Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Enhancing rhythms

I am not sure how to go about learning to enhance a song when playing/practicing the rhythm (on the mandolin) to make it more interesting so I wouldn’t be just playing chords. I’m not sure of the terminology, maybe fills. Is this something that has to come naturally or can this be learned. So I am okay at just learning for instance runs or some enhancement but when it comes to applying I have never been able to. If anyone can give me some tips or insight, that would be helpful.

Hi Annie, I don’t play mandolin but have you tried learning any of @BanjoBen 's Build a Break Lessons. Most of what he teaches on the banjo whether it’s a solo break or backup has some elements that would be considered as enhancements. , particularly in the intermediate and advance sections

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A good way to start with fills is to play a small simple lick that matches the chord in between the singing of a song.

Archie has a good hint to: you can use all (or part) of many licks you already know or that are in Ben’s lessons.

Another method is to listen to a song with singing…hum something in between the singing when enough space is available. Then do what you hummed on your instrument.

You can try filling in only after the end of the second & 4th lines of vocals…or only after the third or fourth line,etc

Feel free to experiment & have Fun!

If you can, listen to a recording and see where the instruments are filling in…I do this a lot when I’ve learned a new lick…I just stick it wherever I can (making sure it matches the present chord) & see where it fits and where it doesn’t…


Thank you both Fiddle_wood and Archie for your help. Archie, I have done several of the build a break lessons. I will start working with the suggestions you both have given me.


Annie with the banjo a slide, hammer-on pull-off or bend can greatly enhance a phrase. Not sure if this is done on the mandolin. Ben has created several Bag-of-Lick lessons for the banjo which many folks skip through in favour of learning a tune these are little pots of gold, Again I don’t know if he does these for the mandolin but if he has I encourage you to go check them out.

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There are bag-of-licks lessons as well for the mandolin. I have gone through the one in the key of G. I had learned them but didn’t think about them individually and learned them more like I would a song. I am going to go back to them again to pick one and try to Incorporate it into a song. It will be a good challenge for me.


Hi Annie I did much the same, but over time these bag-o-lock lessons have helped me on my journey and the task of learning, retaining and recalling material just becomes much more easier to me now. Good luck