Banjobio: A 5-String Beginner

I put the neck and the improved pot together.  You see the result above.  (Thanks to my grandson Jake for modeling it, and to his wife Kris for photographing it.)  I added the crucial 5th string capo at the 5th fret.

Now that I had a usable 5-string banjo, I enlisted Joe Hetko, a local teacher and performer to instruct me.  When he heard that I had played other kinds of banjo before, he told me, “You will amaze yourself.”

I guess I did.  In less than a year I was able to play simple arrangements of favorite bluegrass tunes like “Little Birdie,” “Cripple Creek,” and “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms.”  These included not just melody and chords, but fretting-hand ornaments: hammer on, pull off, and slide.  My previous experience helped, but 5-string banjo just seemed easier.

5-string banjo is a lot of fun for a beginner.  You more or less accompany yourself, so you don’t need a group to enjoy playing.  You can get a very pleasing effect without straying beyond first or second position.

 The difference from my other banjos struck me with “Goodbye, Old Paint.”  On each different banjo I had tried to play that melody along with the chords.  With each, I failed.  On the 5-string banjo the arrangement happened by itself.  I can’t give you a .tef file of it, because I never wrote it down.  Why would I?

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