Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

A question for banjoists (and mandolinists)

So, I’m relatively new to mandolin (been playing less than a year) and I’ve got a question. How do you make a mandolin solo for a banjo tune? I’ve got some experience making banjo solos to mandolin/fiddle tunes, but how do you reverse it? And is there any lessons here that really explain that?

I know I’m far from the best person to be answering your question, but if I were trying to write a mando break, I’d probably start by learning my way around the fret board with this mando pentatonic lesson.

Then I’d tab out the melody of the banjo tune one note at a time and work in some of those pentatonic notes around the melody. Then you could even throw in some notes not in the pentatonic scale for flavor.


I generally just ask Mark to make me a solo :grin:

What Mark said pretty well echos what I learned from Ben… figure out the basic melody, then spice it up to your liking with additional notes, licks, alternate phrasing, alternate notes, etc. There are some tools that are more prevalent in mando as opposed to banjo such as double stops and tremolo. Also the short scale makes it easy(er) to jump up or down an octave.


Well figuring out the basic melody isn’t too hard, it’s the spicing it up I need help with. I figure it’s probably something that I’ll learn in time, but that time is now. Are there any mandolin lessons on here for specifically banjo tunes?

How about John Henry?


That’ll work thanks. I’ll check that out before I go about learning Christmas songs :grin:

I’ve never thought of banjo tunes being a different animal. I might be missing something, but I would think all the build-a-break and bag-o-licks lessons would apply to that task.

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What Mark and Mike said. It all starts with the melody.

The build a break lessons are clearly dedicated to sprucing up a basic melody but if you actually play any of the lessons all the way through as opposed to going directly to the tab you’ll find that Ben is explaining his spice rack as he works through a tune.

What’s the hurry , especially for a young guy? It’s us geezers that need to pick up the pace. I’m 6 plus years into the mandolin and you’re already blowing me out of the water. And I only play one other instrument. It’s okay if it takes you 3 or 4 days to post your next composition. :sunglasses:

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Might check out “John Hardy”…plenty of little “tricks” in there


Well, tunes like Foggy mountain breakdown, Pike county breakdown, fireball mail, etc. Are very much banjo tunes, as opposed to something like BlackBerry blossom, red haired boy, or whiskey before breakfast, which are more obvious fiddle/mandolin tunes (anything that gets played on melodic banjo)

I always watch the videos and usually barely glance at the tab, I’ve just only done two mandolin lessons so far, and as a banjoist, I want to be able to play all my familiar banjo tunes on mandolin

I don’t know, actually. I kind of just wanted a direction for my next lesson. And I’m gonna try to also learn (and upload) at least a few Christmas songs before Christmas

Thanks, I’ll check it out