Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Banjo lesson: How to Play Rolling Backup for Fiddle Tunes & More!

Do you want to learn to play rolling backup on the banjo? Do you really? Well stop messin’ around and let me teach you! We start with basic pinches and walks, then I show you how to add rolls, slides, and licks! Over 40 minutes of instruction!


Is this my best backup banjo lesson yet? Perhaps, yes. Y’all, this one is over 40 minutes long. There’s not a lot of “grab n’ go” bits in here. There are some, yes, but this is for folks who want to really learn.

This lesson is 40 minutes, but the principles I explain will probably take you weeks to flesh out if you’re new to them. But I will tell you this: if you will put in the effort, you can learn to play rolling banjo back up with this lesson. Plus, I’m here to answer questions you have and point you in the right direction.

This one was tough to teach, but I’m proud of it.


Wow Ben this is a monster lesson. It ticks all the boxes I have been craving for years. A lesson that teaches Backing up over a mandolin solo.

@Archie Without you, this lesson would not have happened. Watch it, soak it in, practice the principles, then ask me questions.

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Amazing things happen when you bounce thoughts and ideas. Check your email :sunglasses:

Hey Ben,
I’ve been working on the fretboard geography, and the way points lessons and was wondering if this lesson is meant to tie the others together or do you think this lesson stands on it’s own? I ask, because like many here, I only have so much time and I hate to keep hopping back and forth between lessons. Any suggestions on what to concentrate on first?

Dennis S here,thanks for this lesson,I have always awed at how some banjoplayers seem to have that rolling back-up as you call it ,and I have tried winding up with a more melodic infusion than that cool Scruggsy walking the Chords into place,always admired and loved that ,but not always easy to figure out which note you need to go from one Chord to the other gracefully,LOL

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Hi Richard

“I have always awed at how some banjoplayers seem to have that rolling back-up as you call it”

Me too

Great question…this lesson stands on it’s own, and is more of a condensed course. It’s okay if it takes time to work through! Keep at it!

Would this lesson go well with the Turkey in the Straw lesson posted 5 years ago? I would like to learn the Turkey in the straw melody and then go back to the rolling backup. Are they in the same key?

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Yep, the same backing tracks for both. It would work great!

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This is the lesson that I was hoping for. It’s got a lot of material in it, but looks like a lot of fun.

I am not understanding the theory of walking between chords, in walking from a G to a D, we are using a D, E and F#, which I get because the D and F# ae part of the D chord, but when coming back down to the G, we are using the same notes, so the only note from the G chord is the final D note. Is there some rule of thumb for walking patterns?

I could be wrong about this, and someone will correct me if so, but I believe the discrepancy there is that walking is all about using the scale notes to land on the root note of the chord you’re transitioning to.

So, from G to C, you walk up G A B C. You went from the root of G to the root of C using scale notes.

The cool part about walking is that you don’t even have to stick to the scale and it still sounds good as long as you land on the root note of the chord you’re transitioning to. For example, one of my favorite transitions from G to D on guitar is to play E D# D on the 4th string. You could also start that same transition a beat earlier and use G F# E D.


Not sure of the theory behind it but it sure sounds good when I play it and that’s all that matters.

John, the notes we are “concerned” with come from the G major scale. Use those 7 notes to walk and land on note from the chord triad you’re going to, most often the root. You can get out of that scale as well. I’ll make a video and post it below.

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Check this out, @johnbmcglade


Hey Ben, Just wondering what other fiddle tunes this could go with? Do they have to be in G? What if a fiddle tune was in A or D? Could a person or yourself with all the free time you have (its a joke son HAHA!) do something similar in another key? The hard part for me would be the walking finger stuff on where to go with my fingers. I hope this makes sense. My head hurts some see below.

Thank you kindly! Just taking time to play after studying Proteins and Gel Electrophoresis and how genetic techniques can be used to Identify diseases at the genetic level.

I needed the banjo-ness and your banjo lesson voice to settle my brain!! my head hurt but feels better now!

HOW CAN I GET SOME OF THOSE SHOTGUN SHELL LIGHTS YOU GOT IN THE BACKGROUND? My practice place is missing them and it doesn’t seem right without them.

Love all you are doing brother and Huge Blessings to you and your kin!!

Dean Sims

If it’s in A, you capo up two frets and use the same principles here. If in D, you’re based out of D position but the principles are the same. Remember that I’m not teaching you a tab, I’m teaching a process and approach. The walking follows the scale of the key you’re in. Walk from the root of one chord to the next chord.

My mom-in-law got those lights at Costco, I think.

Watching your ladder analogy helps me think of how they are laid out. Thanks for the reply and the answer about the lights. Costco. I will find them.


Sorry I got long winded!

Ben, this is a terrific lesson. Are you working in melody notes here and there, or just ignoring the melody altogether?