Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Avoiding a Practice Rut

Ever find that you’ve been doing really well with practicing every day, and then you miss a day?

One day becomes two, and so on and so on, and before you know it, you haven’t picked up your instrument for a week. Or more.

You want to kick yourself because once again, you’ve fallen behind on your practice. You feel like the progress that you’ve made has been lost, and your chops and calluses are on the decline.

Been there far too many times myself.

Here’s a thought. As your getting toward the end of the day and you haven’t yet practiced, just determine in your mind that your going to pick your instrument up and play it even if it’s for only 10 or 15 minutes. That’s it. Just carve out a few minutes and pick it up and play.

From personal experience, I’ve discovered that doing this will ensure that you’re still going forward in your skills, and you’ll continue with keeping your chops and your calluses well maintained.

Best to All,



Last year I became guilty of bingeing on banjo, an hour and a half twice a week. Since starting guitar in September the ten minute/day minimum has become my standard and that ten minutes is usually just before sleeping. I notice less frustration and steady improvement. Definitely the way to go, for me.


Jack, I used to feel guilty and panic if I missed a days practice. Now I always look on those missed practice sessions as rest days. A time to let the brain relax and recover from all the information I’ve been packing in each day. You may think you’ve forgotten stuff but you really haven’t trust me it’s in there waiting for the right time to re-appear…

Let me just offer up an example. I learned to play What a Friend we have in Jesus some eight or nine years ago, I recorded myself playing it about five years ago and hadn’t played it much in years because I was busy learning a bunch of other stuff, also over the past five years I have had lots of periods where I lost all interest in playing banjo . When @BanjoBen created the Guitar/Mandolin lesson recently for Y’all it inspired me to pick up my banjo and record this which I did in one take. I agree it’s important to study and practice regularly and if the only time you’ve got is 10 - 15 minutes then pick up your banjo and play just anything that comes into your head. Just don’t make learning a chore you have to do, Play it because it’s a fun thing to do.

I guess what I am saying folks is it’s important to have a regular practice schedule however if you miss a day or two don’t panic it’s not the end of the world,

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I think rest days are the key TBH like anything you need time away.

I find that when ive not had the chance to play/practice for a day or two when i get back to it i play better

Keep picking Y’all

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To be honest, I rarely experience the lengthy layoff because I just crave to play.

That isn’t to suggest that I get busy and do miss days.

Do you know… I remember when I wanted to buy my Mandolin, I asked @Jake about the issue with having 2 instruments and the positives and negatives of this…

Jake advised that there really wouldn’t be any huge drawbacks but there could be some benefits… One being that you are still practicing and enhancing finger control and dexterity. However, I think he also said (and to address your point) that the break or the switch can sometimes free the mind and/or change the dynamic of playing when you go back.

I have found this to be true. In fact, stated stronger, I think a mini-break can actually help… but of course, so long as you return and keep practicing.

Can’t explain why… but sometimes, I even see benefit in playing after a break… and the opposite… Prolonged practice can somehow hinder my next practice sessions.

The one thing I struggle with but still think is extremely positive… is more frequent but short practice sessions that focus on a dedicated skill (scales, rhythm chopping, rolls, etc…).

I struggle because - once I start - an hour passes before I even realize it! I need to get more frequent but less duration to my sessions - and also to support the practice Regiment @BanjoBen recommends.

I spend too much time on songs and too little time on scales, “strictly” roll exercises, rhythm and chopping (mandolin) and the AWESOME “Unlock the Neck” lessons on both instruments!


This got me reminiscing. I started playing banjo in about 1980 and played & played & played with family, friends, country shows etc… but what killed off my interest, was essentially lack of challenge. I got tired of the few licks that I knew, although I could pick through most any tune and play banjo solos by ear. (Unknowingly, this would prove to be a valuable skill). Because of the lack of challenge, it killed off my playing for years. I’d play only rarely when old friends would visit.

This is where the Banjo Ben Clark method re-ignited my interest big time. Not only is the site full of creative arrangements, but the Tabs themselves are reliably accurate with tututorial videos in case a question comes up on more advanced transitions. Being a working guy, I don’t have time or skill perhaps to sit down and write creative tab and then learn to play it as frequently as I’d like to. I’m confident that every time I pick up my banjo or guitar, I’ll have plenty of challenges and great arrangements to work on here. I can’t understate how beneficial this is to my practice and energy moving forward.

