Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Banjo beginner

Hi, fellow banjo players. I am a beginning banjo player. I am starting with the basics. My question is how long should I practice lessons 103-107 before I try a song? Should I just be able to get through the lessons or should I keep practicing until I master the lessons? I’m wondering if I try a song if it’ll be over my head or not? And which song would you recommend first? Thanks!

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Sorry, I didn’t take the time to look up exactly what those lessons covered but will give you my experiance. for the record I’m not anywhere near being what I call a banjo player.

If I was going to start all over again, I’d do things much different. I’m myself going back to the begining. I learnt my rolls and then jumped into songs. I did not nor do I have the music basics down for which I’m going back to get. I was all bent on learning some songs to play much like most I’m sure. Yes, I can play BlackBerry Blossom, Jed Clampet, etc and a fairly good speed but don’t the basis of the songs, ie chord structure etc.

I just started playing with some people that have, what most would call a weird band to play with. They are all older and play at nursing homes etc. They play old tunes, no Bluegrass. So, one; I stick out like a sore thumb to begin with. I may know a song like Will the Circle Be Unbroken, but, I play it in A (capo’d at 2nd), they yell out to play it in C…so, do I move my Capo and just go with it, or do I try and learn the theory of it and how to play without the capo. On BHO (another banjo site) I asked the question about theory. Best advice I got was to learn my chord shapes, (Ben calls them Y and X postions) all up and down the neck. Find out, from that shape, what makes a Minor or 7th chord. This way, all I’d have to do is watch some playing Mr. Bojangles in F (I learnt it in G) and play along with the same chords they are using. Not there yet, but I’m working on it.

Ben has some great vids on this, which I found theory , basics etc to be boring. I’m now going back to watch them, over n over N OVER N OVER again to get the base I should have taken the time to get before.

I will add, as soon as you can find some good hearted people out there to jam with, DO IT! If you can chord, know how to get from here to there, playing with others is very helpful. You do need people that are patient and will help you. Group I found are just that. I play quietly in the background as to not mess them up and they always have some great advice even though no one plays the banjer.

Best of luck pickin.

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Also; you made the first and most important step by ASKING. I’ve asked a ton of questions here and other sites and the response from fellow banjo players is unreal. Old saying about never a stupid question is what you need to have as gospel to improve. Ask ask ask.

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Unlike ez2cy, I came to the banjo after playing the piano and guitar. So I already understood note theory and structure.

When I started, 4 years ago (!), the numbered basic lessons stopped at Banjo 103. I did that lesson and only that lesson, for about 10 days, sometimes hours a day. When I started to feel that I had a semblance of control over my right hand and I could hit many more right notes than wrong ones (though I still hit wrong ones), I went on to Cripple Creek.

If you’re getting bored doing roll exercises and you have some control over your right hand then I would move on to the songs. These are also roll exercises but they are more fun to do than the numbered lessons.

It’s a long road. I’ve clocked in around 4000 hours in the last 4 years and now I can play, not great but I can fake it enough that people who don’t play think that I can!

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I picked up the banjo with zero instrument or music knowledge whatsoever. I’ve mixed it up learning new songs and learning fundamentals as I go along. It helps me to keep having fun.

My goal was never to be Earl Scruggs, but to have fun. Therefore my practice and learning reflects that goal. I have fun learning new songs, but I also have fun learning new fundamentals in order to play newer/harder songs.

I say there’s no set rule. Do what’s fun. You’ll learn new things learning new songs, and you’ll learn new things learning new fundamentals. Just go with the flow.

Pick and grin.

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Wow, thanks a lot for all the detailed replies! I will soak all this in and try it out. I appreciate it!

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