Fingerstyle Banjo Song and Tab of the Week: “Handsome Molly”

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As I’ve said before (and will surely say many times again), there’s seemingly no end to the number of ways you can make wonderful music on the banjo.

(RELATEDClick here to learn more about how to learn to play the banjo in any style.)​​

It’s also amazing what you can do on it with just 2 fingers! I’m especially fond of the surprisingly versatile 2 finger “thumb lead” style of playing, which doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves (another casualty of Scruggs banjo myopia).

Two finger “thumb lead” style is the perfect introduction to fingerstyle banjo, and an ideal stepping stone to 3 finger Scruggs style. In fact, it’s so useful in the learning progression, it should be a mandatory stepping stone, which is precisely why it’s the style covered first in the Breakthrough Banjo course.

(RELATED: If you’re still just getting started with fingerstyle banjo, or if you’ve struggled with 3 finger bluegrass, I HIGHLY recommend learning 2 finger thumb lead first. It’ll make learning Scruggs banjo so much easier – though you may find after learning it that you no longer have a desire to do so! Click here to learn more about the Breakthrough Banjo course for fingerstyle banjo.)

Of course, it’s more than just a stepping stone. It’s a fantastic way to play the banjo in it’s own right, and I’ve been delighted by the growing interest in it, along with the number of request from course members for more tune demonstrations in this style.

As part of my efforts to do just that, I’ve been revisiting some of the classic 2 finger material (though don’t get me wrong, you can play essentially any tune in this style).

One of those classics is this week’s Song of the Week selection, “Handsome Molly,” a heartbreaking of lost love (and yet another banjo tune with Molly as the female protagonist). Its simple, repeating melodic line also makes it a great song to learn early on.

Given the level of interest 2 finger thumb lead, I’ll be presenting more songs in the style. It’s one I’ve experimented with quite a bit in the last several years, and is a lot more versatile than most might think, which I’ll demonstrate in future installments (course members can also look forward to the upcoming course module on playing 2 finger “up the neck”).

“Handsome Molly”

gDGBD tuning, 2 finger banjo (Brainjo level 3)

Handsome Molly banjo tab


Recent Banjo Songs and Tabs of the Week:

Notes on the Tab

For more on how to read the tab, click here for the How To Read Banjo Tabs article.


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