Is Banjo hard to play?
There are 4 string banjos (tenor), 5 string banjos (bluegrass), and six string banjos (banjo-guitars). Each one requires a different technique and approach. A four string is played with a pick and you can play melodies quickly and learn to strum simple chords. A Five string is played using fingers and requires a bit more effort to play melodies and songs as there are finger patterns to adopt and incorporate into your playing. The six string banjo, is played like a guitar and can be either played with a pick or with your fingers. All of the banjos will require you to practice daily and to establish a good practice routine in order to master the instrument.
Do I need to wear the metal finger picks when I am playing?
No. The finger picks are just an extension of your fingers. Essentially,when you are beginning, they will feel like a prosthetic and may make you want to give up. You can learn to play with your fingers and add them at a later date, or you could just grow the nails on your hand.
Do banjo players read music notation?
Not normally. While you can certainly read music and play it on a banjo, there are a number of inherent problems. A 5 string banjo can offer you many different ways to play the same notes and standard notation may not be beneficial in explaining the alternatives. Most banjo players read tablature as the notes you need to play are more clearly spelled out. This is probably the only instrument where reading tablature is the better option. 4 String banjo players definitely read music as do the 6 string players.
I do not own a banjo. Where could I get one to play?
There are many places to get a banjo, but if you know nothing about banjos, talk to a professional before buying something used. There are a lot of junky banjos floating around and if you buy it privately, no matter how low the price, you are stuck with it. If buying from a store, make sure there is a return policy, and if renting, make sure the instrument is guaranteed to play properly.
The banjo is very loud and everyone in my house is complaining.
There are a lot of banjo mutes you can use, or you could stuff the inside of the banjo with rags or towels. If your banjo has a resonator, taking the back off will cut the sound down by half.
There are not many institutions that certify banjo teachers, how do I decide who would be the best teacher?
The best teacher is someone who knows where you are going and knows well the path to get you there. I once interviewed a person applying for a music teacher position and when he was asked about his knowledge of theory, he replied that he didn’t need to know that gobbly-gook in order to play the banjo. Definitely, not teacher material. A true teacher researches and finds out everything there is to know about music and where it fits and then decides what items you need to know as you progress. Dismissing entire areas of musical study only leads to dead ends. Earl Scruggs, Bill Keith, Bela Fleck, Tony Trishka, and on and on, know their theory. They can read music, and they practice, practice practice. So in choosing a good teacher, look for knowledge, experience, references and ask them a lot of questions about what you will be studying and why.