Discuss the Banjo lesson: Backup Banjo Utility Rolls



Providing a rhythm bed with rolls is mighty important! We’ll take a utility roll pattern from Tony Wray and learn how to move it from chord to chord, as well as spice it up!


Hey @BanjoBen that is a really great lesson. Looking forward to getting into the detail. over the weekend


This is great! Exactly what I’m trying to work on to have more fun at local jams.

You mentioned the middle finger is where your syncopation comes from. Can you explain that a little more as to why it’s coming from that finger?



Thanks! The nature of the roll has the middle finger playing the first string notes in a common percussion syncopated pattern. I used to play drums in high school, and where the first string notes fall in these rolls is where many of our cadences would place the accented notes.


@BanjoBen, I don’t see that stunning gorgeous Crusader on the general store, did it sell already?


I absolutely love this lesson @BanjoBen. I really lack backup skills and this is really nice ammo to have. I didn’t have any trouble at all with the cool lick in measure 46, having recently nailed the similar licks in Wayfaring Stranger. Those had me stuck for many days til I got my pinky working right. Saw this and had it within a couple tries. I did a long diatribe in another post today about economy of scale. The more songs I learn and skills I master, the easier it is to learn new songs and skills.

It’s great that you provide lessons like this, just want to say thank you and please feel free to do more.


Thanks for doing this lesson! I have been working on the utility rolls over different chords this week. I do get a little stuck when I have an odd number of measures in the same chord. I know there’s lots of stuff to do with these measures like walk to the next chord, forward rolls, pinches etc, but they don’t have the same utility roll feel and sound. Would you recommend playing half of a utility roll in this scenario instead of a simple forward roll?


I’ve said for many years, the best site by far. The way you added this lesson, to tie in with Wrays lesson last time is just genius. And I still like when you carry one song thru to all three instruments. Keep it up Ben and get some of them Scruggs strings back in.


Not yet! I actually don’t even have it up…coming this weekend!


Just dug into this one an hour ago. Found it difficult to pick the first four measures without looking at the tab, but that is my challenge to myself and forces me to take it slow. It has a modern and cool vibe to it with tons of room for creativity.


@BanjoBen has done it again… awesome instruction, clarification and enhanced insight into that awesome Tony “WRAY-COOL” lesson.

Leave it to @BanjoBen - taking artistry from masters and explaining while enhancing and translating is the indication of INSPIRED TEACHING.

Thank you so much for breaking this down further. I can’t wait to try this one ‘cuz I was soooo inspired with that groundbreaking lesson!


I can only echo what has already been said here…
Great Lesson !
Even Greater Teacher !

No, seriously, @BanjoBen, as far as teaching banjo goes, you’re the best !


Careful @Erwin1 If that head of his get’s any bigger he won’t be able to wear any of those wigs and play his party piece and that would be a crying shame for sure.


He would have to move up in size with those awesome hats of his, right @Archie?

Come to think of it… I am going to go upstairs and get my Orange one now!


I just wanna say, lessons like these are not helping with my Christmas songs (especially “Oh Holy H… Night”), JK! Now let’s just add another 2 hours practice each day. Slide the food under the door. Great job Ben! More, more, more!!!


Yup, I am with ya there… and even more for those of us on the multi-instrument train (Banjo and Mando for me).

I just told my wife the other day, I started practicing Christmas music at HALLOWEEN - so I stand any chance of being able to try to play them by Christmas! :grimacing:

I cannot learn and master these songs as quickly as some of our other students… nor do I have the hours of practice time needed… so that means starting early.

Then… by the time the holiday arrives… my family will be beggin’ for a break :roll_eyes:… when I enthusiastically say… “One more time!” :cowboy_hat_face:

It reminds me of that scene is the Wedding Singer… the singer who worships Boy George (in singing and style)… to finish “Do you really want to hurt me”… only to start it AGAIN! :wink::astonished:


Heh heh, Christmas Songs are like “Groundhog Day”. They come around the same way every single year! Motivating for my 14 yo guitar playing granddaughter on Oahu though. We’ve found some common ground. I reminded her that if she learns JingleBells, she can play it for folks every year for the rest of her life (and JB is returning to my banjer memory faster than it did last year), so here we go! I’m due to be with her in about a month…


Great lesson. This is one of the things I’ve been wanting (and trying) to figure out for a long time now. I can’t wait to start working on this.

Thanks for making this a first rate site and top-shelf teaching.


I just started working on this one a few days ago. I just about have it committed to muscle memory. I noticed this morning that my backup playing has already changed as a result of this lesson. New ideas are opening up.

Really cool stuff!


Love the knock-down, drag-out, mean sassy sound of this rolling back-up. I think my banjo grew legs and tried to walk away playing this. Can’t wait to find a good tune to use this on. Any suggestions out there? (BTW: It sounds like someone got up too quickly (listen for it) at the very end of the 120 BPM practice track? :open_mouth: