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At the heart of English folk

Banjo (clawhammer)

Although the 5-string banjo is often associated with American music, it is now widely regarded as an instrument of West African origin. It is thought to have evolved from fretless lutes made with gourds that travelled to the Americas during the slave trade. During its heyday in the 19th century, the banjo was very popular internationally and huge numbers were made and played in the UK in classical banjo bands and even banjo orchestras. It is played in many different styles, which reflects its complex international history, but has been associated with folk music on both sides of the Atlantic for a long time. It is fun, accessible and a great instrument to start learning music on.

Banjo classes

Banjo Level 1-2 (Absolute beginners / Beginners)
Autumn term: Level 1-2
Spring term: Level 2

Please note that we only accept complete beginners during the Autumn term - there is no Level 1 class offered in the Spring term.

The course starts with the basics of the right hand technique, introduces the three most important chords in G-tuning (G, C and D7), looks at left hand techniques (such as hammer-ons and pull offs) and towards the end of the year, introduces harder left hand chords (such as F and D major) and more complicated left-hand techniques. The year will start by assuming all students are level 1, but towards the end of the year it'll be expected that students will be at level 2 or above.

Banjo Level 3-4 (Improvers / Intermediate)
This course will assume students are familiar with the techniques covered in the levels 1 and 2 course. Learning will be done by ear but tunes will be taught faster. We will play in different keys and talk about transposition and practical music theory. Playing with others and session etiquette will be discussed more explicitly. We'll play in many different tunings (G, A, A modal, D tuning, double C, double D, F tuning etc) and cover more obscure left and right hand techniques where applicable. We'll talk about style and phrasing, accompanying and leading tunes. We'll also discuss what folk music is and where it is played. The course will respond to the needs of the people in the class and students will be encouraged to bring their own questions and ideas of things they would like to cover in the sessions.


Pre-entry level requirements

Level 1 (Autumn term only)
Complete beginners are welcome!  The banjo is a great and accessible instrument to learn and over the course of this year we’ll aim to take you from completely new to playing music to being able to enjoy playing lots of folk tunes by ear!

Level 2
Students should be familiar with the basic right hand clawhammer technique and know G, C, D7 in G-tuning.  Alternatively a student who is completely new to the banjo but has experience playing a fretted stringed instrument (such as the guitar) might fit into this group.

Level 3-4
Students are familiar with clawhammer style in G tuning, have a repertoire of tunes they know by heart and some experience of learning by ear.  They may or may not have started to experiment with other techniques and tunings (drop thumbing, galax lick, double C, modal tuning, D tuning) although these techniques will be covered in the course.


Who leads the course?

The banjo classes are led by Ed Hicks.

Ed Hicks is one of the leading banjo players in the UK and a passionate advocate for people learning folk and traditional music.  In a career spanning over ten years Ed Hicks has played banjo on a Gold Record, on a Mercury Award nominated album, on Love Cats with Rob Smith of the Cure, on the Voice UK, the Voice Germany and the Voice Kids, with award wining theatre companies (Cirque de Legume, Ramshacklicious, The Honk Project, Cockney Awkestra), on a full UK tour with electro pop pioneer Thomas Dolby and on 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' with Python Eric Idle. 

Ed has played all over the UK and Europe at many prestigious venues including Glastonbury Festival, Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Theatre, Rock am Ring (Germany), The Victoria and Albert Museum and Shepherd Bush Empire.  Ed Hicks was even booked to play the banjo at Marcus Mumford’s (Mumford and Sons) Wedding to Carey Mulligan and was the banjo player the BBC phoned to interview when Earl Scruggs died. Ed Hicks is a prolific and passionate teacher of the banjo.



How can I take part?

2018-19 dates

Autumn Term 2018: Sept 15, 29 | Oct 13, 20 | Nov 3, 17, 24 | Dec 1, 8 (9 week term)

Spring Term 2019: Jan 19, 26 | Feb 2, 16 | March 2, 16, 30 | April 13, 27 (9 week term)

Please note that we only accept complete beginners during the Autumn term - there is no Level 1 class offered in the Spring term.


Spring Term Timetable 2019

Banjo Level 1 & 2: 15:30 - 17:00

Banjo Level 3 & 4: 13:45 - 15:15



Annual fee: £210 | £172 concessions*

Termly fees: £113 | £90 concessions*

Advance booking required

Annual Enrolment
We recommend enrolling for the whole year (Autumn and Spring term). We offer a 5% discount if you choose to pay for the whole year at the beginning of the Autumn term. 

Book now

For any queries, please contact:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | 020 7241 8953


Terms and Conditions

Refunds: all courses are non-refundable unless the course is cancelled by EFDSS.

Concessions are available to people who are in full-time education; in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance; in receipt of Income-Based Benefit (such as Income Support, Housing or Council Tax Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Pension Credit). For concessionary rates please call the box office on 020 7485 2206. The box office is open between 9.30 and 17.00 Monday to Friday. Evidence of concession will need to be provided before the start of term by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with a copy of your supporting documentation.

Terms and Conditions in full.


More Information

Find out more about individual class times, dates and further info.