Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Great Banjo Lick in a Gospel video by the Hemphills

Hey Folks,

Some more info on this banjo player, his name is Bruce Watkins, don’t know if he’s still living or not, here’s a link to the album he played I’ll Fly Away on, it’s for sale on ebay. The guy was talented, he played several instruments according to whats on the album cover. He’s got more nice licks on the song that I wanted to get some help on, if you listed to the whole song, there more cool licks, good stuff.


Here’s the link

I sent a request to Ben about a lick I found on a video by the Hemphills, he ask me to post our conversation here so here tis, hope you get something out of it.

This post is upside down so start at the bottom.


From Ben:
It’s all good! Yep, it’s at 1:18. Great lick!

Could you do me a big favor? Please post this in my banjo forum category so lots of folks can benefit from it. Perhaps I can get to it this week. Thanks so much!

On Sun, Jan 21, 2018 at 11:10 AM, wrote:
Thanks Ben for getting back to me, dumb on my part for not telling you what i was talking about.

On my iMac it shows up on youtube’s timer bar somewhere about here: 1:18 / 3:54 or so,. It’s a melodic lick.

Many thanks my friend, I’m spending hours on your teaching, and I’m loving it, you’re hands down the best teacher out there.


On Jan 20, 2018, at 6:25 PM, Banjo Ben Clark wrote:

Thanks! At what point in the video?

On Sat, Jan 20, 2018 at 6:23 PM, James Allen wrote:
Hey Ben,

Here’s a link to a kind of melodic lick in I’ll Fly Away, I’ve never heard this lick before if you ever get the time take a listen and see if you can tell what he’s doing, the tab on that would be great.

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James Allen

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Yeah, I’m guessing he was moving down the neck, repeating the lick, and then coming back up for a few bars. Am I Correct? Please straighten me out if I’m wrong. Also loved the chords at about 1:34. What were they?

The song is in A, so is it the F#m you’re asking about, Jack? Chords should be A, D, E and F#m. That’s that Pentecostal flair in Gospel tunes. They pepper all of their music with minors. I was raised Assemblies of God, so it’s pretty much the way it’s supposed to sound to me. :slight_smile:

There are a ton of cool licks all throughout the song, James. Is there one in particular you’re looking to learn, or are you wanting someone to map out the whole song?

I’m not sure Mark. But I loved what he was doing at 1:18 and 1:34. I’m going to play with the 1’4’5 and 6m and see if I find something that sounds ok. Really appreciate it…Jack

Hey Mark,

Thanks for chiming in.

You wrote
There are a ton of cool licks all throughout the song, James. Is there one in particular you’re looking to learn, or are you wanting someone to map out the whole song?

To another, Pentecostal this song sounds great to me also, just like it should be.

For right now all I want to learn is this one lick located at 1:18, not the whole song, maybe I’ll get into more of the wonderful licks in this song at a later date.

I’ve listened to this song for years and I’ve wanted to learn this melodic lick, I haven’t gotten into playing melodic style that much but since I found this site and Ben’s teaching, I’m into it.

I’ve taken some melodic lessons by Tony Trischka, he has four lessons on, “highly recommended”, here’s the link:

I want to learn some melodics, I do like tasteful melodic licks in a song.

I’ve been trying to play banjo since the 70’s and I’ve never played as well as I should for the years I’ve put into it. I got away from playing for some years now I’m retired and 71 and have the time to put into catching up.

I remember we used to take a 33 1/3 record, slow it down and try to pick out the notes and put into tablature, worked pretty good. I think I have this record somewhere but I don’t have a turntable so thats out. My interest is to pick out the notes in this lick, put it into tab so I can practice and master this lick.

Hey James,

There is actual software that you can use to slow the instruments so you can pick out the notes more easily.

There is also an app that does this called Anytune that is five star rated.

Also, there are many well known tunes that Ben is going to add, and I’m pretty sure I’ll Fly Away is one of them. (License negotiations pending).

Yesterday was the first time I heard this version, and I really loved that part at 1:18. I think if you can crack the first four or five notes, you can take it right down the neck and back up. That’s just my guess though.

Wishing you the best with your banjo.


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The combination of licks sounds familiar. Let me have a crack at it and get back to you soon.

I was hoping you’d take a stab at this one! I’m covered up today.

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OK, that was harder than I expected. The quality of the recording is so low that slowing down made it sound really bad. Hopefully this is close enough. Since it’s played in A, I have 2 tabs for you. This is the tab as if the capo resets the frets, so 2nd fret is 0, 3rd fret is 1, and so on.

IllFlyAwayBanjoTab-CapoedFrets.txt (1.4 KB)

And here’s the same thing, but the actual frets are listed. So, an open string is 2, right where the capo is.

IllFlyAwayBanjoTab-ActualFrets.txt (1.4 KB)

Let me know what you think.

***Edit - Pay very close attention to the right hand fingering on this one. As with most melodic runs, the fingering is extremely important. There are a lot of T,1,T,1 and T,2,T,2 sections where some people instinctively try to use 1,2,1,2. While you can make that work at slower speeds, it’s not likely to sound right once you get this up to 140 BPM.

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And here’s something to practice with. I cut out the little section you wanted to learn and made a loop out of it. If you have any software that can loop an MP3 file without leaving a gap at the end, the tempo of these files should be perfect. There’s the original 100% speed, and also a 60% and 80% to play with. The quality gets progressively worse the slower it gets. Anything lower than 60% is almost unrecognizable.


Mark, that is so cool! You deserve a pick point!

One question. If you capo at fret two, do you also need to spike the A on string 5? The tab hasn’t quite sunk in.

Thanks very much.


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Yes sir! You’ll definitely need that 5th string spiked.

If I have time tonight, I’ll try to make a little video so you can get an idea of the left hand fretwork.

Cool…thank you. :+1:

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I think I remember where I heard this lick before, or at least a very similar version. That’s My Heart You’re Walk-in On by The Purple Hulls… Was that you, Ben?

I might need to get a tripod for a better angle on the neck. Let me know if this doesn’t show the fingering well enough.


No, that’s my sister Katy…she has some excellent melodic ideas.

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Great job on this, Mark!

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Hey Mark,

You’re just the best, I appreciate you taking this up, I hope I didn’t put any pressure on Ben or you, it’s just one of those request that you take up when you have the time, you’ve cracked this thing is a day, I am so grateful.

This is my first post in this forum and already I realize there’s a lot of talent here and I will be hanging out here often.

Can’t thank you enough for your efforts, I’m blown away with the result.

Now I’m downloading your tabs and getting into this, it’ll take me some time but I’ll get it. I’m one happy camper.




You sent MP3’s, “WOW”, they’re great, I’m sure other forum members will benefit from your work here, I surely will.

What a day I’m having.



Great Job Mark

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