Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Absolute beginner again

I have been playing various instruments most of my life, but I never learned banjo. I did play a bunch of fingerstyle/alternating thumb guitar which probably helps in many ways, but surprisingly has created some things to overcome. For anyone who plays something else, I figured I would make some posts about my experience in case it might be useful. I might post progress videos in the future to get y’all’s (awesome) feedback. It is fun/frustrating/difficult/exciting being an absolute beginner again.

The banjo arrived yesterday (Friday). Here’s my initial thoughts:

  • The picking your fingerpicks lesson was a huge help. I had borrowed a banjo to try many years ago and I didn’t fit the picks properly. In fact at first, I literally had them on backwards (though I did figure that out)! It feels much more natural getting a good foundation.
  • It is more fun to learn a song and do things that translate naturally from playing other instruments, but so far, I am sticking to my guns. I am learning rolls right now and it is HARD to overcome my natural tendencies from fingerstyle (where the downbeat starts with a thumb most the time), but I trust that it will pay off in the end. I even expect my fingerstyle guitar to be more diverse from the work I am putting in.
  • Buying a good instrument to start with is SUCH a nice luxury. I have worked with folks that tried to learn guitar with like 1/4" action, and it is a real barrier. I am fortunate to have this nicely setup (and great sounding to my ear) banjo right from the start.
  • It is really weird having a fifth string that does not go to the nut. I keep hitting that 5th string G trying to hit the low D when I look at it. It is also weird having the highest pitch string in the lowest position. I am re-training my brain, but that is tough.
  • For any with neck and/or back issues, banjo may not be the best choice for you. This is one heavy instrument.
  • So far, so good. I look forward to the journey!
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Mike, Bon Voyage on your Banjo journey! We’re looking for your periodic updates. :slight_smile:

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Wishing you all the best on your new adventure Mike!

Have fun!

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Awesome to hear you taking on this challenge it sounds like you’re off to a great start. If I’m not mistaken I think @BanjoBen has a pretty funny story about wearing the picks backwards as well when he first started so you’re in pretty good company.

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Hi Mike gif you took the plunge. All joking aside, even for folks with no previous stringed experience the learning curve is steep and long. Stick with it and you’ll soon begin to see progress as you work your way through @BanjoBen 's beginners path. very_happy

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You wont regret it! Congrats and have fun!

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Hi @Mike_R,

I haven’t checked in here for quite awhile but I was curious what Banjo did you end up purchasing? Not wanting to put ya “on the spot” but did you buy from the General Store?

I am “in the market” to replace my dead Epiphone… but not quite shire when I will buy… or what, for that matter.

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I bought a Gold Tone “Twanger” from the general store. It is nicely setup, and though my ear is not an accomplished judge of banjo tones, it sounds really good to me. I just asked Ben to tell me what I should buy and he went right to that.

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@Mike_R, That is the very one I would want!

I am soooo happy for you and wish you many hours of enjoyment with that excellent instrument.

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Thanks!

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I know what you mean. I played guitar and other instruments for years and then went to being a beginner again when I got a banjo. I gotta say, three years in it feels very rewarding. I also got a new twanger last week. It is very heavy compared to what I’ve played so far which is a Goodtime 2. I thought the Goodtime sounded great, but the Twanger sounds way better. Maybe more lbs. equals more better tone. :grinning:

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@Mike_R Congratulations! Because you know music, learning the banjo will be fun. My favorite lessons for banjo have been the fretboard geography series with Alan Munde. That series of lessons made the banjo make sense. Every time I watch it I either re-learn or reinforce something. I’d also think about buying a :banjo:mute.

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Man, your first banjo is a Twanger? Talk about starting off on the right foot!

Looking forward to seeing your progress videos.

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Newbie question alert! I got another set of finger picks to fit some for my wife. She has thin fingers. When I get them small enough, the bands overlap on the back. What is the normal or best approach?

  1. Remove material from the bands so they don’t overlap?
  2. Just overlap them?
  3. Order smaller picks made by (insert company here)?
  4. Feed my wife pizza in her sleep?

Thanks in advance!

Update: Forward rolls are underway and that is where I am spending my time. I am getting in several sessions a day. Index first forward rolls are going ok, thumb first was the most natural for me, middle first feels like I am driving a bike that I have to pedal backwards. Reverse rolls have been tried out for size. I want to get some semblance of familiarity with the various rolls before starting in on a song. When that happens, I will probably do the slide intro version of cripple creek. When the bluesy bag o licks came out I had to force myself to not even think about trying them. They sound awesome, but they are way above my pay grade. “Stay on target. Stay on target.”

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Thanks Mark! It’s a blessing for sure. I have helped a lot of people get started on guitar, and I have never heard someone express regret for buying too nice of an instrument to learn on.

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Thanks for the suggestion. I do have a mute thanks to Ben. My neighbors will appreciate it :slight_smile:

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Hi @Mike_R I bought some really small picks years ago for my granddaughter I think they were made by Dunlop.

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My picks overlap slightly on the back. It’s never bothered me. I believe Katy’s does too.

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Mine overlap too; hasn’t caused any problems for me.

Glad to hear you’re progressing!

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Woohoo!!!

Yep, your guitar playing is going to go into other levels with this banjo pursuit, and that’s a good thing. It’s also good to make your brain rewire a path or two every once in a while. Excited for you!

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