Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Banjo playing frustrations

I’ve been playing just over 19 months and have to say this site is the best teaching aid anyone could wish for. There’'s just one thing I get frustrated about and I don’t know if I’m alone in this. I cannot seem to play anything through without hitting a bum note or wrong string, and struggle with getting clean pulloffs. I thought I was progressing OK but now seem to have hit a wall where I feel I’m not improving. Some of the problem could be that I don’t have so much time to practise. Perhaps a couple of hours a day if I’m lucky, but it’s really frustrating to feel I’ve reached a certain point and now going around in a circle and not moving forward. I’ve been trying to alter my right hand position too as tapping the head was another annoying part of my picking. Has anyone else had these problems? If so, what did you do to address and improve your playing?

Man, I wish I could dedicate 2 hours a day to practice. I’m hoping to get back there soon.

I’ve had all the problems you described. For head tapping and missing notes, I find that when I start experiencing those issues, I’m picking too hard. Try easing up on your right hand picking force and see if things improve.

An additional benefit is that you’ll be able to play faster and cleaner.

Keep at it! If you’re still picking after 19 months, it probably means you’re in it for the long haul.

Thanks for the encouragement Mark. I’m addicted to the banjo now…so much so it drives my other half bonkers at times :laughing: Its nice to hear that someone else has had the same problems.


Yes i have. I have been playing for 6 years and had the same frustrations. Many times i have hit the brick wall were im not progressing . My teacher said it is normal and that is why so many people quit. He always told me to keep pushing and you will work through it. HE WAS RIGHT!!! Dont give up, IF you keep pushing you will make it to the next hurdle and you will overcome it. I still run into these problems but quiting is not an option. Banjo seems to be one of the hardest things i have ever done. Maybe some people are just naturals, i aint. Remember , I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. Philippians 4: 13

Hey @jonathanplymouth, honored to have you on board! Post a little video of you playing in the video swap category and I’ll give you some feedback. Thanks!


I’ll try and do that thanks Ben. :+1:

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Keep it up. This happens in any sport, music etc. just like in golf, it can be a minor tweek. I played classical guitar for years and was stuck in progressing. I found a teacher who showed me something very minor but made all the difference in the world! Send the video to Ben! That is a very generous offer. Also, there is nothing like doing a lesson from someone in your area that can help you out.

yeah know what you mean.
i usually have a little more force on the 4th sting to get little more omph. and i pick the 5th string instead. ears almost start to bleed. :slight_smile:

All very normal. Might be time to single out the mistakes and work on those sections.

Learning an instrument is like using a staircase… you go up for a bit and then stall out at a level for a bit…then go up again…etc.

This happens to pretty much everyone. the stalling phase can be frustrating, but it kind of gives your brain a chance to catch up with your hands.

I’ll usually change up my practice routine when I stall out…slow down, learn something new, work more on problem licks, etc. -this seems to get me back going again in a shorter time than trying to force my performance level.

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Yes I agree, I think I need to slow down again and rework some of the tunes I’ve learned at a slower pace, and need to get stuck into some of these melodic patterns that I am struggling with too at present.

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My best advice is love every second of it. I’d take your worst day over my inability to play now any day.

And make sure to read this:

My mentor told me that you have to play as slow as possible until you can get it clean, and from there work your way up. I stuggled with the same problems for about a year before he showed me what to do. So keep up the good work!

Wow!! I’m in the same boat as you!!! 2 years in and I hit a brick wall . I think we just need to persevere!!! Good luck!!! Don’t quit!!!

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That’s a good read. I do notice that if I’m tense or my right hand doesn’t seem to be sitting comfortabley that my playing is just bad. Something I’ve noticed recently when I wake in the mornings my left hand fingers are really stiff and have to get them moving to ease them off. I think some of the chords near the nut maybe cramping my hand a little. Even though I have thin fingers I can still end up touching another string on occasion.

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Hey Johnathan,
Just like everyone else has stated here I too have hit a brick wall several times. I found that it helps to work on something completely different for a while. For example if you’re have trouble with pull offs go work on sliding licks. I have found that when I return to the pull offs they are somewhat better. I’m not sure why this happens but it does. I started tapping the head pretty bad when I changed to the blue chip, but after slowing my playing down it naturally got better, and I’m back up to speed with the blue chip now.

Yes I’ve found improvement by slowing down and not picking so hard. Will keep practising trying to keep a more relaxed right hand picking. I think I started picking harder after seeing people online like Jim Mills who really cracks into those strings on some of his videos. Maybe that’s a technique for a seasoned pro. Ben seems to get good volume and balanced sound across all strings effortlessly. Something I’m not quite mastering yet but enjoying the journey all the same, even if it frustrates me at times. :smile:

Yep, that was a great link Jason sent you. This may be getting a bit on the weird side, but try 10 or 15 minutes of deep breathing exercises. It’s hard to discipline yourself to do it, but it will be worth it. It really does sound like a tension issue.

Also, I’ve only recently discovered how much slowing down helps to improve your playing.