Banjo is an iconic instrument with a distinct twangy sound that has been a mainstay of American folk music for centuries. While the banjo can be a challenging instrument to learn, there are many easy banjo songs that are accessible even to beginners.
Just like every instrument, mastering the banjo is going to take a fair bit of time and practice, but learning some fun and easy banjo songs, not so much. In fact, many musicians consider the banjo an easier option than guitar, thanks to it having fewer strings to strum.
If you’re into folk or country music, you’re going to love this instrument for its authentic twang, although the banjo is more than capable of spicing up some rock and pop licks too.
1. Cripple Creek
“Cripple Creek” is a traditional American folk song that has been popularized by many artists over the years, but perhaps most famously by The Band. The song features an upbeat and catchy melody with a driving rhythm that is typically played on banjo or guitar. The lyrics tell the story of a man who travels to Cripple Creek, a mining town in Colorado, where he meets a girl and falls in love. “Cripple Creek” is a classic example of a folk song that has been passed down through generations and adapted over time, remaining a beloved part of American musical heritage.
2. American Pie
“American Pie” is a classic song by Don McLean that has become an iconic part of American pop culture. The song is a tribute to the 1950s and 1960s, and is widely interpreted as a commentary on the social and political changes that occurred during that time. With its catchy melody and evocative lyrics, “American Pie” has remained popular for decades and continues to be played on the radio and covered by artists to this day. The song’s timeless message of change and the passage of time has made it a beloved classic in American music history.
3. Blowing in the Wind
“Blowin’ in the Wind” is a classic folk song written by Bob Dylan in the 1960s. It features a simple, yet powerful melody and lyrics that ask a series of rhetorical questions about war, peace, and freedom. The song’s message of social and political change resonated deeply with audiences during the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War era, and it has since become a timeless anthem of protest and social justice. “Blowin’ in the Wind” has been covered by countless artists over the years, cementing its place as a beloved and enduring classic of American folk music.
4. Hush Little Baby
“Hush Little Baby” is a traditional lullaby that has been sung to children for generations. The song’s soothing melody and gentle lyrics are designed to calm and comfort infants and young children. The song follows a repetitive structure, with each verse promising a new gift or reward to the child if they remain quiet and peaceful. “Hush Little Baby” is a simple and comforting song that has been passed down through the years, with variations in lyrics and melody reflecting the diversity of different cultural traditions. It remains a beloved and cherished part of the world’s musical heritage.
5. Ring of Fire
“Ring of Fire” is a classic country song written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore and made famous by Johnny Cash. The song features an upbeat and catchy melody with a driving rhythm that is characterized by its distinctive mariachi-style horn section. The lyrics describe the intense emotions of falling in love, comparing the experience to a “burning” ring of fire that can’t be tamed. “Ring of Fire” is a timeless classic of country music, and its popularity has only grown since its release in 1963, with countless covers and references in popular culture cementing its place in music history.
6. She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain
“She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain” is a traditional American folk song that dates back to the 1800s. The song features a catchy melody and repetitive chorus that make it easy to sing along with. The lyrics tell the story of a woman who will be arriving soon, and they describe various activities that she and her companions will engage in when they arrive. “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain” has become a beloved classic of American folk music, with its upbeat rhythm and joyful lyrics making it a favorite for children and adults alike.
7. Ground Speed
“Ground Speed” is a classic bluegrass instrumental that was popularized by Bill Monroe and his band, the Bluegrass Boys. The song features a fast-paced and intricate melody with each instrument taking turns showcasing their virtuosic skills. The title of the song refers to the speed at which an airplane travels across the ground, and the song’s frenetic energy is reminiscent of the rush of taking flight. “Ground Speed” is a beloved classic of bluegrass music, showcasing the technical mastery of its performers and the genre’s commitment to preserving the traditions of American folk music.
8. Wagon Wheel
“Wagon Wheel” is a popular country-folk song that was originally written by Bob Dylan and later completed by Old Crow Medicine Show. The song features a catchy melody, upbeat rhythm, and simple, easy-to-remember lyrics that make it a favorite among audiences of all ages. With its sing-along chorus and references to Southern culture and landscapes, “Wagon Wheel” has become a staple of modern folk and bluegrass music, and has been covered by countless artists across various genres. It remains a beloved and timeless classic that continues to be played and enjoyed by music lovers all over the world.
9. Cotton Eyed Joe
“Cotton Eyed Joe” is a traditional American folk song that has been popularized by various artists over the years. The song features a lively and catchy melody with a driving beat that encourages people to dance. Its origins are unclear, but it is believed to have originated in the southern United States during the 1800s. The lyrics tell the story of a mysterious figure named Cotton Eyed Joe, and the dance that goes along with the song has become a beloved part of American cultural heritage. “Cotton Eyed Joe” remains a popular and enduring classic of American folk music.
10. Dirty Old Town
“Dirty Old Town” is a popular folk song that was written by Ewan MacColl in 1949. The song’s lyrics describe the gritty and industrial landscape of a post-war British town, and its simple yet haunting melody has made it a beloved and enduring classic in the world of folk music. With its imagery of urban decay, longing for a better life, and sense of nostalgia for a simpler past, “Dirty Old Town” has become a timeless anthem of working-class struggle and hope. The song has been covered by many artists over the years, and its message of resilience and determination remains as relevant today as ever.
11. Buffalo Gals
“Buffalo Gals” is a traditional American folk song that originated in the mid-1800s. The song was popularized in the 1840s by John “Cool White” Hodges, a minstrel performer, and it features a catchy melody and lively rhythm. The lyrics describe the lifestyle and activities of the buffalo gals, a group of female dancers who performed in the Wild West shows of the era. “Buffalo Gals” has become a beloved classic of American folk music, with countless covers and adaptations over the years. The song’s catchy melody and lively rhythm continue to captivate audiences and inspire new generations of musicians.
12. Brown Eyed Girl
“Brown Eyed Girl” is a classic rock song by singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It was released in 1967 and has since become one of Morrison’s most popular and enduring songs. The song features a catchy and upbeat melody, with Morrison’s soulful vocals and memorable lyrics about young love and nostalgia. “Brown Eyed Girl” is a beloved classic of rock and roll, with its infectious melody and sing-along chorus making it a favorite at parties, weddings, and other events. It remains a timeless classic, beloved by music fans of all ages and backgrounds.