Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Banjo lesson: You Are My Sunshine– Slides

Let’s put those banjo slides to use to play the happiest-sounding sad song ever written.

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I am wondering how fast I should be capable (now and in the future) of playing. I got a banjo for my 70th birthday. The only musical instruments I have played was trombone in 5th and 9th grade, played around with a recorder last June and July, worked with a banjo book for dummies in September and October, and then started these lessons in late November. My only gifting is discipline. I have been going at it from 1 1/2 to 2 hours per day. I can do the forward role on Cabbage Down at 140 bpm, though still need work at that speed, backward easily at the 110 bpm, Worried Man comfortably at 120, Cripple Creek slides at 160, and getting close to doing You Are My Sunshine at the 120. Just starting on Cripple Creek with hammer-ons. My incentive is playing with kids and grandkids who actually have talent. Should I be getting to where I am playing these at 200bpm? I am not sure if these old fingers are capable of moving that fast.


Hi Dennis, All I can say from personal experience is it’s a gradual process. We all get there when our muscle memory and brain allows us. Some tunes/arrangements are way more complex, so it goes without saying the more complex the licks the more effect it has on performance and speed. Personally my goal has always been to play accurately through a tune at a speed that I am comfortable with rather than trying to play fast.


HI Dennis!

Don’t get hung up on speed…it improves with time, but we all have our own limits. Do what you can do comfortably while having fun with it.

When you are super relaxed at a tempo, then try taking it up a notch. There is no rule that we have to play everything at breakneck speed.

Many times going too fast can drain all the feeling and interesting playing from a tune.

I’d suggest following Archie’s advice.



Great advice here! I was just talking about this yesterday with a good friend. Speed comes with time according to your ability, and not everyone is the same. Are there ways to build speed? Of course, but let’s give it a year of working for solid technique before we turn our focus there. I will tell you that if you’re playing cleanly at the speeds you’ve mentioned, you are way ahead of the game!


Dennis, I am in the same boat, only a bit younger at 66. My speed is not where I think it should be, and I can’t pick fast enough to play along with"Bile Them Cabbage Down" when the Grascals do it, ( ) but I sure do enjoy making those banjo sounds at a slower speed!
Even when it’s hard, it better be fun!


Thank you. I am competitive and so it is hard not to go for speed, but I hear you,


In my opinion accuracy is much more important at this stage than speed. If you concentrate on speed and play it wrong, what have you accomplished?
I am in the process of relearning the banjo because I concentrated on speed and neglected accuracy. I had to forget my old ways and start with Ben’s programming from the beginning and believe me, I am concentrating on accuracy this time. I do not move on to the next lesson until I can play the lesson perfectly at least 50 % of the time.
By the way, good luck!


BTW, I’m 76 years old.


that’s really encouraging, @Jimbo! Thanks!


That’s all very good new’s to me! I started out in the beginning of feb and think I suck! But I can get through the tune’s my instructor has given me and with all the tutorials and lessons that Ben has. I see I’m not doing so bad at all but I am only 59 so I got all kind’s of time. Thank’s for the excellent advice!