Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Advice for speed building

I am trying to build speed on some songs that I have learned. I have been using the metronome and have got to almost 120 bpm but haven’t been able to break thru to go faster.


Post a vid of you playing and we’ll see what we can spot!


I made a video yesterday. I was really nervous. I have only played for myself and my husband. Watching myself play gave me a different perspective. I look forward to hearing the advice.



Nice job :grin::+1:t2:!!
Wow! It seems like you’ve got the whole song memorized (didnt look like you were reading tab in the video). I’ve been working on this since about January and theres parts I still cant remember and end up “substituting” (hehehe) :thinking::grimacing: a few notes…

I’m still only able to play at the 160 speed (lowest speed offered) of the rhythm tracks supplied within the lesson page. Before I got to that level, what worked for me to improve speed was to play it in segments or phrases and play it as clean as I could till I got that phrase down solid. Then I’d work the pieces up little by little till i could do em faster & connect em together smoothly but still aiming for clean before going faster yet again. And ALOT of repetition. That’s also the reason I work on several different songs so I don’t get burnt out on 1 song.

My 1st several times attempting to play with the rhythm track crashed and burned. For whatever reason, I WAS able to play it along with a fiddle recording made by @Fiddle_wood (:arrow_left:Thank u for posting that) , (located in the other instruments, fiddle thread) using the same (I think…) rhythm track as in the lesson. It helped alot. Why I could initially play w one but not the other, I’ve no idea!!

I learn Ben’s songs using the tab & the mp3 files. I don’t have a metronome, and I dont use the TEF option. Using the TEF files, I THINK you can take that rhythm track mp3 and slow it down below the 160 (in the case of this song) to the level you’re comfortable to build up from. Perhaps someone here w experience using that can chime in :thinking::grin:!

Hang in there, you’ll get a method for building up the songs you play, it just takes time. It’s part of the fun! :grin:


How u hold your pick can make a difference! (i couldn’t really tell by the video)
If you have questions try these videos:
And by the way it sounds great!


You’ve got a good start on it!

Speed is not something that happens quickly…it takes time. It’s usually best to concentrate on playing clean an in time. Doing it at a faster tempo requires relaxation and familiarity.

I’d suggest using a metronome or rhythm track with the speed set slow, where you can play through the entire tune.

When you are totally relaxed, and comfortable with that speed, increase it by a little bit.


Here you go!


Thank you all so much for the advice. Ben, thank you for taking the time to respond thru video. It has been very helpful. I am committed to playing the mandolin. It brings a lot of enjoyment. I will keep you posted as I move ahead. My husband plays the guitar and wants me to be able to play music with him.


Good advice, I’m struggling to play up to speed!


Hi Annie -wow already on intermediate tunes -great start! It does seem like you are pausing some to find the next note but that is simply a matter of memorizing the tune better.

It may not seem intuitive but look at the lesson on syncopated picking:

Learning to crosspick really builds up your ability to keep your right hand moving and hold on to the pick.

I am not (and may never be) a speed player -lately I have started to wonder if I just was not born with that ability. Usually my strategy is to simplify tunes so that I can play them at the speed required.

I really struggle with fiddle tunes where I am trying to memorize a specific set of notes -seems the faster I try to go the more tense I get. I spent most of the last year just learning the neck and that has help me be able to move a little faster.

By my reckoning you are off to a good start.


Thank you C-Stewart. I will check out the lesson on syncopated picking. That is something I would like to learn. I can memorize fairly fast, but it takes me awhile to get that muscle memory in my brain to fingers.


The lesson on pull offs is also helpful.

After really putting in some serious effort on building speed for the past month I have not been able to increase my fiddle tune speed any.

I can play faster if I am just improvising because I can move up and down the neck faster and play scales faster and have also been able to incorporate slides and pull offs better and more frequently and also increased precision and can keep my pick in motion faster . So overall even if my fingers are not really moving much faster I sound faster (I think)

Now I have to wonder if it is something about recalling and playing an exact sequence of notes for fiddle tunes verses improvising any song where you just let your fingers go and roughly just follow the melody are two different things.

Do the pros play an exact sequence the same every time or just play whatever that may be similar but not identical and since the melody is the same no one notices variations?


It depends, they’ll often play the exact notes if they’re doing some kind of unison or harmony arrangement but usually not.