Online learning resources, be it courses, videos, written content, one-on-one coaching, apps, et cetera, provide fantastic opportunities to learn (and teach) how to play the banjo and understand music more generally. Though nothing truly beats dedicated in-person banjo lessons, there are plenty of excellent alternatives online.
Note that by “resources,” I'm not only referring to video tutoring and full-length courses (though these are arguably the best options). I'm also considering masterclasses, applications, videos and articles, and other online resources for learning how to play the banjo.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I’ve done my best to list out these resources based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Reputation of the banjo learning resource
- Quality of education in technique, theory, and learning real songs
- Organization and depth of learning
- Adaptability of teaching to individual students (one-on-one lessons are best here)
- The resource must be currently available
With all that being said, let’s list out the learning resources.
The top 11 best online resources to learn how to play the banjo are:
- Online Academy Of Irish Music
- Peghead Nation
- Banjo Ben Clark
- Banjo Compass
- The Banjo Mountain
- Banjo Teacher
- Bradley Laird
In this article, we'll go through each of the above-mentioned resources to get a stronger idea of what makes them great for learning the banjo. Whether you're a complete beginner or a successful professional, there is always something to learn! I'll include links to check out each of the options for yourself to learn more about banjos. We'll also consider a few “honourable mentions” worth considering.
ArtistWorks is a popular online resource to learn numerous different instruments from the comfort of your own home from professional teachers and grammy-nominated musicians.
The courses include video lessons and worksheets that you can do on your own schedule. What makes ArtistWorks stand out from its competitors is that it features its very own teaching method called Video Exchange Learning. This is unlike other methods of teaching. This Video Exchange Learning gives students the opportunity to take videos of themselves playing or questions they have and submit them directly to their teacher. They will then get a personalized response with feedback and tips. This interaction is then uploaded to the Video Exchange Library, where students all around the world can view and learn from that exchange.
TrueFire is one of the best online resources to learn guitar for all-level players. There are over 51,770 lessons taught by some of the top teachers and Grammy award-winning musicians.
Each course features interactive on-demand video learning with the option to slo-mo the lessons or put them on a loop so you can take your time to master each section. TrueFire also features progression tracking so you can set goals, popular song lessons and tools such as a tuner and metronome.
Online Academy Of Irish Music
Online Academy of Irish Music (OAIM) is an online resource for students to learn how to play 14 different instruments by renowned Irish music teachers.
There are over 50 courses to choose from, with four of those being comprehensive courses on tenor banjo. These courses go over the techniques and foundations of learning the banjo while following the traditional way of learning Irish music.
All the courses come with mp3 files and sheet music. You can play along with backtracks that have adjustable speeds, making it easy to work your way up to playing a song at your own pace. In addition, OAIM features pub and global sessions where you can share your Irish tunes with other fellow musicians worldwide.
Peghead Nation is the ultimate String School to learn various stringed instruments, including the banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, etc. They also offer live workshops, instrument and gear demos and performance videos from their expert instructors.
The banjo courses range from beginner to advanced, so whether you are just starting out or looking to improve existing skills and find your own musical style, there is something for you! They focus primarily on roots and bluegrass music while still going over all the necessary technical skills needed to play any song and genre.
Each course is on a monthly subscription with the option to access every string instrument course they offer at a small added fee. All the courses are taught through streaming video courses, allowing you to go at your own pace and schedule. They also come with downloadable tablature, notatin, play-along tracks and mp3 audio.
Banjo Ben Clark
Banjo Ben Clark offers online learning for banjo, mandolin and guitar by Banjo Ben and Paige Garwood. They have a great passion for teaching and sharing their love of music.
There are over 400+ detailed video lessons, with new ones being added each week. The courses range from beginner to advanced. If you can't find a course that teaches what you are looking for, you can even send Banjo Ben a request, and he will try to create a lesson on it to share with you and your fellow Gold Pick members.
When you become a Gold Pick member at Banjo Ben Clark, you will get access to all three instrument lessons rather than just one. You can take the courses anytime and anywhere and get personal progress tracking to review previous lessons, rejoin where you left off and track your goals. In addition, they have an interactive forum community where you can ask questions and upload videos to learn and get feedback from other members. Plus, Banjo Ben hosts live streaming sessions featuring special guests for its members to join, learn and get updates in real-time.
The Banjo Compass is an excellent online resource dedicated to teaching people to play the banjo via free and premium paid courses. This is great for musicians looking to learn the basic concepts of the banjo at no cost. People who want to have longer lessons or learn more advanced techniques can opt for the premium lessons.
The lessons are taught using video and audio and focus on basic foundation and techniques, rhythm and backup, song lessons, improvisation and clawhammer. Some of the premium packages also include DVDs and CDs for students to play along with.
The Banjo Mountain
Banjo Mountain is an online banjo school that teaches students step-by-step how to play the banjo, focusing on two main styles, bluegrass and clawhammer. This is great for musicians who want to learn the foundations and techniques in these musical genres.
The courses are taught by multi-camera angle video lessons, tablature and measure markers to provide the ultimate learning experience. There are over 200+ lessons available for beginners, intermediate and advanced students where you can track your progress along the way. Not to mention, when you subscribe to Banjo Mountain, you will get unlimited access to all lessons on-demand.
The Banjo Teacher is your own stop shop for everything banjo. Not only do they offer online lessons, but they also sell banjos, supplies, parts and pretty much anything else you want related to banjos.
Members will get unlimited access to online video lessons and e-books by professional banjo player and long-time teacher Ross Nickerson. There are various courses available that range from beginner to expert and cover everything from basic techniques to learning to play banjo by ear, playing in the key of C, D, E, F and G, how to use a metronome and timing exercise and much more.
Bradley Laird's has been teaching banjo since 1982. He launched his website to offer free 5-string banjo lessons that are the same series he used for private classes.
The lessons teach you how to play a 5-string banjo, starting from the very beginning. On the resource, Bradley provides video banjo lessons, bluegrass lessons, chord charts, e-books, and a podcast for students to help them learn and master the banjo.
Bradley gives you everything you need to learn the 5-string banjo anytime and anywhere. In addition, he also has a separate free online resource to learn Clawhammer banjo and a few other stringed instruments.
TakeLessons is an online resource used to help connect students and teachers for either online lessons or local in-person lessons.
This is beneficial for both the students and teachers. On TakeLessons, students can explore different teachers' bios, pricing, availability and reviews to find the perfect teacher for them. Meanwhile, teachers have a credible resource that brings students to them without paying for advertisements or other measures to attract potential students. So whether you are a student wanting online lessons or a teacher looking to find more students, TakeLessons has options for you!
Udemy is one of the largest online learning platforms for various different subjects. You can find everything ranging from graphic design, business, gardening, playing instruments, coding and much more. The courses are either free or paid and feature a preview video of the course, a description of what you will learn and who the course is for and you will also be able to see ratings on the course from other students so you can find the course that's perfect for you.
Once you purchase a course, you will get unlimited lifetime access to you as well as most come with a “certification of completion” document. There are numerous different courses ranging from beginner to advanced and various styles. Some notable beginner banjo courses on Udemy are: Beginner 5 String Banjo – Learn Banjo From Scratch and Old-Time Banjo for the Absolute Beginner.