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Introducing 5-String Banjo

A Group Course for Beginners

Next course starts 2 May 2019.

‘When you want genuine music – music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey, go right through you like Brandreth’s pills, ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pinfeather pimples on a picked goose – when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo.’
– Mark Twain

‘I can’t speak too highly of Waltons New School of Music and of Paddy Kiernan’s tuition for the banjo. I love what I am learning and go away from each lesson more motivated to learn.’
– M. O’Keeffe

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Course Description

Introducing 5-String BanjoThe distinctive sound of the 5-string banjo was first pioneered by the legendary Earl Scruggs, and the instrument remains very popular to this day across many musical styles. Designed for absolute beginners and taught by Paddy Kiernan, one of the finest banjo players and teachers in Ireland, Waltons New School of Music’s Introducing 5-String Banjo course provides an extensive introduction to this great instrument, including:

  • The basics – holding and playing the instrument, learning to pick the right way.
  • Right-hand technique – positioning, ‘roll’ patterns and exercises.
  • Left-hand technique – slides, slurs, hammer-ons and pull-offs, all of which give the 5-string banjo its distinctive sound.
  • Commonly used chord shapes up and down the neck of the banjo.
  • Instrumentals – students will learn some well known banjo tunes.
  • Songs – students will learn arrangements of well-known songs from both sides of the Atlantic, and will be shown how to develop their own arrangements.
  • Techniques and licks from the great banjo players.
  • Listening to recordings of 5-string banjo in various musical contexts.

Course participants will need 5-string or ‘G’ banjos to bring to class and practice at home.

This course covers Stage 1 of the New School’s ten-stage system of student progress and assessment, which culminates in a teaching or performing qualification (Stage 10) should the student progress that far. Participants who successfully complete the course can be issued with a certificate of completion of Stage 1. If you are taking the course, please let the school office know if you would like this certificate. See About Our Stage System for more information.

Have you enrolled in this course?
Download our Introductory Handout
for tips on how to get the most from it.

Introducing 5-String Banjo is one of the New School’s group courses. We also offer private 5-String (Bluegrass) Banjo and 4-String (Irish) Banjo lessons for students of all ages and skill levels. See Traditional • Folk • World Instruments Tuition for more information.

Techniques Covered

A video demonstration of some techniques covered in the course:

Patrick Kiernan

Patrick KiernanPaddy’s interest in the banjo developed out of his love of Irish traditional music, but later grew to encompass bluegrass, folk, jazz and world music. He was the first 5-string banjo player to undertake the MA program in Irish Traditional Music Performance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, where he also studied Irish traditional guitar and song. In addition, he has studied with renowned banjo players Tony Trischka and Noam Pikelny. And he was the lead participant in a 2012 masterclass at the New School taught by Béla Fleck, the world’s preeminent banjo player, for the Waltons World Masters Series. Paddy plays and records with a number of bluegrass, folk and Irish traditional acts in Ireland and the UK, including the progressive folk band Pine Marten, Persian/Irish crossover band Navá, roots/bluegrass band Lands End and the Niall Toner Band. His banjo playing has also been featured in the dance world, in works by Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre and Ballet Ireland. He has taught at the New School since 2011.


‘Paddy is an excellent teacher. He explains the lessons clearly and is very friendly.’
– D. Barrett

‘The teacher is knowledgeable, friendly and above all patient.’
– G. Fay

‘I am only sorry that I did not find out about the course sooner at age 61. Better late than never. Paddy is a fantastic teacher, and the course so far is a blast!’
– A. Fry

‘Paddy made every lesson an interesting one. He is a superb teacher.’
– K. Groake

‘Everyone should take Intro Banjo. It’s my new favourite thing to do, and it’s really fun to learn at the same time.’
– T. Hashmi

‘Introduction to Banjo was an excellent starter course. Our tutor Paddy was very patient and paced the lessons very well.’
– I. Keane

‘Very relaxed, friendly approach. Paddy encourages everyone to ask questions and is great at demonstrating.”
– P. Whyte

Have you taken – or are you taking – this course? We would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to give us your feedback in a brief online questionnaire about it.


2018-2019 Third Term Course Schedule & Fee

9 weeks, 2 May – 27 June 2019
Thursdays 6.30 – 7.30 pm

Tuition Fee: €180


Enrolment for this course requires a completed Enrolment Form and full payment of the course fee. Places are limited to eight, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the date of enrolment. A number of our group courses fill in advance of their start dates, and early enrolment is recommended.


Purchasing this course as a gift?
Please complete a Gift Certificate Booking Form.


Questions about the course?


What happens after the course?

Two weeks before the end of each Introducing course, participating students will be given options for continuing their tuition at the school if they’d like to do so. Although a continuation ‘Improvers’ course cannot generally be scheduled on the same day/time as the Introducing course, one can be arranged if enough students would like to continue and the teacher has timetable availability. Students can also continue their tuition with private (one-to-one) lessons or ‘partner’ lessons with another class member (see Tuition Options – Private • Partner • Small Group Lessons). We are happy to discuss these options with you.

5-String Banjo on YouTube

Introducing 5-String Banjo
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