The Banjo Studio


Lesson One: Right Hand Forward & Backward Rolls


The most basic technique in playing the five-string banjo is the three-finger roll. There are many variations of rolls that a beginner must learn.  The rolls will utilize the Thumb, Index and Middle fingers.  The tablature will list “t” for the thumb, “i” for the Index finger and “m” for the middle finger.


The two most basic rolls include the forward roll and the backward roll.


Let’s first look at the forward roll, including some variations.




You will notice that the forward roll can have many variations.  Practice each roll slowly at first and do not worry about developing speed until you have a steady rhythm.  


Next, let's look at the backward roll.  


In order to develop rolls using the right hand, a student must play each roll slowly and repetitively.  While it may seem like a tedious process, it is recommended that each roll be played anywhere from 50 to 125 times.  This takes patience and discipline.  The importance of practicing rolls cannot be overemphasized and while you may be anxious to play songs on your new banjo, the time and effort you put into playing rolls will prove to be beneficial for years to come.
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