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Applying IFR to the banjo


I play the five string banjo with open G tuning. Yesterday I bought the IFR method book and I see that guitar and bass players use a special version of Exercise 1. Is there a special version of Exercise 1 for banjo?

Thanks very much for your help.


David's response:

Hi Leanne,

I can show you exactly how to apply the method to the banjo. IFR applies to every instrument regardless of how the notes are laid out on your instrument. Where we handle this translation is in IFR Exercise 1: Landscape. This is the level at which you learn to visualize the musical landscape on your instrument and move across it. So all you need is a modified version of IFR Exercise 1 that corresponds to the way the notes are laid out on the banjo.

To get an idea of how this will work, here is a sample lesson that you can check out from the IFR Video Course for Guitar. This lesson is designed for the guitar in standard tuning (EADGBE), but it will give you the basic idea of how the exercise works:

(Click here for the IFR Cloud Exercise for Guitar)

To apply this exercise to your banjo, you just need to understand the shape of the "cloud" on your instrument. Here is a sketch that shows how the cloud drawing would look on your banjo with the open G tuning:

IFR Cloud exercise for banjo with open G tuning

The curious thing about the tuning of the banjo is that the strings do not go in order. The first four strings come down in pitch in a way that's not very different from the guitar. But then you have the fifth string which suddenly jumps up two octaves to a super high G. For this reason, any map that we might draw of the available notes in a particular region will also contain this curious feature.

But this is how your instrument is tuned, so I would just encourage you to enjoy this odd little feature and practice the Cloud exercise until the order of the notes feels second nature to you. As soon as you get accustomed to visualizing this shape as your overall musical terrain, then from this point on you'll be able to practice the entire IFR method exactly like everybody else.

Thanks and happy jamming!