Looking for banjo lessons in Dundee, Angus or East Perthshire?

I specialise in teaching people to play 5 string banjo in the old time, or clawhammer style. In-person and online lessons.

I’m Michael Starkey. I’m an experienced music tutor and professional musician based a few miles outside of Dundee. I moved here in 2022 after living and teaching in Edinburgh for many years.

I offer old time banjo lessons for 5 string banjo in the clawhammer, or frailing style – the “bum-ditty” sound. I also provide acoustic guitar lessons in traditional folk accompaniment and fingerpicking or fingerstyle guitar playing.

I cater for individuals and groups of all ages and abilities, from beginners right through to experienced player who want to work on developing specific playing techniques.

I can:

  • help you get started making music
  • give advice that will help you move forward with your playing
  • help build your confidence making music with other people
  • guide you as you develop your technique, and teach you some of the more advanced aspects of clawhammer banjo playing

Get in touch even if you aren’t sure where to begin with clawhammer banjo. I’d love to hear about your plans and ideas for banjo playing!

Michael Starkey

Phone07846 808397

Email[email protected]

PS I still offer clawhammer banjo lessons in Edinburgh, but I currently have a waiting list since I’m not in the city so often these days.

Buy Video Lessons & Tablature

You can download dozens of video lessons and tab notation direct from my website. Click here for Video Lessons and Banjo tablature

Listen on  YouTube logo

For a taste of some of the old time tunes we’ll be learning, please check my YouTube channel.

Clawhammer banjo and old time music

Old time string band music is a traditional American folk style from the American South and Appalachian Mountains. The 5-string banjo is played “clawhammer” style, providing complex rhythmic and melodic accompaniment to the fiddle. Note this is different from Bluegrass banjo, also know as 3 finger or Scruggs style.

Here’s an example of me playing West Fork Gals (by Wilson Douglas)

The modern 5-string banjo is descended from instruments brought to the Caribbean and America on slave ships. Old Time was born in the American South and Appalachian Mountains where music arriving across the sea with European migrants was infused with the sounds of the banjo. The music is therefore related to the traditional folk musics of Africa and the UK/Ireland and Europe. Many of the tunes and songs have distant cousins on this side of the Atlantic. The interplay of banjo and fiddle create a distinctive driving sound, which is characteristic of old time music.

What to expect from banjo lessons

You do not need to read music or have any understanding of music theory to play the banjo! We will work on learning by ear and go at whatever pace suits you. I like to send students audio recordings and banjo tablature to help practice at home. If you’ve not used it before, we can go through how tablature works.

During an introductory banjo lesson we would look at the rhythm hand, working to introduce the basic movements needed for clawhammer playing. If you have played a fretted stringed instrument before (e.g. guitar, mandolin) then you may have developed some fretting hand technique e.g. chords etc. Although the shapes we will look at are unique to the 5 string banjo, any of this learning from other instruments will be transferable so you won’t be starting totally from scratch again.

If you’ve already been playing awhile then we’ll tackle more advanced techniques that help bring clawhammer playing to life. We’ll look at double thumbing, drop thumb, clucks, the Galax lick, fanning, alternate string pull offs, skips and more. We can also work on adapting your favourite songs and tunes for frailing, exploring different chord voicings and positions up the neck, performance techniques, banjo setup etc.

What instrument should I bring?

Any banjo is fine. If you are unsure about what kind of instrument to bring along please get in touch beforehand. Generally, clawhammer/frailing is played on an open-back banjo. However, I personally feel that it is perfectly fine to use a resonator banjo if that is what you already have or it’s your preference in terms of play-ability and sound. Feel free to drop me an email at [email protected] if you’d like to discuss in more detail.

Lesson cancellation policy

Please note that once we have agreed on a date/time for a lesson I will consider it booked in the diary. If you wish to cancel a booked lesson (unless in exceptional circumstances) and we cannot find a suitable alternative slot in the same week, I still require full payment for the lesson. Thanks for your understanding.

Get in touch……

If you’re interested in trying out banjo lessons please get in touch using the contact form or directly at [email protected]. Or look around the site for more information about me, guitar lessons and old time music.