How to Play a Tenor Banjo

By Contributor ; Updated September 15, 2017

How to Play a Tenor Banjo. To play a tenor banjo requires a lot of practice and dedication. The tenor banjo is a lovely instrument traditionally used for Irish music. New Orleans jazz also frequently features the tenor banjo. It has a short neck and four strings and is always strummed with a pick. A resonator is often used to help amplify the tenor banjo's sound.

Learn to tune the tenor banjo and tune it every time you play. A tuning fork or electronic tuner can be helpful in maintaining proper pitch.

Sit comfortably with the tenor banjo in your lap. Use a pick that fits comfortably between the thumb and forefinger. Try out different grades of picks before you purchase. Direct the pointy end of the pick toward the banjo.

Learn banjo chords. These are the building blocks of any song. Visit Banjolin's homepage for a good basic knowledge of traditional banjo chords (see Resources below).

Practice the chords and strumming daily until you develop a callus on your fingers from holding down the strings.

Hum the song you want to play. Strum the banjo changing chords to the right notes. Use the melody of the song as a guide. Play and strum specific chords until you match the melody to the song.

Attend a local gathering of other banjo players. Listen to banjo music often. Become acquainted with popular and traditional banjo songs to learn. Add these to the repertoire of banjo songs you want to eventually play.


Practice notes and chords for the tenor banjo at least 3 times per week, for approximately 30 minutes each session.

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