Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Anyone working on playing bluegrass?

Seems like most people here are working on fiddle tunes or alternate music.
I have done the fiddle tune thing myself but find that it is not all that popular for my bands performances so out of two sets we may only use two fiddle tunes or less. So we mostly do bluegrassy type stuff -sometimes with songs adapted from other genres.

Would be interested in hearing about others are developing their ability to put together breaks to random songs.

For me most of my practice is playing along with my 160 Gibson Brothers songs. Learning to play all around the neck and all the various double stops then added in some cross picking. I just don’t seem to have enough speed to play anything impressively and so keep hoping I can make up for that with good taste but have trouble finding nice little licks and fills


Im kinda stuck at the stage of doing simple melodies of stuff, & for whatever reason, I seem to have a harder time with bluegrass than fiddle or alternate songs. For ex of what I mean pertaining to BG song, see the fairly recent “007 sneak peaks” post from the 1st week of cabin camp, scroll to end of post & check out the Dill Pickers “hot corn cold corn” song mando break. (Mind you, I’m not a singer!!)
The wish I was a mole song we did (same post) (Joe Walsh version, not the OT version), I’d never heard before, & I did the simple melody thing again. Now the Walsh version mole song (dont know what it’d classify as, folk?) is stuck in my head & I’m trying to get the rambling sort of break sound he plays in it by playing the recording alot & trying to pick with it. Gonna take a while… mostly got the official intro down now though!
When picking with ppl, to arrive at my breaks on unknown songs, I pretty much quietly play it by ear as the singer is going thru the beginning of the song & hope I can remember it if I get the opportunity to play it. Probably not the best plan, Lol!
I do the same ‘copy the melody’ thing in most all breaks I play. I dont really think i have the speed, accuracy or knowledge to come up with a fancy bluegrassy break, but I’ve been having alot of fun along the way. Maybe it’ll improve with time, exposure, & practice, learning more about my instrument etc… ok, I’ve rambled enuff…:grin:


Seems like it would have been hard to play with all that noise in the background. I thought your breaks where pretty good. I also tend to stay pretty close to the melody and have trouble adding anything interesting. I really like Joe walsh’s style. I like that song “Wish I was a mole in the ground” about my speed also.

I have added some variety to my breaks by changing positions. The only canned lick I ever use is the 1-4-5-6-8 one. I have also been trying to work in some blue notes lately. I have also been trying to shift positions to get more tonal variety but on a short break you have to be pretty quick to play in more than one position.


I put together a video of how I go about learning to play if anyone is interested:


Enjoyed watching your video. I also like to play along with songs similar to what you’re doing.

I’ll try to: 1) figure out what key it’s in, 2) try to do rhythm with it (get the chord changes right) which for me is more difficult than 3) learn/pick the melody along with the singer (or melody instrument if no singing) to later use as my break, 4) try to get some fills in (this is a more recent endeavor), and hopeful to someday be able to come up with more developed versions of 1 thru 4!

Sometimes I just turn on the radio and attempt to play whatever song or genre comes on (Radio Roulette!), then randomly change the station and try another song. That can get very "interesting " :rofl:! Other times I’ll go thru a playlist of more traditional songs/genre for mandolin. Stuffs usually way over my head and sometimes it’s awful, but sometimes I surprise the heck outta myself & do well.

Thanks for posting that, I’m always interested in seeing what other folks do! Gives me ideas! What I took away from watching you play is to learn more stuff and notes up the neck and probably incorporate more doublestops in the melodies I do instead of mainly single stringing it. As for the big chop chord, hahaha, nope not for me. I do a combo of 2 or 3 finger chords and also use a different layout of 4 finger chords (than the big chop).


(Radio Roulette!) lol

I do that some too. I was trying to play some Cars songs the other day.
The other thing I like about playing with music is that it helps develop your ear to hear the key and chord changes and also gives ideas on fills though because I have no speed I usually have to make up my own simple fills.

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