Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Getting faster

Learning the banjo has been a fascinating experience so far. I have made a point to practice everyday since I’ve got it. After about 5 weeks, I really see an improvement from knowing absolutely nothing, to understanding tabs, and basic songs.

Everyday I’ve practiced the forward rolls. If I do nothing else, I’ve practiced those. About a week ago, I was just flummoxed as to how to build speed.

Well, speed comes without you knowing it. A couple days ago, I thought: “you know, I should try to play with the mp3’s at 80 bpm, let’s see if I can do it”. Yup, easy peasy. Whoa.

“Maybe try the slowest one - 110 bpm”

Yup. Not easy, but not hard.

Over the past couple days, I’ve been pushing my ability to see where I really breakdown. It seems to be around 130 - 140 bpm. Not that I can’t keep up at 130 bpm, but tiny distractions throw me off… A LOT. I’ve only made it 70% through 140 bpm before falling apart. Right now, I’m saying my best is about 125 bpm, accident free, most of the time.

Long story short: I’m not worried about speed any more. It will be there with practice. “If you play it, speed will come”


When your learning a tune learn it slowly. Speed comes on its own.


“Play slow to go fast” is a mantra I have taken to heart.

This whole thing reminds me of the “Three Stages of A Fisherman.”
Stage One: “I want to catch some fish!”
Stage Two: “I want to catch a really big fish!”
Stage Three: “I don’t’ care if I catch a fish or not. I just like being where the fish are.”


I can totally identify with you Mike! I’ve played the same forward roll song so many times in the past weeks that I would love to someday hear myself play a new tune! But, it’s good to know that others are in the same boat. Someone on here made a comment that stuck with me. Something like they treat practicing their instrument like going to the gym. Push yourself until your muscles are ‘burning’ and then go back down to where your comfortable. Then the next day you’ll be a little stronger.


That used to be my idea too, but after a while i changed my theory. Play extremely fast to play fast. i find if i try to play a song at twice the speed i would like to, no matter how many messups, when i slow it down to my normal it feels so slow that i can just breeze through. But i would not suggest that for most people. i think that i’m probably the one wierdo doing everything wrong… but whatever works for you is generally my slogan.


Once you really know a piece you should be able to play it correctly at various speeds.
I purposely vary the speeds I play at to keep loose on what possible tempo I might have to play something later with others…just like I vary keys, etc. on some material.
The feeling, consistency & dynamics of a piece are as important (if not more) than doing it fast.
Speed comes from relaxation and familiarity.
Many see it as a goal, but I see it as a result…

There are banjo players I purposely avoid because they play flat out as fast (and loud) as they can on everything (it gets tiresome). It’s worth mentioning that they are not the fastest players I will pick with…just the most boring and least coherent.

The right speed at the right time is essential to playing well with others…stay open minded.

Just my opinion…


I like that way of thinking. This is an art form, and a true artist isn’t going to pidgeonhole themselves into just one way of playing. Thanks!


“The feeling, consistency & dynamics of a piece are as important (if not more) than doing it fast. Speed comes from relaxation and familiarity.”

I like that advice. It makes sense to me.


Man alive I wish that I could play along with those jam tracks them things are a burr in my saddle and I haven’t figured how to know what part I’m playing goes with the backing tracks. and I think I’ll be able to play in a jam session :woozy_face:

You can use the mp3 of the jam track and low it down more in Amazing Slow Downer…or another slow-down software…


Ohhhhh, great I’m on the hunt. Thanks

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On the topic of speed listen to what @BanjoBen has to say in this video interview with Ashley ATZ of Recording King - speed and hot licks starting at 27.00