Customer Reviews: How To Play The 5-String Banjo
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on April 27, 2007
I consider this DVD a must-have for any Pete Seeger fan. He sings and plays entire songs, so it makes it great for musicians or people looking just to be entertained. If you're looking to learn how to play banjo, and are not familiar with a stringed instrument, getting this dvd only will leave you slack-jawed. You'll have to buy his book "How to Play the 5-String Banjo" to get started. In this dvd he shows strumming styles, picking styles, how to make extra sounds with your left hand, and many other things. He plays many songs including "Ode to Joy", and a wonderful blues song...who woulda thunk, blues on the banjo? It is awesome. (And btw, a xeroxed copy of his book is NOT included with the dvd, as someone stated in another review. It is a small book of banjo tablature of some of the songs on the dvd. )
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on October 2, 2006
A few of these reviews are a bit unfair. Imagine footage of Einstein late in his career. Every story he told would be priceless. It would be unrealistic, however, to expect a lecture on physics 101. This is such a nice DVD of the grand old man of American folk music. He has been like a geological force (as Lee Hayes put it) in American music. Sit back and enjoy this one-on-one visit with Pete. No, he's not going to tell you to put your middle finger here on the third fret, etc. -- but who cares.
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on September 24, 2006
I love Pete Seeger. He's a national treasure. BUT this DVD is mistitled. It's not an instructional DVD at all. Anyone who is looking to learn the banjo should look elsewhere.
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on November 21, 2013
This is a real classic and very enjoyable to view. His approach to learning is to promote learning the songs and singing as well as playing. In his book he starts off in the key of C instead of G and he gives you a quick start learning a few chords and strum patterns. There is plenty to learn and some background too. He is a great teacher. Be sure to get the book too.
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on October 23, 2014
This DVD is more Pete Seeger's meditation on the banjo than an instructional video. It's a nice companion to Seeger's book, and it covers much of the same ground, but neither video nor book will teach you to play the banjo like Pete. They're useful for learners who have a lot of self-discipline and are willing to practice and work hard; but they're not really a self-study course. I'd recommend them (and the companion CD, which is still available from Smithsonian/Folkways) as supplements to lessons with a live teacher.
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on February 1, 2010
I have been playing 5 string banjo for a number of years. i decided this year to try and branch out and try different technics-like folk style. So whom better to learn from I figured, but good ole Pete. Well this video is not very good at showing Petes style. It is more about Pete demonstrating just what he can do, but he does not explain it well at all. Sort of like half of the teachers out there, who when you go into the music store and pay for a lesson, then you sit back and watch them show off what THEY can do. They never explain what or why they are doing what they are doing. They just do it. This video is much the same.

If you love Pete and want to hear him and see him playing some great tunes, this video is a fun watch, but if you are trying to learn to emulate the folk style, you would do better to get the video "banjo styles of the Kingston Trio". At least on that video they not only show you but explain step by step the how and why of what they are doing.
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on June 22, 2014
I chose this because I wanted to learn Seeger's style with Seeger and that is exactly what this DVD does. The "lets play now" might seem too "let's jump right in" but don't let that fool you. This DVD is wonderful in it's "get playing right away" method. While other DVD's on banjo often start with finger picking one note after the next in a frustrating slow method Pete, as the consumate mentor does not lecture as let you play along with him and this DVD shows you the Seeger method of plucking and gets you going right from the get go. Make no mistake about it tho, it might look simple but it takes practise and for me, required the book "How to Play the Five String Banjo" by Seeger to understand how to practise properly. In any case I wanted to learn how Pete played because I wanted to do sing a long rather than become a great instrument plucker and this DVD and book have done that because you can start singing right away and I would recommend it to anybody who wants folks singing along in music like Pete did. Thanks Pete!!!
Gary Watkins
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on November 6, 2005
This DVD is entitled "How to Play the 5-String Banjo" but the title is very deceiving. It is a one hour of Pete Seeger playing songs and reminiscing. He gives absolutely NO information on what he is doing and a lot of what he plays is quite advanced.

If you are new to the banjo and looking for some guidance on how to play, this DVD will be useless to you. I watched it once (fast forwarding through the parts where he is singing) and threw it in the trash.

Sorry to be so harsh, but I don't want anyone who is looking to learn some basic (or even advanced for that matter) banjo skills to waste their money on this item.
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on January 2, 2013
I bought this in hopes of learning how to play the 5-string Banjo. I had already purchased the book which I thought came with the DVD but apparently not. So i had to order the DVD seperate. Even though Pete Seeger is well respected and loved I really didn't get anything out of it except to notice that his finger nails were exceptionally gross and dirty!

I could say I might have gotten a 1% improvement in my banjo playing. I still have alot of respect for this guy but I would have rather it been..put your finger that kind of instruction. Nice to have the book in my collection now that I know it paid his grandkids way to college.
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on April 17, 2006
The title is taken from Seeger's long-standing book on how to play the 5-string banjo, a xeroxed copy of which is provided with the VHS version of this video (and, I assume, with the DVD as well). If you work through the book, the video can be very useful, but it is not your typical Homespun instructional tape. Without the book, the video is still a nice look at the variety of styles Seeger plays, but it has very little instructional value.
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