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Learning to play the banjo
The banjo is a uniquely American instrument, although its roots can be traced back to early African instruments which were made of gourds covered in animal hides, and strung with string. Originally considered to be a slave instrument, banjos began to gain popularity in the mid 1800’s. 

The banjo is such a unique instrument, capable of all types of musical expressions once you have mastered the mechanics of playing. Developing technical skill and musical prowess takes time, but the basics can be learned fairly quickly. Banjos traditionally are five stringed instruments, although only four of the strings are tuned. The fifth string is shorter than the rest and is used as a drone. A more popular type of banjo is the version which has only four strings. Learning to play is not difficult, but it does take time and patience in order to become proficient. Adults and kids alike can learn to play this instrument, and no previous musical knowledge is required. 

When setting out to purchase a banjo, there are a few things to consider. First, consider the size needed. If this instrument is for a child under 10, then a child sized banjo may be your best bet. Generally, everyone over 10 years of age will use the regular adult sized banjo. Also, banjos are available in both right and left hand models, so you may want to hold both and decide which is more comfortable for you. If price is a factor, remember that the value of the banjo is determined in part by its weight. Lower quality banjos, weighing less than six pounds, generally sell for $50 to $200. Higher quality banjos will weigh more and subsequently cost more as well. 

To begin, become familiar with your particular banjo. If you have the popular four stringed version, your four strings will represent the notes C, G, B and D with C being the thickest string and D being the thinnest. If you already have musical experience, you may find it easier to learn the banjo, but it is certainly not a requirement. A complete beginner with no musical experience at all can learn to play the banjo. 

Before starting to play, you will want to tune your banjo. There are numerous digital tuners available, either online or in music shops and they are all easy to use. Once your instrument is tuned, the first technique you should concentrate on is strumming. Some people find it easier to strum with their middle finger, some with their index finger. Take a few minutes to try both techniques and decide which is more comfortable for you. You’ll want to be able to strum the first four strings moderately fast, while being able to pluck the fifth string with your thumb. After mastering strumming, it’s time to begin to learn chords and master playing the instrument. 

By taking the time to correctly tune your banjo, and then devoting the time to practice on a regular basis, you can soon find yourself making quick progress. As you become more comfortable with the instrument, you will be able to advance to more complex techniques.

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