The ToneWay® Project: helping people play music

Getting That Banjo Sound - book upgrade w/videos


(Note: this is for book owners…sorry for any confusion.)

The banjo, more than any other instrument in the book, has confounded us pedagogically.

You have your basic melody, which is easy. You have your rolls (finger-picking or clawhammer) which are straightforward once you get the physical coordination down. The challenge is incorporating the melody and the rolls into one banjorific stream. It's mind-boggling!

For years, the best we could do was to basically say, “get good at each task separately, and then stop thinking and just go for it in a stumble-as-a-child way, and one day you'll be able to do it.” Our students hated this advice, although it did work. But it took a lot of time and patience, and we were always unsatisfied that we couldn't do better.

The new approach we developed this month changes everything. Based in part on feedback we received as part of a newsletter solicitation for book ideas (thanks everybody!), we began exploring two-finger banjo as a path toward learning to combine melody and rolls. It turns out, using this approach is easy. We've tried it on folks who have been playing less than a month, and within a week they are able to play the melody within a two-finger roll. (We also adapted our new approach to clawhammer playing, and made some improvements there.) This is so exciting for us!

This new approach will be included in our new book (hopefully coming in 2012). However, anyone with a ToneWay book can download the new materials for free. Use this link to download the “Getting That Banjo Sound” PDF directly. Print it out (eight pages) and be sure to use the supplemental videos we filmed (web address is in the PDF).

Please reply to this thread with your comments and questions after you try out the new banjo tutorial!



p.s. - The ironic thing is, two-finger banjo is how I got started! Should've put the pieces together earlier. D'oh.

Edited 9 times; last edited Dec 7, 2011 by Luke Abbott
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@ John Dotson - I am so glad you have perservered. I tried to learn bass and never could till I found the toneway project - now I can do it and don't want any more than that. I appreciate how you feel.
Dianne Porter AUSTRALIA


I started out learning banjo by myself playing with just the thumb to find melody notes to songs then I would add my index now and then – did that for about eight months – after that I started using my ring finger and slowly came up with rolls etc.. on my own – then I bought my first Hal Learnerd banjo book and studied it after two years and joined a Jam where my cousin plays banjo in and watched how he played – I ended up finally learning a few tags and lick from a banjo teacher and purchasing the “Get started book and CD” and now after playing for going on my fifth year I'm pretty much on my own. It can be a slow long process, but I think that it has never ending rewards every time I play I learn something new which I love and think is great.

Edited Oct 3, 2012 by Roy Cook

The banjo sound videos will not load up on my ipad. I have the latest ipad. I' m learning with the Dean 6 string banjo-guitar. Tuned in G- tuning. d,b,g,d,g,d. Thanks.

Edited Apr 23, 2013 by Don Cummins

Hi Don,

I updated the video code. I don't have an iPad to test it on, myself, but it should work on the iPad now.

Note that these materials are for the five-string banjo. The six-string banjitar/gitjo is really just a guitar with a banjo head/pot in place of the guitar body. So technique-wise, it's pretty much a guitar. It just sounds different. To really get “that banjo sound”, you need a “true” five-string banjo.

Oops, just read your message again and saw that you have it tuned in an open G tuning. So that will alter the fingering from standard guitar and make it more like the banjo, certainly. Still, though, the “banjo sound” techniques covered in this supplement (and used in banjo playing in general) rely on the “fifth string” being the shorter drone string. Perhaps portions can be adapted to an open-tuned six-string banjo, but I've never experimented with that so that's as much as I can say on that.



Just wanted to say thanks. This is great! The “system” can be adapted for use with other instruments like the ukulele.

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