How to Play a 5-String Banjo

How to Play a 5-String Banjo

Pete Seeger FW08303 / FI 8303 / CRB 2

Pete Seeger (1919–2014) was a national treasure who had a long and exceptional career as a folk singer and social activist. Overall, he appears on (or is otherwise associated with) an astonishing total of 123 Smithsonian Folkways recordings.

In 1948, Seeger wrote a manual entitled How to Play the 5-String Banjo (originally self-published, the third edition was reprinted in 2013). Then, in 1954, Seeger recorded an instructional album on playing a 5-string banjo. The manual and the recording have influenced aspiring banjo players for generations.

On the album Seeger explains and provides examples of basic tunings, strums, and techniques such as “hammering on” and “pulling off” and other aspects of playing. He covers the basics of a variety of styles, including “frailing,” 3-finger, blues, jazz, Spanish flamenco, and Latin American rumba styles.

Liner notes provide background information, a complete transcript, and musical notation.

Year Released 1954
Record Label Folkways Records
Source Archive Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Copyright 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1954 Folkways Records
Genre(s) Music Instruction
Country(s) United States
Instrument(s) Banjo
Language(s) English
Subject(s) Folk songs--United States; Instructional; Spoken word

Download Liner Notes

101 A Basic Strum Pete Seeger 1:09
102 Now with the left hand Pete Seeger 0:22
103 Now with the index finger Pete Seeger 0:56
104 The Fifth String Pete Seeger 0:43
105 Now take that same song Pete Seeger 0:25
106 Hammering On Pete Seeger 1:16
107 Here's a little bit of the Pete Seeger 0:21
108 Pulling Off Pete Seeger 1:10
109 Well, now, if you study the Pete Seeger 0:46
110 Double Thumbing Pete Seeger 0:49
111 Now, for just one more time Pete Seeger 0:23
112 Now, not all songs, alfterall Pete Seeger 0:55
113 Here's the song. 'Hard Ain't It Hard' Pete Seeger 0:28
114 Frailing Pete Seeger 0:59
115 In the G tuning, you might try Pete Seeger 1:02
116 Now, frailing is the best way Pete Seeger 0:50
117 Three-Finger Picking Pete Seeger 1:14
118 Here's another devleopment of Pete Seeger 1:01
119 Here's the song, "Cindy" Pete Seeger 0:21
120 A Loud Strum Pete Seeger 0:55
121 Here is a variation of the above Pete Seeger 0:48
122 Three Micscellaneous Postscripts Pete Seeger 1:06
123 If you ever want to play a Pete Seeger 0:46
124 A roll is a special banjo effect Pete Seeger 0:24
125 3/4 and 6/8 Time Pete Seeger 0:57
126 Using this method, and a little Pete Seeger 0:26
127 For a more sustained effect Pete Seeger 1:37
128 Incidentally, this type of Pete Seeger 1:13
129 Now 6/8 time is the same Pete Seeger 1:05
130 Blues and Jazz Pete Seeger 1:04
131 Another common blues guitar Pete Seeger 0:38
132 Here's a sample blues passage Pete Seeger 0:28
133 Spanish and South American Guitar Techniques Pete Seeger 0:50
134 Here's one way to get a rhumba Pete Seeger 0:55
136 Here's still another way of Pete Seeger 1:36
137 This last pattern can be Pete Seeger 1:00
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