Oldtime banjo players are probably the luckiest of the lot in finding learning materials online. I have no good explanation for why, but there’s a bunch of good stuff out there from technique to tunes and everything in between, much of it completely free. Here’s a selection of what’s available in no particular order.
1Hilarie Burhans YouTube Channel
Hilarie Burhans is a superb clawhammer banjo player from Athens, Ohio. She’s also a great chef and a wonderful, helpful person. But to top it off, she can teach too. Her channel has TONS of great lesson videos for oldtime tunes. If you’re looking to learn a tune and want a good version and a good teacher, look no further. Free!
No list of banjo resources could possibly be complete without Banjo Hangout. For whatever reason, banjo players love to talk all things banjo and this forum has benefited from that inclination for almost 20 years now. The site boasts discussion forums, mp3, tabs galore, videos, and a marketplace. If you have a question about the banjo, it’s probably answered somewhere here!
3Clawhammer Banjo by Josh Turknett
Online video course for banjo by Josh Turknett. Turknett is a great clawhammer player and neurologist who has created his own method for teaching effectively called the Brainjo Method. Monthly subscription.
Josh also has a super set of eight introductory videos on YouTube which really lay out the fundamentals of clawhammer technique in a clear, comprehensive fashion. Free!
4Deering Banjo YouTube Videos
Deering is a prominent banjo company based in California and especially well known in the oldtime scene for their Goodtime series of banjos, which are super common for people starting out. They also have a good online presence with a few, very high quality videos on clawhammer, five-string banjo. Great place to start. Free!
5String Bandoleros String Band Class
Recordings and tablature of oldtime banjo from the Seattle-based class of Greg Canote, Jere Canote, and Candy Goldman. These are wonderful players and great teachers. Around 350 tunes. Free!
6Banjo Blitz YouTube Channel
Tom Collins is yet another awesome clawhammer banjo player who is putting out great teaching videos on YouTube. Tom’s approach is pretty unique in that his Banjo Blitz videos focus primarily on fundamental techniques and patterns, as well as how to practice them effectively. Many players want to jump right into tunes, which is great. But working on technique is often what separates the good players from the great ones. Free!
7Play Better Banjo with Ryan Spearman
If you want a full course in clawhammer banjo with lessons, tablature, play-along tracks, FAQs, etc. then Ryan Spearman’s online course is one place to check out. A set of free lessons is available. Various subscription options.
8Banjo Lemonade Channel on YouTube
Mandy Tyner is a passionate player and teacher of oldtime clawhammer banjo. Her YouTube channel has great intro videos, tune lessons, and more. (She’s also written a book on clawhammer banjo and gives lessons.) Free!
A full online website devoted to all styles of 5-string banjo.
10Evie Ladin and Bruce Molsky on Peghead Nation
Peghead Nation’s String School has not one, but two courses dedicated to clawhammer banjo. Evie Ladin’s Clawhammer Banjo course covers everything from the very basics to tunes and beyond. Evie’s a wonderful player and teacher. If you want a solid foundation in clawhammer banjo, as well as tablature and play-along tracks, then it’s hard to imagine a better course than this. Monthly subscription.
And then Bruce Molsky has a separate short course that focused on Wade Ward’s banjo style. Molsky covers 11 tunes in Ward’s clawhammer style, all taught in his usual masterful, clear way.
Bruce Molsky on Peghead Nation
11Don Borchelt’s website and YouTube page
This is THE place to go for three-finger style oldtime banjo. While less common today than clawhammer style, three-finger style is and was a great form of oldtime banjo, played by Charlie Poole, Smith Hammett, Mack Woolbright and Rex Brooks to name just a few. And Don’s got everything you need to learn more about it. Articles, hundreds of transcriptions in PDF, MIDI and TablEdit formats, videos, links and more.
12African Banjo Echoes In Appalachia (1995)
Professor Cecelia Conway’s book is on the short list of must-read books detailing the history of the banjo in the United States. The banjo has had a long and fascinating path of development that reveals a great deal about the history of the United States, about race and commerce, and about the politics of culture. Conway’s book provides breadth and depth on these issues and others.
13Banjo Roots and Branches (2018)
This new book edited by Robert Winans goes into great depth investigating the scholarship on the roots of the banjo in West Africa, its development in the Carribbean, its first documented uses in the United States, and more. The ten scholars and 17 essays presented here provide an unparalleled picture of the banjo’s path to the present day.
14Cliffton Hick’s YouTube channel
Cliffton Hick’s is another great banjo player who also has dived deep into banjo construction and history. His YouTube channel is constantly updates with new video lessons, Q&As, reviews, and more. If you’re interested in more than just how to play the instrument, but all the other aspects as well, then you should subscribe to his channel.
15Cathy Fink on True Fire
If I have to explain who Cathy Fink is, then you’re either new to this or on the wrong site. This wonderful woman, player, teacher, and promoter of the music has a set of video lessons on clawhammer banjo. The course provides everything you’d need to get started, and uniquely offers the opportunity to have a private lesson with Cathy too. Pretty cool!