Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Deja Vu ... all over again

So after our weekly jam session … I got to talking with a 20 + years banjo player … and if I understand his comments about rolls and melody … rolls are more important.

What do you think?

I don’t play with other people. I learned a bunch of songs and for the first three years of my playing, I never practiced rolls.

I think being able to play fast, consistent and well timed rolls is important if you want to play with other people because when you’re playing backup, you’re pretty much just going to be rolling most of the time.

As a beginner, you can spend all your time practicing rolls but I myself would find that deadly boring and would probably give up trying to learn because it was too boring. Do whatever it takes to keep you interested and practicing.

According to BanjoBen, he says in his video “Intro to Melodics in G” (video 1, starting at 4:12)

“Of course you need to be grounded in Scruggs style playing, that’s what you need to start out playing. It’s what you have to learn. It’s the best. Earl is the best.”

I take that to mean that rolls are pretty important.

From a non-banjo player’s perspective (me): Rolls are what makes a banjo sound like a banjo. So I think I agree with the player you met at the jam. You can make good music with a banjo, mando and guitar playing rhythm type stuff… add in a bass and some vocals and maybe a fiddle or dobro and you have got it going.

With that said, you are playing to satisfy your goals. As blueNote said, play what interests you. I suspect most all bluegrass banjo players will be playing rolls sooner or later and whether they are learned by drills or by learning songs (with rolls) is up to them.

Thanks fellas for your replies … it is always interesting to read other perspectives. :smiley:

When I payed for lessons some years ago…roughly 4 or 5 years ago, my teacher Dave LeMargee stressed the importance of learning rolls. As a matter of fact, the only thing he really taught me about the fretboard in the course of 4 or 5 months was a C-chord. That was in an attempt to play the first half of Cripple Creek…which I can do somewhat well. I say this because, as a result, I now struggle terribly understanding the concepts of other places on the neck. BUT…I can roll pretty well, lol. One of the times these problems are the most prevalent at this stage are trying to keep my fretting hand on pace with my picking hand. I seem to struggle a lot changing from C to D chord…or like Am to D chord as in the beginning of The Ballad of Jed Clampet. So in effect, if I were teaching someone else, I would have them practice both hand techniques and a knowledge base of the fretboard all at about the same pace. And just so we are on the same page, I’m terrible at this and trying to learn my way through being able to play this banjo, so take my words with a grain of salt lol.