Setting out to become a musician might be a bit difficult. Whatever you try to play will seem almost impossible. And although it seems simple at first, this same rule applies to the banjo. This fun little instrument that we can hear in country, bluegrass, and even jazz music has its challenges.
But the best way to go about it is to start with some easy beginner banjo songs. So now that you’ve bought your first entry-level banjo, it’s time for you to start playing. We’ve done some research and did our best to dig up some great tune for the occasion.
Top 10 Best Banjo Songs for Beginners
While many are familiar with the EDM version by a Swedish group Rednex, “Cotton-Eyed Joe” is actually an old traditional song. It’s a very famous tune for those partner dances and line dances. Of course, it’s also an easy one for beginner players.
Hot Corn, Cold Corn
Although it’s pretty simple to play, “Hot Corn, Cold Corn” is a song that has much-needed essential basics for beginners. This classic banjo bluegrass tune will help you go through a few different basic chords, and will also help you figure out those common fingerings and chord changes. And, above all – it’s really fun to play!
Blowing in the Wind
You can’t often find Bob Dylan and banjo in the same sentence. Nonetheless, one of his biggest hit songs of all time, “Blowing in the Wind,” became quite a popular song for banjo beginners. Playing it as a country tune gives it a completely new flavor, although its very essence still remains. Again, we have some basic chords, but also some basic picking patterns. Of course, you can also just strum along to chords, but it’s always good to find a regular banjo arrangement and learn that version.
You Are My Sunshine
When starting out on a 5-string banjo, you should always look for songs that will help you learn how to implement all the strings and different picking patterns. “You Are My Sunshine” comes as a great example of this. The song was mostly popularized in the late 1930s by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell, although the actual songwriters have never been officially confirmed. But what’s important is that it’s a great song.
Just a simple old traditional classic that’s really easy to learn. “Cripple Creek” is originally intended for fiddle, but it’s not uncommon to see it played on a banjo as well.
Another one by Bob Dylan, but this time co-written by Ketch Secor, “Wagon Wheel” is a popular choice for beginners. The chorus was originally written in the early 1970s by Dylan, while Secor added his parts in the early 2000s. It was recorded by his band Old Crow Medicine Show.
“Salt Creek” is a good choice if you want to learn a song and play it with a band. In addition, it’s a very catchy one, so it will be easy to memorize.
If you’re into banjo music, this particular tune needs no further introduction. “Ground Speed” was written by Earl Scruggs, but it’s been covered by almost every banjo player that came after him.
Clinch Mountain Backstep
Written by Ralph Stanley, “Clinch Mountain Backstep” is a song that includes both a simple melody and a simple chord progression to follow. And that just makes it a perfect song for a beginner to play. However, there is one tricky part with an extra half measure. It’s not super hard, but it will keep you on your toes.
She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
Lastly, we’d also like to mention “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.” Although a traditional song, this one is often classified as a children’s tune. Derived from the classic Christian piece “When the Chariot Comes,” it’s a fairly straightforward one. You can play it by only using C, G, and D major chords. Some versions also include the D dominant chord instead of a regular D major in some parts.
The song we listed here are the most suitable ones for beginners. However, you need to bear in mind that country and bluegrass music, where banjo is one of the main instruments, are free for your own interpretation and arrangements. There are simpler standard versions for these songs, but as you progress, try and implement some of your own elements in there.