Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Dexterity...or lack thereof


I would love to hear some of your favorite videos of Ben’s that you might use for building speed, accuracy and clean-ness.

Had a lousy 2.5 hour practice last night. (sometimes, your just not on your best game), almost to the point of discouragement. Definitely not the first or last one, but would just like some fresh perspective on a good place to go.


Hi Jack

My Fav’s

Red River Valley
Bury Me Beneath the Willow
John Henry
Battle Hymn of the Republic
and on a seasonal note Jingle Bells.

These are pretty tricky tunes to learn but once you get your head round them they seem quite natural ones to build speed since most of these melodies are well known. I believe that a key part to building speed is knowing the melody, the timing and the phrasing of a tune

I am going through a phase right now where I have lost the desire to pick banjo.

HI Jack,

I’m not Ben, but would like to pass this by you.

As someone who has played and been learning instruments for nearly 40+ years, I’ve come to realize all the things you mention that you want to improve on come with time.

The big issues with learning instruments is attitude and patience.

On Facebook today, I ran across a guy giving great advice: “don’t try to master the instrument…try to learn it while youlre having fun playing it” …or something close to that.

he goes on to explain how, basically, people expect too much of themselves in the time it takes to get better, and become unhappy with their playing…

It really said something to me…looking back, I realized that I probably learned more when just enjoying playing than when pushing myself with expectations and time limits on “mastery”

Can you write out what you did for your 2.5 hour session? Did you take on too much new information?
Was it constant repetition of the same thing? Did you just run through a bunch of songs?

I can share with you that I normally learn maybe a measure an hour at best when I’m learning, even after my many years of playing. …and that is just to be able to get through that passage…not to be super good at doing it…

What you are looking to get better at generally comes with slowing things down…(yes even speed, but it has mostly to do with relxing) …but you can always just pick a short measure or lick and repeat it consistently until it is better …Remember learning rolls?..I’m betting you’re far better on them than you were a year or two ago…

don’t get discouraged…play because you love to play, and the rest will come…



read my post to Jack…

1 Like

Hey Archie,

Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll check some out.

As for not even feeling like playing, I’ve been there. Hang in there brother…this too shall pass.

1 Like


I sure can and often do write what I’m going to practice and how many minutes. Not really any new material. Used a metronome, to slow things down.

It just seemed I was missing every freakin note I tried to play.

Speaking of relaxing, I tend to tighten my jaw, and it looks weird. (So my wife says). Working on that.

Nevertheless, I’m practicing on and a bit less discouraged, thanks in large part to my forum friends. You’re indispensable!


Note: I was speaking in the context of the videos on Ben’s site…Sorry, should have written more clearly.

I know you were, but I thought you needed “the talk”…haha

I’d suggest going back to here: and start with the roll studies working your way bakc through the learning track.

These are the basics that need to be gone over and over to attain the things you’re looking for…

Relaxation comes from familiarity and attentiveness. The first thing I do on my instrument (currently fiddle) is slow notes while I “test for touch”…I try to play cleanly with as little strength or force as possible…this forces me to relax and sets the bar for the playing I will do afterward.

Days when we can’t play as well will always be there for everyone…it’s just part of the adventure…we all have those “less talented” days…not worth beating ourselves up for…it happens


Dave, I have a feeling that I came across a bit snarky. If so, I apologize profusely. I had absolutely no intent to. Especially when you took a good deal of your time to write such a well thought out post

I think I stumbled over my words twice, and I want to try once more, at the risk of digging an even deeper hole.

I was asking, if anyone could suggest any of Ben’s videos on his website. That was only because I didn’t want to be directed to a different website.

Dang! I feel lower than a snakes belly in a wagon wheel rut.

1 Like

Jack…the link is to Ben’s videos…on his website…

You came across fine, buddy…I feel maybe I’m miscommunicating, by giving you something other than specific videos to consider

Be happy! It’s all good!

1 Like

Yes, I was actually practicing the square rolls last night. And thank you.

As you know, communicating via text can cause things to get a little fuzzy. As long as your good, I’m good.


1 Like

You have lots of advice on the technical side.

I offer you this… keep your chin up and enjoy that you can still play at all. Many wish they could! Aren’t we few fortunate to have Ben and the support of this site?

You know too well… how that feeling is when you reach for your instrument… that small rush of joy… focus on that.

When I struggle (like I did tonight on my new Mando), I try to slow things way, WAY DOWN and concentrate on even rhythm with nice, clear note quality. Let the speed come another day.

Maybe take a moments break from what you are working on to play something you REALLY LIKE!

There is always the option to take a mini-Break… get some water and a snack… to return and try again.

Do not be discouraged. Dust yourself off, get back on the horse, and Ride…RIDE LIKE THE WIND!


We’ll be waiting for ya at the next station stop, my friend! The journey may be long but we are making it all together!


Hi Dave

That is some great advice. .

1 Like

Jack, The doldrums come when my brain says enough is enough. Time to take a break Archie and give me a chance to process all this info your working thru. You mentioned having a lousy 2.5 session that’s a sign to say you need a break. A few days off, do something completely different, the banjo will be waiting for you when you get back. Rest is as much a part of the learing process as the next hot lick.

As for studying other material on the web, that’s good too, a break from @BanjoBen 's lessons is NOT a bad thing and it isn’t being dis-loyal. Why do you think Ben invites guests along to the cabin.

Don’t allow yourself to get frustrated. If it’s not working stop what your doing and go have a coffee.


I find I usually can learn one intermediate/advanced break in a day if I push my muddle-brain limits, and I usually take a short “break” and play a break I know well at about the fifth minute of lesson, and then about every three minutes after that. It does help a little


We all get times like that Archie. I’ve found watching Ben and other banjo players on YouTube inspires me again. Sometimes having a little break and going back to it improves playing. Keep pickin’ :wink:

1 Like

I think we all hit those banjo walls now and again, I know I do. I recently had a few days where I thought I was moving forward again in leaps and bounds, only to have a rubbish practise the day after. One thing I’ve found is, if you don’t have your fingerpicks on exactly as needed it can effect playing. Also sometimes if I am picking badly I swap my finger picks over or take them off and on again. Sometimes helps. :wink:


Well, as a multi-instrumentalist, (I think, I’m not sure the exact qualifications), whenever I hit a wall with one instrument, I go play a different one

That’s true. I very often pick up the old geetaaar or play a little piano. ( no I don’t mean a tiny piano ) :wink: