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.