The banjo is a lively and distinctly American instrument with a history that reaches back to Africa. Though it might seem like a complex instrument to master, there are many easy banjo songs that even beginners can learn.
Whether you’re interested in traditional folk tunes or more modern hits, there are easy banjo songs out there for you. So, why not give it a try?
“Buffalo Gals” is a traditional American folk song credited to John Hodges, who wrote it in 1844. The phrase “Buffalo Gals” is thought to allude to female dancers who worked in Buffalo, New York’s taverns and brothels.
After its release, the song became a smash and was featured in popular films such as “Texas,” “Dixie,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The song sounds best when played on a five-string banjo, with the melody picked out with a clawhammer technique. Buffalo Girls consists of multiple repeated sections on G and D major chords, making it a perfect song for beginners.
Old Crow Medicine Show is one of the most popular bands among banjo players, and “The Wagon Wheel” is one of their most iconic songs. The song has a catchy melody and a driving beat that make it a fun song to play on the banjo and a great one to record if you want to make a video of yourself playing it. “The Wagon Wheel” is also an excellent opportunity for you to work on your slide. The song is in the key of A major and is played in a steady 2/4-time signature. The riff comprises four primary banjo chords in the patterns A, E, F# minor, and D.
“Ground Speed” is a masterpiece by Earl Scruggs, one of the most famous banjo players. The melody is easy to learn and will have you playing up and down the neck with diad chord shapes. The song was featured on the 1961 “Foggy Mountain Banjo” album.
You can play “Ground Speed” with a five-string banjo because of its additional fifth drone string and loud twangy tone. If you are having difficulties, you can use the track’s easy banjo songs tabs.
You Are My Sunshine
“You Are My Sunshine” is one of the most popular folk songs you can play. Since Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell popularized it in 1939, countless singers have released their renditions! And, we aren’t surprised – it has a joyful tune.
Brown Eyed Girl
“Brown Eyed Girl was released in 1967 and quickly became a smash, reaching number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and staying there for 16 weeks! Morrison’s prior love and idyllic countryside settings are referenced in the song’s very sentimental lyrics. Depending on the tone and style you wish to perform, you may play the song on any banjo. You can use a four-string guitar to play the Gmajor, Cmajor, and D7 chords that play the riff if you wish to sing along.
She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain
“She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain” is an old, traditional folk song based on the melody of a Christian spiritual song titled “When the Chariot Comes.” The basic version is played using G, C, and D. More experienced folks use the 7th of the D chord in the chorus to add flavor to the melody.
Henry Whitter recorded the first version of “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain” in 1924. Interestingly, Whitter used his guitar to strum along with strong rhythm passages while another musician played the melody portions on a fiddle.
Ring of Fire
One of Cash’s biggest singles, “Ring of Fire,” was released on the album “Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash.” The song is as well-known as any other great musical work from the 1960s. The Animals, Olivia Newton-John, and Ray Charles have recorded renditions and covers of this song.
There are many ways you can play the song. However, you should concentrate on split strumming because it will strengthen your basic clawhammer technique.
Blowing in the Wind
Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” was released in 1963 and focused on war, peace, and humanity. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994 and ranked 14th on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Dylan initially recorded the song in the key of G, so jamming along with the piece should be simple.
“Cripple Creek” is a traditional bluegrass tune that Earl Scruggs popularized. It’s a fun, upbeat tune that is perfect for banjo players of all levels. This arrangement by The Earl Scruggs Revue is a great way to learn this classic tune.
“Cripple Creek” may appear fast-paced and complicated to a beginner banjo player, but once you’ve mastered “Scruggs Style,” it becomes much easier to master. All verses are repeats of the chords A, D, and E.
Man of Constant Sorrow
Few songs are more iconic for fans of the banjo than “Man of Constant Sorrow” by Ralph Stanley. Many artists have covered the song, but Stanley’s original is still the best. The simple yet catchy melody is perfect for the banjo, and it’s easy to see why this song has become a classic. “Man of Constant Sorrow” may appear overly complicated for a beginner banjoist. However, it will be much easier to get the notes right once your ears have been accustomed to the distinct sound of each string.
“Country Roads” was written by Taffy Nivert, John Denver, and Bill Danoff. It became a global success and one of John Denver’s hallmark songs. It’s still a popular song today, and everyone enjoys singing along with the chorus, making It the perfect tune to learn. Learning to play the chorus melody can help you improve your banjo abilities since it enables you to correlate what your fingers are doing with what your ears are hearing.
The song “Amazing Grace” was created to accompany a sermon delivered on New Year’s Day in 1773. According to some estimates, the cherished spiritual is performed around 10 million times each year, making it one of the most well-known hymns in the world. Learning to play the bluegrass version of the hymn on your banjo can help develop your soloing abilities. Plus, chord soloing on the banjo is an efficient approach to playing slower bluegrass songs. You play the melody on the first string while also playing chords on the second and third strings that correspond to the song’s chord progression.
I’ll Fly Away
“I’ll Fly Away” is one of the most popular gospel songs of all time, and it’s frequently played in worship services by different Christian denominations. The chords in the song are simple, and the melody is, to put it mildly, contagious. The video provides easy banjo tabs that you can follow as you practice at home.
Hush Little Baby
“Hush Little Baby” is a famous children’s song and nursery rhyme. The chord sequence in this lullaby is predictable, making it convenient and straightforward to play using standard strumming techniques. Once you’ve honed your banjo skills, you may step it up a notch by performing a split strum to add a more lovely harmony to the tune.
The origins of the well-known folk song “Cotton-Eyed Joe” remain a mystery. The great news is that you only need two fingers! The song is quite simple to play slowly. It is also a fantastic way to practice building up your playing speed because there is a lot of fret switching.
For new banjoists, this can be intimidating, but if you have the patience to learn the fundamentals, the song is simple to learn and fun to play.
Johnny B. Goode
“Johnny B. Goode” is a classic rock and roll masterpiece that many audiophiles have on their playlists. The song was initially written and performed by the rock & roll classic legend Chuck Berry. The track was produced by the founders of Chicago’s renowned Chess Records, Leonard and Phil Chess, and it was a massive hit with both white and black listeners.
The song’s note-for-note solo at the opening makes it excellent for banjo players. There are a few additional solos in the tune that you can use in other beginner banjo songs.
“Salt Creek” is a traditional bluegrass song you’ll hear anywhere there is a group of pickers. It is a favorite for guitar, mandolin, and banjo players alike because of its 1 to a dom 7 sound. Plus, playing this tune is simple, and once you get the feel of it, you’ll find that it lends itself to a lot of fun and unique improvisational ideas.
“American Pie” is a folk-rock song from 1971. It first appeared on Don McLean’s second album with the same name. It features one of the most popular guitar riffs for a folk-rock tune and a lot of symbolism in the lyrics.
The Ballad of Jed Clampett
The Beverly Hillbillies TV show and movie’s theme song, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” is another favorite for banjoists worldwide. Although the song was composed by American producer and screenwriter Paul Henning, the version that made it to the show’s premiere was performed by Earl Scruggs.
Hot Corn, Cold Corn
Asa Martin of Estill County is credited with writing “Hot Corn, Cold Corn,” but it was popularized by the famed bluegrass combo, Flatt & Scruggs. The song’s simplistic song structure and simple chords make it extremely beginner-friendly and easy to learn!
Easy Banjo Songs: Which One Is Your Favorite?
It’s not simple to choose the perfect songs to master the fundamentals of banjo playing. We hope that this selection of easy banjo songs has given you enough material to kickstart your banjo adventure.