Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Getting Up To Speed

I am having trouble getting Shenandoah Breakdown up to speed. I can play it at around 240bpm with Ben’s track, but it is not real clean. What is the best way to go about speeding things up? Any suggestions are appreciated!

Hi Micah,

240 bpm in my book is pretty fast.

In a way you have answered your own question by saying “it’s not real clean”

Speed is a topic that comes up quite regular not just here but over on the Banjo Hangout. There are several factors that effect speed.

I. Your level of experience.
2. The difficulty of the arrangement.
3. Your familiarity with the tune.
4. Your ability to listen - really LISTEN to yourself and the backing track. I use headphones when I practice.
5. Your timing.
6. How much study and practice you have put in. Unless your gifted you’ll have to put in a lot of practice.

When I am learning a tune I start of real Sloooooow at 40 bpm. Making sure I pick every string with the correct finger as laid out in @BanjoBen 's TAB. I do this with good reason.

Many of the train wrecks that occur are often down to picking a string with the wrong finger I’ll say that again.

Many of the train wrecks that occur are often down to picking a string with the wrong fingerKeep that little sentence in mind.

I use TablEdit (See the link below) Once I have learned the tune I start work on building speed. in 5 bpm increments. I set the software to repeat, and just play it over and over making sure I can play along with the TAB cleanly before upping the speed. I’ll often repeat this process 200 times a day for several weeks before I am happy with it.

Because I have the software set to repeat, practice is more like a performance that a chore and this makes learning a lot more fun than working from a printed sheet whilst listening to a metronome click.

Any problem licks and phrases I work on them in isolation till I can play them cleanly, then I practice the whole tune. I spend way more time on perfecting the problem areas than I do learning the rest of the tune.

If you can’t play a tune cleanly at a slow speed there is very little chance you will be able to play it cleanly fast. So the key to playing fast is play it slow till you have the tune nailed. Then begin to build speed in small increments as I have described.

One final observation. I find it more difficult to play along with Ben’s guitar backing tracks than I do with the track containing the banjo. I guess hearing the banjo helps me to remember the melody and keeps me focused. So when your ready to work on speed try downloading the mp3 file and slow it down in Audacity and see if that helps you build speed.


Thanks, Archie! I did start practicing the song that way on TefView by repeating and gradually speeding it up. I guess I will try going back and cleaning up some licks at a slower speed.


Hi Micah

It’s been years since I used TefView but I think you can highlight sections of TAB and have it repeat. ( @Mark_Rocka may be able to confirm this) Which is what I do in TablEdit. That way you can focus all your attention on the troublesome spots. Good Luck

Thanks for posting! It would really if I could see/hear you play, then I could make some real suggestions of what may be holding you back. Consider recording yourself and posting a youtube link in the Video Swap forum category. Keep pickin’!

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