who plays 5-String Banjo.

  1. Bill Keith,
  2. Steve Martin,
  3. Béla Fleck,
  4. Frank Wakefield
  5. The Goodtime Banjo Boys,
  6. Alan Munde,
  7. Radim Zenkl and David Akeman,
  8. Donna Houston and Lowell Levinger,
  9. Grassella Oliphant,
  10. Eddie Peabody.


We hope you enjoyed the blog, and it answered your questions on the 5 string banjo for a beginner as well. I hope the article helped you understand 5 string standard banjo.

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