Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Hello all!

Hello all!

I’m brand new to the site. I found Ben’s lessons on Youtube and thought they were great, so I joined yesterday!

I’m an elementary music teacher by day. I’ve been playing guitar since I was in middle school, but have never really progressed past the beginner/intermediate stage. I mostly play cowboy chords and rarely stray out of first position. I can fingerpick, but really only one way (the Dust in the Wind method…can’t recall what they call it).

I thought Ben’s songs and lessons would be a great way for me to get better. And I’ve always wanted to learn how to flatpick.

Anyway…just wanted to say hi. Looking forward to working on the material on the site.


— Begin quote from "tenortodd"

I thought Ben’s songs and lessons would be a great way for me to get better. And I’ve always wanted to learn how to flatpick.

— End quote

Welcome to the site Todd, you made a wise decision. Ben is a great teacher, person and picker and you will improve for sure. Not only will Ben’s lessons help you with that, but members here on the forum are more than willing to help as well. There’s alot of talent and knowledge itching to be shared.

I don’t know what the "Dust in the Wind " fingerpicking is called either, but it’s a good song that never seems to get old. Ben does some fingerpicking lessons on guitar occasionally. In fact, this week’s lesson is one. Most of the guitar stuff is flatpicking, so you’re at the right place. Jump in and have fun!

welcome to Banjo Ben. You will find that people here are more than willing to help with any questions you may have, even Ben himself will help out. Cant say enough about Ben, he just a awesome teacher and a good person. I pick the banjo so, just wanted to jump over to say welcome and hello,better go before guitar players no that a banjo player is here. hehe… GOD BLESS

Welcome to the site . I am sure you will find more than enough to keep you busy . as far as I am concerned there is no better teacher for this type of music . Ben has been a great help to all of us . Any questions just ask and am sure someone will provide the answers or at least their version . Enjoy !

I’m a newbie, too… but they are awesome here!!!
Amazing teaching from Ben, and great tips and humor from the rest.
Welcome, and have fun!!

Howdy and welcome!

Travis picking is what I call the “Dust in the wind” method. Some people get more specific (I tend to get more general the older I get). More generally, “fingerstyle” covers most finger-y styles of play. I suspect you’ll enjoy some of Ben’s fingerstyle arrangements as well as the flatpicking. Don’t be surprised if you get the urge to grab a mandolin or a banjo after hanging out for a while.

Have fun!

Mike has it right, Travis picking (a offshoot of Cotten Picking named for Elizabeth Cotten).

You picked (pun intended) the right site; there is enough info here to get you up and showing off at bluegrass jams. :smiley: Have fun and enjoy playing!

Hi Todd, glad to have you on the forum. Be sure to ask all the questions you want and put your $.02 worth in whenever you can!

Yes! Travis picking…thanks for the reminder. I’m pretty good at it, but it sounds pretty bland when you’re doing the same pattern over and over with basic chords. The first thing I’m working on here is Ben’s fingerstyle arrangement of Softly and Tenderly. It’s beautiful and not too difficult. Looking forward to learning…

I hate to be pedantic, but is Dust in the Wind really Travis Picking? I think not. I always thought 2 things characterize Travis Picking. First, the palm is damping the bass notes (and those notes are usually picked with a thumb pick). And second, the melody is syncopated. I’m not hearing either of those on Dust. I’d call what Kansas is doing there pattern picking.

Jim is right on here! Travis picking is ALL alternating bass with the thumb while picking melody with the remaining 1st and 2nd fingers sometimes the pinky. The very first thing taught in TPng is the alternating thumb, on the top four strings mainly and until that is a natural movement without thinking about it. I took several courses on it and to me,it was very hard to pick up, and I went back to the flat pick. A good one to check out for this style is Buster B Jones, a local Eugene Or. guy here but unfortunately he passed away a couple years ago. You can find him on you tube, he was a master at the Travis Style guitar.
Finger style patterns fall into the category as far as rolls and so on but no thumb no Travis style just fingerpicking. JMO Jerry

It’s funny, I’m the opposite. I’ve been fingerpicking all my life and the flatpick is a mystery. One of the reasons I started with the mandolin actually. In a shameless plug, here’s one of my tunes: … le-rag.mp3

I don’t consider that even strict Travis Picking, since I’m not damping the bass. But it’s closer to the style than DINTW.

I’m a fingerpicker. Use Travis picking a lot. Found it useful to explore chords. Becoming familiar with hammer-ons… pull-offs for each chord in a song. Use them as flavering.
Then connect a chord to its neighbor with bass runs and double stops. (What I call melodic lead)

Lots I don't know, but it's not a race, it's a journey.

You just said a mouthful Harv, it is a journey and not a speed race. To thy own self be true.

If your experience is like mine, your finger picking will improve as you learn flat picking technique. And on the flipside, I have evolved a flatpicking style I consider to be pattern picking. It seemed almost natural to me and I think my finger picking (some kind if Travis picking style) really gave me the sense of timing to make this work. When I watched Steve Kaufman’s video of cross picking Home Sweet Home on U tube, I told myself “I can do something like that.” And by the end of the afternoon I had it. No I can’t duplicate Steve K but considering that I am still a beginner, I am happy with the result.

As you probably already know, there is a lot to learn from Ben and this site.

Hmmm… I guess I have misunderstood the concept of Travis Picking all these years.

I always understood Travis Picking to be an offshoot of Cotten picking. That is to say that Cotten picking is a type of picking pattern that has the thumb alternating while the index and middle fingers play the 1st and second strings like this: Bass-1-3-2 (Thumb-middle-thumb-index). Travis picking seemed like a loose extended variation on this concept. In Travis picking, the thumb continues to alternate (often between the root and fifth of the chord, or the root of the chord and 3rd string) while the index and middle fingers take care of the 1st and second string. A typical Travis picking pattern might be: Bass-Pause-3-2-B-1-3-2 or B-P-3+2+1-P-B-1-3-2 or B-P-3-2-B-1-3-P. Often these patterns can be syncopated. In addition, my understanding of Travis Picking was that it was not specifically one pattern, but a stylistic feel which included the stride bass (alternating bass) and other chord tones filled in with the other fingers (often just the index and middle, but sometimes the ring finger gets involved).

However, I never thought what Chet Atkins used to do how ragtime guitar is often played as specifically Travis Picking (which is what has been described above). I always though of Chet’s work as more chord/melody/bassrun work.

Learn something new everyday. :blush:

I’m in much the same boat as Doc (and had the same general understanding). I had seen similar discussions on what is (and isn’t) Travis picking, which is why I stated at the start that some people get more specific with the terminology. I am not sure what is “correct” and I have seen many (often conflicting) thoughts on it. I have seen similar arguments about what constitutes crosspicking. In the case of the meaning of both those words, I’d rather play a guitar and I’ll leave the word etymology research to the experts.

I’m with Mike on this.

It’s been my experience that relatively new musical terms are not always clearly defined and instead of bringing clarity when used bring confusion.

Such is the case with “blue notes”. I have always been taught that blue notes are the b3, b5 and b7 of the scale. I read recently however that blue notes are not actually notes from any scale and are pitches the fit between notes of any particular scale (micro tones).

With such confusion and inconsistencies in musical terms, it is difficult to share accurate information with students or other musicians.

So I think I will sit back and see what history decides these terms mean while I cross pick and Travis pick this blues tune :laughing:

Howdy Todd…

I am also new to the forum and only been a member of Banjo Ben for a short while. Great stuff here!


Hi T.O.M.,
Delighted to have you here…

Enjoy the party,