Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Balance practice time/ Speed building

Hi. How much practice time should be spent learning songs vs doing scales and exercises and things like that? What is the most effective way to build speed on the mandolin. I seem to have one speed and that’s slow and steady, lol.



If I am not mistaken, I believe BanjoBen covered this in a previous lesson - by way of a regimen he recommends for constructing practice sessions. Frankly, I could do with revisiting that one myself - for consistency.

Of late, I have been warming up with 2-octave scales, Sadly, this takes me awhile because of that tricky B-Major one with all that pinky use…

Next, I try to play something new (or a song I’m working on), try to play something older (that I know) and also try to play from memory for reinforcement for tunes I like and I always think it is important to KNOW the songs - just in case you are out somewhere and don’t have your book handy. Then again, would you be out with your MANDOLIN and not have your book handy? hehehe

Still, I think it is good to push myself to know them. Sometimes, I find I thought I had it “memorized” - only to find that a measure or two may not be exactly correct - which is another good reason to make passes back over material you’ve previously learned.

Every once in awhile, I may get adventurous to try to experiment with a different way to play a passage or a bar (something like improvising but with thought rather than complete “at the moment” spontaneity.

This is where I like the hymn lesson Ben did, to discuss the approach for learning a song, but I digress…


@Annie_Simms - I found it - as a forum entry… rather than another lesson (sorry)…

From Ben - responding to a forum member’s similar questions:

Should I exclusively pursue this ability before attempting to learn anything else?

Nope, that’s not what I meant by that. Please continue playing and exploring other things. That statement is more of a quality control statement, meant more to guard against playing things too fast for “practice” and not paying attention to what you’re doing. @fiddle_wood is hitting at the same idea with “attentive repetition.”

Should I mix my practice time between scales and other techniques? How would you structure a practice routine?

Yes, I would mix. Scales serve many purposes, perhaps the most important right now being the coordination and dexterity it develops with the two hands. I advise you to practice what you’re gonna play. Let me give you a sample one hour practice time…just a sample:

10 minutes: Warm up by playing scales and working on the stress-free single-string exercises in my vid with JP.
10 minutes: Work on a specific problem area identified at end of practice session from last time (see below)
10 minutes: Play through your favorite tunes and licks as fast and fun as you can/want.
10 minutes: Play rhythm with a song on your computer. Do you know all the chords? If not, spend needed time to find them.
10 minutes: Learn a new song from my lessons. If you know the melody of one, play along with a slow jamtrack and try to improvise.
10 minutes: Reflect on what happened over the last hour. Spend a few minutes trying to quickly improve or nail down something that you messed up. Take the most glaring problem area and commit to working on it the next practice session.


I appreciate your help. Thank you very much.