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Banjo Lesson: An Introduction to Melodic Style


In the context of more traditional bluegrass music, the most common style of banjo playing is the 3-finger technique pioneered by legendary banjoist, Earl Scruggs. When employing this technique, the banjo player will generally play slower-moving melody lines accompanied by 16th-note arpeggios outlining the song’s harmonic movement and structure. However, in more modern and progressive schools of bluegrass banjo playing, many banjoists will take a more streamlined approach and perform single-line melodies, much like a mandolinist, fiddler, or guitarist would.


In this online banjo lesson, Punch Brothers co-founder, Grammy Award-winning banjoist, and ArtistWorks bluegrass banjo instructor, Noam Pikelny, introduces us to this more melodic style of banjo playing. Rather than performing slower-moving melodies and outlining the tune’s supporting harmonies with 16th note arpeggios, Noam demonstrates and explains how to perform much more intricate, fast-moving 16th note melody lines.


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play bluegrass banjo from a master musician like Noam Pikelny? Try some free online banjo lessons now!


“Through this melodic style of playing, we’re able to perform sustained 16th note melodies,” Noam explains. “This style was pioneered by guys like Bill Keith and Bobby Thompson and was further progressed by masters like Tony Trischka, Béla Fleck, Scott Vestal, and more. This approach really allows us to create a unique, flowing sound.”


Melodic style banjo playing requires technical precision and efficiency. When you’re first learning this style, make sure to take things slow and approach learning these methods one step at a time. It may feel difficult or even frustrating at first, but with some practice, you’ll quickly be performing melody lines up and down the banjo neck.


“The moment Bill Keith started playing in this style with Bill Monroe and played ‘Devil’s Dream,’ there was a major shift in the tectonic plates of bluegrass music and the banjo world,” explains Noam. “This was probably the biggest leap forward on the instrument since Earl Scruggs really made his mark on the banjo.”


To learn more about melodic style banjo and how to incorporate these methods into your own playing, dive into this online banjo lesson from Noam Pikelny:


An Introduction to Melodic Style with Noam Pikelny:



This lesson from Noam is featured in our brand new Bluegrass Trio Bundle course. Taught by bluegrass icons Bryan Sutton, Noam Pikelny, and Sierra Hull, this Trio Bundle provides a series of video lessons teaching essential acoustic guitar, banjo, and mandolin methods to make you the ultimate picker. In addition to technical lessons on each instrument, students will learn several classic bluegrass tunes and have access to play-along backing tracks, tablature, and more. Even if you don't play all three instruments, this is your chance to learn critical musical concepts from multiple bluegrass icons that can be applied in any context.⁣ Click here to sign up and learn more.



Have you always wanted to learn how to play the banjo? Through our comprehensive banjo lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Noam Pikelny, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Noam’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner banjo to advanced performance techniques, classic bluegrass tunes, improvisation, and beyond. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as banjoists and musicians.


Sample some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



New Bundled Music Courses Now Available

Bluegrass Guitar Lesson: Alternate Picking Exercises with Chris Eldridge

Bluegrass Mandolin Lesson: An Introduction to Improvising with Sierra Hull




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