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I’m new here but not to music. I’ll be 68 in about 2 weeks and absolutely obsessed with music and learning. I still work 3 days a week but keep my acoustic and mandolin sitting to each side of me on the couch. Neither ever go in the case. When I’m off work I probably spend 8 hours a day practicing going from acoustic to mandolin and usually play an hour before going to work and an hour or two after getting home from work.

I didn’t always practice like this. I started about 6 years ago when I semi-retired from working and quit playing out live. I spent around 4 of these years and still working on learning jazz standards on guitar, that’s when (I already knew) I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about music in the greater scope of things. So it was like learning all over again learning chord voicing and inversions in all keys.

I can be quite snobbish about music. The first tunes my dad taught me were Wildwood Flower and Under The Double Eagle. Growing up all we had was a radio till I was 12 years old, so it was the Opry that we looked forward to listening to. So after finally buying a pretty nice acoustic about nine months ago I’ve been obsessed with going back to my roots and starting over again with traditional & bluegrass. If I’m not practicing I’m listening. When I got my acoustic the first tune I played was Wildwood Flower and it struck such a feeling that I hadn’t had since childhood. I knew I had come home and it sure felt good.

Everyone has different life situations and it can be hard juggling work, families and music. Family comes first and work to provide for the family and music is the dessert and these things take their priorities in different stages of life. So if you don’t find time to practice then more important things are happening and that’s a good thing. When you get to the empty nester stage as I then if you truly love music…well you’ll see


I don’t recall Ben giving a practice recommendation. Is it in one of his videos?

Having other teachers also helps. A few hours studying with them and I crave to get back to @BanjoBen

Regular practice is good but I don’t think it is necessary. Especially if you play only for fun. I don’t lose practice. The more the time spent during beginning stages really helps to come up to speed quickly. But otherwise if you give a day or two in between that gives a curing time for calluses and also time for stuff to sink in your head or muscle.

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Call for help: @Archie, @Mark_Rocka, @MissMaggie, @Jake,

I know I saw (and I even replied) recently where @BanjoBen repeated his recommended practicing schedule.

I have seen it long ago and again… In a post that I cannot find and the moment.

Could someone reply to @Treblemaker so Jack can have it?

@Treblemaker, I don’t think it was ever an official lesson but a guideline for how to breakdown an hour into all the different areas to practice.

How disappointing that I cannot find the post…But I almost feel it should be elevated to its’ own post heading for ease or reference for all of us later.

I also seem to recall it was a BANJO practice plan… but easily adapted to the other instruments as well.

Wouldn’t it be cool to actually just have @BanjoBen - unrehearsed and on a moments notice - turn on his video for one of his 30-minute practices.

Probably not a very practical thing to do… but it sure would be interesting to see!

Could this be the post you’re thinking of?

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That’s the one I think he would be referring to. I was having trouble finding it too.

I don’t think that’s it, I just read that thread and Ben only posts once at the very end. I think it’s on a multi instrument practice topic, that I’m trying to find now

Found it! Is it this one?

That sounds more like what Will was looking for.

Hi @WillCoop not sure what you were asking but thankfully others have jumped in with responses.

This is the thread, @Dragonslayer!

For @Treblemaker’s sake - THANK YOU!

JACK, scroll down on the thread - from @BanjoBen himself:

5-10 minutes: play SLOW rhythm with a song or two to loosen up your right hand

10 minutes: work on pick accuracy or scales, something that causes you to systematically and intentionally hit certain strings.

10 minutes: Work on a song or solo that you have been playing or working on, paying special attention to problem areas that need improvement. Are you getting better? If not, why not?

10 minutes: Play more rhythm, but faster, and try to work in some rhythm/picking licks.

10-20 minutes: Listen to a new solo/song, or open a new lesson, and work your way through it. Identify problem areas that will be monitored going forward.

10 minutes: Do a practice overview. What was fun? What was hard? Why? Why not? What particular skill needs more work? Use this time to hone it in.