Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Forward Rolls

When practicing my Forward Rolls should I just be rolling on endlessly or should I practice as if it is a repeating measure?
I am a guitar player so this is very difficult for me at this point and I don’t want any new bad habits to unlearn…Thanks.

Personally, unless all you want to do is forward rolls when you play the banjo, I wouldn’t concentrate too much on rolls but I would rather start learning some songs.

If you are following Ben’s lessons, then start with the Banjo 103 rolls lesson just to get your fingers used to playing banjo rolls. Then go onto his other lessons where these rolls are used in songs. It is much more interesting and useful to practice rolls in the context of songs. Again, personally, I find playing a forward roll over and over again pretty boring but playing a song is a challenge and fun. Also, unless you create your own banjo music with a single roll pattern, you will not play a repetitive roll pattern over and over in the context of real music so these songs help you to get used to that.

In answer to your question though, a forward roll is only three eighth (typically but they could be quarter or sixteenth notes) notes but a measure, in 4/4, has four beats or eight eighth notes. So you need to change up the forward roll (usually with a square roll; check out Ben’s Square roll lesson) to make it fit (3+3 = 6 and 3+3+3=9 but 3+3+3+3+4=16).

Hey, thanks for the reply. I completely understand what you are saying. I am working on some beginner lessons and at the same time really trying to advance my muscle memory. Being a guitar player I find it tough to have to think so much about my right hand, But, I will get it. Again, thanks…

I play guitar too. I was where you are at too when I started as I only played guitar with a pick so my right hand was just out of control.

I played the Banjo 103 lesson over and over and over again for a week or 10 days (I don’t want to remember!) Luckily I live alone because my practice just sounded terrible. But eventually I could get my fingers to more or less (often less) go where I thought they were going.

Unless you are naturally talented, it’s going to take some time for your fingers to learn. I had picked up the mandolin just before I started to learn banjo and found it pretty easy to get at least musical sounds out of it. But the banjo…!

Like most beginners, I thought I was going to pick it up pretty easily. But I found that right hand picking was really, really difficult. I practice a lot and only after about 7 months did I start feeling less uncomfortable about playing. I am three years in now and am just starting to feel like I am getting a handle on the instrument. And I didn’t even have to work much with my left hand so I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for those who have never played fretted instruments before.

So be patient. Practice a lot. A lot of it is about muscle memory and that just takes (at least for me) a long time.

Good luck!

If you are at lesson 103, I would continue to 104-5-6 in the beginner section. These present how to use the forward, backward and forward reversed roll within a song. It helps to attach the roll with timing within a measure. Not sure if that is needed if you only want to practice control of your fingers, but guess it makes sense to put it in a ‘musical framework’.

In my journey, I played the forward roll what seems like endlessly. Then the backwards roll. Then square. I think it was Earl who taught that each roll should be practiced 1,000 times before moving on.

Not all guys like this method - or endorse it - but it worked for my fingers. I found that just practicing songs became frustrating because my timing would be inconsistent due to my fingers not being equally familiar with all of the roll patterns.

All good advice guys. Thank you. I am starting to gain some control over my right hand and looking forward to getting to the meat and potatoes of this thing…Again, Thanks.