Banjo/bluegrass arpeggios


I've looked into some bluegrass (mostly listening to old tunes). Some time ago I saw an example of how to play bluegrass. It was bassically just arpeggiated chords. It was written for piano but I thought I could apply this on the banjo. The thing is: I've never really heard a banjo player just playing arpeggios or maybe they play triad chord arpeggios but very fast. What do you say about this?
Where can I learn more about bluegrass arpeggios?

It's an interesting question.  You're correct in that bluegrass-style banjo can be thought of as playing continuous arpeggios, though your average banjo player wouldn't be giving the question that much thought, since there's really no option to not play in an "arpeggiated" style, and still be bluegrass.

For sources, you could look into the instructional materials from a player named Tony Trischka (numerous books, and online at  There's a good discussion of this topic on the Banjo Hangout forum, here.  I hope this is some help.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Patrick Dunn


I can answer most general questions on bluegrass banjo (3-finger, or "Scruggs" style; basics of playing, major figures associated with the style (mostly older, or "traditional" practitioners, not so much the contemporary players). I can deal with basic music theory as applied to the 5-string banjo, plus tunings, techniques, and associated styles (melodic, single-string). I've never been an instructor, but I've taken enough lessons and collected enough instructional material that I'm sure I could help out beginning students. I'm good with tablature, less used to classical notation; I've attained a pretty broad knowledge of bluegrass in general - the songs, players, and history, but I don't have such a refined ear that I could differentiate one person's playing style from another just by listening, like some can. I can also answer questions regarding "jamming" procedure and etiquette, since that's what I've tried to focus on lately in my own playing. I don't regard myself as any kind of expert on banjo construction or banjo makers. I also do not perform on stage, so I have little knowledge of the procedures of equipment related to that area.


I've played 5-string banjo, on and off, since around 1978, though with greater intensity the past several years. I've had many private lessons, have attended numerous workshops and bluegrass festivals, and have done quite a lot of self-teaching with the aid of many books, videos, and cd materials collected over time.

Northern Nevada Bluegrass Association, California Bluegrass Association

Library Journal, NNBA Newsletter, Desert Survivors newsletter (The Survivor)

BA - English - Washington State University MLS - Library Science - Columbia University

©2016 All rights reserved.