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Melodic Style Banjo Lesson: Learn to Play "Blackberry Blossom"


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. This method of banjo playing is commonly referred to as “melodic style.”


In this online banjo lesson, Punch Brothers co-founder, Grammy Award-winning banjoist, and ArtistWorks bluegrass banjo instructor, Noam Pikelny, teaches how to play the bluegrass classic, “Blackberry Blossom,” using modern, melodic style banjo techniques. In addition to outlining the tune, Noam provides instruction on critical techniques that will allow you to more gracefully shift between hand positions and easily craft beautiful, fluid melodies.


This lesson expands on topics covered in Noam’s “Introduction to Melodic Style Banjo” video. If you’re interested in diving into that lesson for additional context and instruction, click here.


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


“‘Blackberry Blossom’ is one of the first tunes that most banjo players learn in the melodic style,” Noam explains. “The version of ‘Blackberry Blossom’ that I teach is a unique arrangement that I put together. This arrangement is a little bit different than other melodic style versions of this tune that you may have heard. I specifically crafted it in a way that allows us to work on our quick shifts and improve our movement from one hand position to another.”


Learning “Blackberry Blossom” in the melodic style is the perfect springboard from which to launch yourself into this unique approach to banjo playing. From there, this tune also leads naturally into various other banjo techniques that will be critical to explore down the road, including single-string, up-the-neck closed single-string, and single-string triplets.


“In melodic style banjo playing, oftentimes we’re going to be constantly moving our fretting hand up and down the neck,” explains Noam. “At first, this might seem a little bit tricky. But, I promise, it will quickly become second nature as long as we break out of the 3-finger mentality that our fretting hand is glued in one spot at any given time.”


To learn more about melodic style banjo and how to play the bluegrass classic “Blackberry Blossom” using this approach, dive into this online banjo lesson from Noam Pikelny:


Learn to Play "Blackberry Blossom" with Noam Pikelny:




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!



Banjo Lesson: An Introduction to Melodic Style with Noam Pikelny

Bluegrass Banjo Lesson: Leapfrogging 6ths with Tony Trischka

Bluegrass Jamming Skills: Jam Protocol & Etiquette with Michael Daves




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