Hi All,


This discussion is intended for novice banjo players (like myself) who want to learn to play old time mountain music and other traditional folk songs on their banjos. At this stage, we are focusing on playing just the melodies to these tunes; and as time goes on I hope to add information on how to use clawhammer (frailing) techniques to play these songs. But, at this point, we are focusing on learning the first set of notes on the banjo fretboard, which are summarized in the following table:









As you can see, we assume your

banjo is tuned to standard Open G

tuning: G'-D-G-B-D'. Initially, we will

be focusing on the natural notes

which are show in red. For the tune

"Old Joe Clark", all the notes will be

on strings 1, 2 and 3. We will not

be using strings 4 and 5. So, if you

just have a 4-string banjo, you are

still in luck.





Song #1: "Clementine"


The first song we'll look at is "Clementine" (Oh, My Dar-ling...). This familiar song should be rather easy to learn to play. It uses notes from just the first three strings and the notes of the various verses and the notes of the chorus are identical. Shown are just the first verse and the chorus. When fingering these notes with your left hand, your fingers should be used as follows: Finger 1 ==> C, Finger 2 ==> E, Finger 3 ==> F, and Finger 4==> G'. The other three notes in the song ((G, B and D) are played open string, so no fret position should be pressed (stopped) when playing these notes. Here's the melody:


Give this song a try. First start slow, making sure you can find all the right notes. As you gain experience playing the song try to increase your speed more and more. Also, I assume you are familiar with the song and will apply the right timing and "note lengths" (e.g. quarter notes vs. eighth notes). You want to make the over all song sound good and recognizable in addition to just hitting the right notes. With practice, you should be able to commit the playing of this song to memory and be able to play it without looking at the strings as you play it.



Song #2: "Old Joe Clark"


The following are the notes and words to the first verse and chorus of "Old Joe Clark". When playing, your left hand fingers should be used to fret the notes as follows: Finger 1 ==> C, Finger 2 ==> A and E, Finger 3 ==> F and Finger 4 ==> G'. The other notes used in the song (G, B and D) are all open string, so no fret should be pressed (stopped) when playing these notes. Here's the melody:

If you have never heard this tune, my advice is to search the Internet for a recorded version of this song. You will find there are many versions of this song and many, many more verses. Here is one version that includes many of the different verses, useful if you get tired of singing the verse shown above. You should try singing this song aloud as you play so you can become use to singing and playing at the same time.


Hope this helps.



Views: 12221

Replies to This Discussion

Also works well played against Ian Drury's "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll."


The Essential Pages

New to Cigar Box Nation?How to Play Cigar Box GuitarsFree Plans & How to Build Cigar Box GuitarsCigar Box Guitar Building BasicsCigar Box Guitar Parts Store

Site Sponsor

Recommended Links & Resources

Discussion Forum

not technicaly a banjo, but banjo-ish

Started by Iain T.S.. Last reply by turtlehead Aug 23, 2016. 1 Reply

Laser cut bridges cbgitty

Started by egyptpunk Aug 4, 2016. 0 Replies

Large book with banjo plans

Started by Wade. Last reply by Jim Morris Mar 12, 2016. 4 Replies

Tin can banjo: Neck-thru options?

Started by Noam Berg. Last reply by Rand Moore Apr 4, 2014. 3 Replies

Building Round Sound Boxes for Banjos

Started by Rand Moore. Last reply by Rand Moore Nov 6, 2013. 5 Replies

Some specifically general questions

Started by Matt Quinney. Last reply by Rand Moore Oct 11, 2013. 33 Replies

4 string banjo strings

Started by Mr. Toad Oct 1, 2013. 0 Replies

4 string or 5 string banjo for blues?

Started by JIm Trussler. Last reply by Gerald Readore Aug 22, 2012. 1 Reply

5-String Banjo Discussion Area

Started by Rand Moore. Last reply by Ryan Rose Feb 4, 2012. 10 Replies

a free banjo album, sort of

Started by Matthew Borczon. Last reply by Matthew Borczon Jan 15, 2012. 2 Replies

Banjo Blues Tab

Started by Gary Davis. Last reply by Matthew Borczon Jan 12, 2012. 5 Replies

CB Banjuke Project

Started by John Hopper. Last reply by Rand Moore Dec 1, 2011. 1 Reply

Banjo Ukulele

Started by John Hopper. Last reply by Rand Moore Nov 27, 2011. 4 Replies

Need help identifying a banjo

Started by DonnieC. Last reply by Mark Bliss Sep 28, 2011. 1 Reply

General Questions

Started by Kyle. Last reply by Mark Bliss Sep 4, 2011. 3 Replies

Hybrid resonator banjo with slide

Started by Mark Bliss. Last reply by Rand Moore Aug 30, 2011. 4 Replies

Learning Simple Songs on the Banjo

Started by Rand Moore. Last reply by Chuck Dubman Jul 29, 2011. 1 Reply

Blog Posts


Posted by smilingdog1 on February 19, 2017 at 12:00pm 0 Comments

Craft CBG Amp from Soviet radio

Posted by Pavel Aleinik on February 16, 2017 at 1:30am 1 Comment

neck fretted and how not to do it!

Posted by Timothy Hunter on February 14, 2017 at 8:23am 5 Comments


Posted by Doug Dickerson on February 11, 2017 at 12:20am 1 Comment

Latest Activity

Ron "Oily" Sprague commented on Dave Lynas's photo

Decca Next

"You need to call it Mr. Bill..."
55 minutes ago
gary sheldon liked Peter Solomon's discussion Setting up a CBG workshop
3 hours ago
Peter Solomon added a discussion to the group Building a Cigar Box Guitar 101

Setting up a CBG workshop

I am excited to get started building my first Cigar Box Guitar.  I have wood working experience and…See More
4 hours ago
Darryl Tuttle liked Derek Rose's video
5 hours ago
Angry Rooster Guitars posted photos
7 hours ago
Shawn posted photos
10 hours ago
Jim Brown posted a photo

Boneshaker closeup

Cool box, great sounding guitar.
10 hours ago
wes carl commented on Uncle John's photo

Beater Re-build

"redo is sometimes the do ya should have done done to begin with - that works "
12 hours ago
Dave Lynas liked BRUCE HALBOHM's photo
12 hours ago
Dave Lynas posted a photo

Decca Next

I beheaded a Decca to make an amp. I figure the big old body will sound good with a Tone Monster 2…
12 hours ago
Maddog liked Chris Lyons's photo
13 hours ago
Maddog commented on Jim Morris's photo

Burlap Banjo Re-done

"Looks great!"
13 hours ago



© 2017   Created by Ben "C. B. Gitty" Baker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service