Beginning banjo players have a lot of things to learn about their new instrument. Besides learning how to play the banjo, there are often a lot of questions about the proper equipment for it. The decision about using capos and spikes for beginning banjo players is not a difficult one, but there are some basics to know.
Capo Use on the Banjo
When you buy your first banjo, be sure to pick up a capo at the same time. A capo will enable you to switch between keys. Usually, you will be tuning your banjo to an open G, meaning that when you strum the strings without fretting the fingerboard, it will make a G chord. This is a great key for a lot of songs, but you should learn how to play in other keys too. The easiest way to change from one key to another is with a capo. For example by putting the capo on the second fret with open G tuning, you will then be playing in open A.
The biggest question about capos and spikes for beginning banjo players is whether or not to use a capo for the fifth string. Some players use a fifth-string capo that is installed with two or three screws into the side of the banjo neck. The capo then slides to the position where it needs to be clamped on the string. A fairly new and innovative design is the Earl’s Suspender capo. It gives the option to capo the fifth string without drilling holes, and it should be considered if you don’t want to modify your banjo.
Should You Use Spikes?
One of the best options, the one preferred by most professional banjo players, is to have HO-gauge model railroad spikes installed on your banjo at the seventh and ninth frets (A and B). This allows you to quickly and easily slip the string under the spike. When not in use, the spike does not get in the way of your playing. Banjo.com offers free spike installation on all new banjo purchases, so be sure to ask for it at checkout.