5-String Banjo


John performs on 5-string banjo with Gene Yellin on guitar


A rare opportunity to jam with the great

Vassar Clements along with Mike Madan on mandolin.


I am very excited to finally present a page on my site dedicated to the 5-string banjo!

I first heard bluegrass banjo emanating from the tinny radio speaker of my 1956 black and white enamel Crown Victoria back in the mid-60’s. I became an instant and life-long fan and was determined to learn how to play that style. Forty-something years later I am still working at it; playing, teaching, and writing for three-finger "Scruggs-style" 5-string banjo.

As a jazz guitar player, I always “heard” the possibilities of the 5-string going in that direction as well. Soon I’ll be presenting some of my original jazz-inspired ideas and exercises in lesson format.



5-String Banjo Lessons

Let’s begin with some basic roll patterns to accompany fiddle-tune progressions. I think you will find them to be fun and effective.




Opus 8

“Opus 8” is a series of variations on a standard fiddle-tune four-bar pattern. Each variation is a separate lesson.

Opus 8, No. 1

It has been my experience that, all too often, student players tend to play repetitive forward rolls “ad infinitum” resulting in tedium. This exercise is meant to make you comfortable “mixing” forward and reverse roll patterns in order to create interest and to avoid that sameness “trap”.

The banjo is an “in your face” instrument! Every note, every articulation must be played precisely and with conviction, with ATTITUDE! I spend some time in this lesson discussing the “staple” blues articulation on the 3rd string. It takes some time and work to get that little device to be effective. It’s probably played 20 or 30 times in most recordings!

Op.8_1 Sample MP3

Opus 8, No. 2

A variation on the 4 bar fiddle tune pattern, this time having 3 bars of G and 1 bar of D. Also, Variation 2 has a few more bluegrass figures to work on.

Op.8_2 Sample MP3


Christmas Carols for 5-string banjo


Eight traditional carols arranged for 5-string banjo by John Carlini in the original choral style.



  1. O Little Town of Bethlehem

  2. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

  3. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

  4. It came Upon The Midnight Clear

  5. Joy To The World

  6. O Come All Ye Faithful

  7. Silent Night

  8. We Three Kings of Orient Are



"These are great arrangements! I want to learn them all!"

   --Pat Cloud



 "The Christmas Carols for the banjo is tremendous!

I really enjoy listening to them and trying to learn them."
--Zyndall G, NC



Get the entire collection for only $9.95!

Includes sheet music/tab pdf files and audio mp3 files.

Please enjoy this carol, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,
at no charge, along with our wishes for a

Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!

mp3 of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

sheet music/tab in pdf format for God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

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