Your banjo should be in G tuning. If you don't know how to tune your banjo look at "Banjo Tunings" from the Index. I suggest you try Dunlop Calico thumb picks. I think Shelor finger picks are the best. Try different picks and use the ones that feels comfortable to you. The Calico and Shelor picks can be found at Janet Davis Music (click).
The first string, while holding the banjo, is the one closest to your lap or the floor. The 5th string is the short one.
The letters below the measure indicate which "right" hand fingers you should use to pick the string. Anchor your right hand with the "tips" of your little and ring finger on the head of the banjo close to the bridge but not touching it. The bridge is what holds the strings up over the head of the banjo. So starting with your thumb (T), pick the third string. With your index finger (I) pick the second string. With your middle finger (M) pick the first string and with your thumb (T) pick the fifth string, etc. This roll pattern is called the FORWARD-REVERSE roll. So on the reverse, you start with your middle finger on the first string.
We are assuming there are eight eighth notes per measure (four quarter notes). So in the measure below there are eight notes. Think of the phrase "I love you and will not stop dear". There are eight words in this phrase. So saying these words as you pick each string place the emphasis on "I" and "will". That means pick the "I" and "will" louder than you pick the other strings. Play this measure over and over with NO pause after the last note (dear) before picking the first note again.
Practice this for 7 days before going on to the next lesson. The purpose here is to get used to keeping your right hand anchored on the banjo head with your little and ring fingers and to get that "jumpy" rhythm that is peculiar to bluegrass banjo picking. Try to put an hour a day into your practice sessions but not all at one time. I've found that practicing a measure for 15 minutes is long enough. After you've done it for 15 minutes stop and do something else for awhile. Then come back and do it another 15 minutes. Listen to the sound file below to hear how it should sound.
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