Playing the banjo is not much different from playing the guitar. The two instruments are so alike, in fact, that any skilled guitarist could probably pick up a banjo and play it well. On the same note, a skilled banjo player could pick up a guitar and it’s similar enough he would be able to play it well. There are, however, some subtle but key differences as to how each instrument are played. The first of these differences, is the the shape of some of the five string banjo chords.
Since the banjo has a shortened bass string it leads to some big differences that you to be aware of. Whether you are a beginner, or a guitar player making the switch, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the new tuning and chord shapes. In this article, we’ll teach you five banjo chords you be able to learn quickly so you can start pluckin’.
Standard Tuning for a Five String Banjo
The first thing we need to cover is standard tuning for the five-string banjo. On traditional banjos, the 5th string is attached at the 5th fret, as shown below.
The most common tuning you’ll find is a g D G B d. Notice that the first and 4th strings are both tuned to the “D” note, just an octave apart.
Similarly, the 5th (the peg string) and the 3rd string are both “G” notes. For a very detailed discussion on why the 5th string is attached where it is, and what effect it has see Music – Practice and Theory.
An interesting byproduct of the shortened 5th string is that banjo chords are normally made up of four notes (one for each string).
If you want to know more about banjo tuning check out our Ultimate Guide to Banjo Tuning.
Basic Five String Banjo Chords
Because the 5th string is tuned to a “G” note, unless you fret that string your root note will always be a “G”. Because of this, most banjo music is written in the “G” family of chords.
The G Chord
This is the easiest chord to pull off because you basically touch nothing. There are no strings to fret on this one. Just brush down or up the strings, and there, you’re already playing an open G chord. Easy, right?
The C Chord
Playing the C chord is a little bit harder, but still manageable. For this, you’ll be using three fingers. Press your index finger on the 4th string, your middle on the 1st fret of the 2nd string, and your ring finger on the first string at the second fret as well.
The D7 Chord
To make the D7 Chord, take your pointer finger and press it on the second string at the original fret, and your focus finger lying on the third string at the second fret. This is an easy chord that can be played in succession with the G chord.
The Em Chord
For the E-minor chord, you just have to redo the C chord we’ve taught you and press your pointer finger from the second string at the first fret. That leaves you with just the middle finger on the fourth string and your sphere finger on the first twine at the moment bother. as well as that’s it!
With these chords at your arsenal, you can start to play a few simple songs. Make sure as you practice these chords you either strum the strings or perform a basic finger picking pattern. This will enforce the habit of independently using both hands.
The Final Note
While these are just five of many chords, they are some veery common to many popular songs. With these four you’ll easily be able to pick up a TON of songs as well as many of the 5th, 7th, and minor versions of each chord. Please check out the rest of our work on Banjos to keep learning about one of our favorite instruments!