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Frailing Banjo - Book One

Frailing Banjo - Book One

Patrick Costello's story is as amazing as his music, teaching, and writing talents. His most recent book "Patrick Costello On Frailing Banjo - Book One - The Mechanics of Frailing Banjo" will be available within the next couple weeks. It can be pre-ordered now on Patrick's website frailingbanjo.com.


On a late autumn afternoon many years ago I played my banjo at a nursery school. Most of the kids were dancing and running around as I played. Banjo music has that effect on children.

One little boy was not dancing. He came close and stared at my hands as I played a tune. He watched my right hand striking the strings for a bit and then shouted, “Hey! This is easy! He just punches the banjo until music falls out!”

Out of the mouths of babes! That could very well be the perfect definition of frailing.

verb \frail-ing\
pinching a banjo until music falls out.

That sharp-eyed kid was right. To play frailing banjo you hold your right hand in a sort of fist shape and strike down on the strings with your middle fingernail. The thumb also plucks down on strings. It may resemble punching the strings, but there is much more happening than mere fisticuffs.

Frailing banjo is a powerful approach to making music. That simple striking motion can draw melody, rhythm, harmony and percussion simultaneously from a five-string banjo.

Current methods for teaching frailing banjo have become fixated on melody. Songs are learned much like a child studying for a test. This is a disastrous way to approach making music because the art of the technique is surrendered in favor of simple memorization and repetition.

This series of books presents frailing from a musician’s perspective. In book one we explore the mechanics of frailing banjo. In book two we learn to work with music intuitively. In book three we will begin to understand the logic of the fretboard and from there I have many more wonderful things to share with you! We will learn to play and sing folk songs, country blues, dynamic bluegrass leads and instrumental breaks – alone or with other musicians.

Each book in the series will be enhanced with multimedia at frailingbanjo.com. You will not be exploring and learning on your own. My father and I will be with you every step of the journey.

Frailing banjo is an amazing approach to making music. This series of books will not just teach you how to play the banjo. They will also help you become a great musician who just happens to play the banjo.

It is my honor and privilege to share my art with you.

Patrick Costello Spring, 2015

If you would like to know more about Patrick Costello's amazing journey then you'll enjoy these articles:

The Washington Post
‘Merry God of banjo’: Despite deafness, Md. man learned to play and teach music

I Was A Deaf Musician