Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Banjo lesson: Cripple Creek- Timing Theory

This is an older lesson, but a good one to reinforce the fret hand timing we’ve learned so far!

Hey Ben I just learned cripple creek on the banjo then I was doing some window shopping in your store and watched you demonstrate the rk36 and when you played it I noticed you fretted the 4th fret of the d string a couple times. Is that more of a adavanced version you played? Or just a different than your lesson ? Just making sure I’m not missing something

Not necessarily more advanced, but just a different note selection than I have in the lesson. You’re not missing anything!

I love this lesson thx Banjo Ben!

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Great lesson, Ben - defining the theory and difference between the eighth note & sixteenth note. I prefer the sixteenth note- it just sounds so much more ’ bluegrassy’. I’m sure there are reasons to play the eighth note version…but if the option is open…put me down for the sixteenth
thanks, Ben

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Great lesson Ben. I did not realize my eighth notes were really sixteenth notes when I played Cripple Creek. It is the first song I learned on the banjo. I learned it from youtube videos. I have been playing it nearly every day. I just played it to your 160 beat sound track and it put a big smile on my face. I get it nearly perfect about 1 out 5 times I play it.
When I listen to the solo track, I wonder how does a person get that fast? I know it takes time and practice, but I am wondering if there are drills that work specifically on being able to play songs faster or if it is just a matter of playing them thousands of times. Thanks, Joe

It really is just a matter of playing them over and over until your muscles are trained to play them automatically. I don’t consider myself to even begin having a song learned until I’ve played it over a thousand times. The good news is, a lot of what you’re learning now will translate to other songs. That’s why getting these old traditional bluegrass tunes under your belt is so important. That puts you on a solid foundation for more advanced stuff in the future.


Hi Joe @jsmbrown I agree with all that @Mark_Rocka says but would add your also training the brain. Some would have you believe that learning to play banjo is easy but in truth it’s a very complex business.

Think about it, you use your eyes to read the TAB or watch @BanjoBen placing his fingers on the fingerboard demonstrating where the notes are, your using your ears to hear the music which lets your memory identify the melody. Your right and left hands do completely different tasks even your fingers work independently of each other and your brain has to co-ordinate everything. as well as store all this information in your internal database. Pretty impressive eh!

Before you can begin to speed things up you’ve got to learn to play it slow and we don’t mean a couple of times through. If your not naturally gifted it can take years to learn to play fast. This is why it’s so important that you work your way through Ben’s learning track. This will teach you the fundamentals that you will need as you move into the intermediate and advance sections. Patience. Practice and Perseverance are the tools you need to help you succeed.

In order to play fast you need to switch to autopilot and that’s a skill you can learn just like riding a bike or driving a car. But hey the good news is we are all in this together, we are here to help and encourage you as you learn. Just like the folks that helped us get to where we are now.

If you haven’t read this already I would encourage you to do so now. This is one piece of advice that will help you on the road to learning to build speed.

Click on the Blue Text to open

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Hey Ben, I am trying to work through the rhythm tracks. I can play and keep up with your solo nearly - so 120 bpm should be no problem. Here is the problem: I have a difficult time figuring out how many loops of what parts the accompaniment tracks are playing. I have tried lots of things to clapping it out to measuring the seconds and beats at the track length - to no avail. Any tips here?

Specifically - how does one, who is completely new to music, discern where and what the rhythm tracks are on the tablature?

Hi Patrick

As far as the TAB is concerned the TEF file is set out in layers the instrument playing the melody is on the top layer with the rhythm layer (Guitar Strum Pattern) on the layer below synchronised to the top layer. You can turn off the sound of the top layer and just practice with the guitar rhythm track

In your tef player look to the top right of the screen and you will see little boxes with numbers. These are the TAB layers above each active box there is a green line click on that line and it will turn red, which turns of the sound on that layer click the red line and it will turn green.

Getting a handle on learning the tune and the rhythm is all about listening. I mean REALLY LISTENING.

The accompaniment tracks play A part, B part, and then repeat once or twice depending on the song. Just start playing all over again right away. You might surprise yourself. Also try playing with headphones or external Bluetooth speaker loud enough to hear over the banjo.

@Archie, @JoeB : Thanks for that. I am a bad listener and this confirms it again. Too much white male and not enough funk :smile:. Listening for the funk :headphones:

Im not understanding the slide? In Cripple Creek, the slide from 2nd to 3rd fret. What is the point of playing the 2nd string and sliding to the 3rd fret while on the 3rd string? You are not even playing the 3rd string. Part 2 of Cripple Creek- Timing Theory @3:00 mark.

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HI Lance! Welcome to the forum!

The Bb on the third string ringing against the B played on the second string causes a dissonance that belongs in the lick.
But mostly, the slide also helps “soften” the attack of the B on the second string creating the “feel” of a slide to the fourth fret without playing a triplet.

Hope this helps explain it a little.



Thank you! That makes sense.