Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

How Far to Take Each Lesson

Hi y’all!

So how far should I take each lesson’s song? Should I practice until I can play it practically perfectly (but it’ll be SLOW) or should I get my speed up to the fastest jam track Ben has (but my accuracy will plummet)? @BanjoBen or anyone else, have any opinions?

Oh, by the way, I also started a new leg of my bluegrass life… playin’ the fiddle!


Here’s the thing: If you want to be considered a musician, you have to be able to play a song all the way through and play it well; even if you only know that one song well enough, at least you can say you’re a musician. It does no good to be able to play 10 songs, but they’re all sloppy, or to know a few licks to a bunch of songs. My advice is to LEARN the piece so if someone asks you to play them a song you can, and it’ll sound good and they will enjoy listening to it. Playing everything up to tempo is something you can work on, but if it’s in tune and in time, people will listen to it and enjoy it. Hope this makes sense.


Thats great advice @HeloSteve


Hi Taryn , Great question, I used to work through one tune/lesson at a time getting more and more frustrated as I tried to perfect every note until eventually I would go crazy with making so many mistakes and I’d give up.

Over time I learned a different approach which seems to work well for me. I tend to work on several tunes at once this may seem a little unorthodox to most folks.

I seek out all the hard sections/licks & phrases of a tune and spend as much time as I feel I can cope with before moving on to a difficult section on another tune. Using Ben’s videos to check the fretting hand and picking patterns and reference this against the TAB Tef files. In the knowledge that these difficult sections. licks and phrases will most likely crop up again in another tune.

This may take me several weeks or even months. But all the time what I am mindful of is I am learning and memorizing a new set of skills not just another new tune.

When I am done and got things playing smoothly I start working on learning the tune. I listen to it over and over memorising each phrase, this is what is often referred to as playing by ear where your listening and trying to mimic the sounds you hear . At this point I am working mostly with the Tef files at a low speed.

I loop sections every now and then, moving forward as I build the break. Once I have the A Part down I start to build speed a little before moving on to the B part, I start off very slowly.

At this point I am beginning to wean myself off reading the TAB and focusing more on listening to the TAB as I play along.

For me speed is the last thing I work on, I build it gradually over several days sometimes weeks. We each have our own approach, some folks can play tunes up to speed whist reading the TAB without making a single mistake.

In short, I gave up trying to play tunes perfectly a long time ago. I no longer worry about making mistakes. It seems that we ourselves are more likely to spot our mistakes long before our audiences ever will.


Congrats on the fiddle playing… Hope that goes well for you!

There’s no rules, it’s not a job and no one is putting pressure on us (other than ourselves). You do whatever makes you happy and keep it fun and enjoyable.

To answer your question a little more specifically, I wouldn’t work on a lesson so much that you get burnt out on it. I like to do as Archie said and work on a few at a time. I think that makes it much more interesting and just plain fun and keeps you from the burn out. Also, playing and learning other songs will help with that specific tune you may have been working on for so long. Just playing something will even help.

Mix it up, play things you know well for enjoyment, work on things that are tougher than you think you can handle to keep yourself challenged (this is important). It’s the only way to keep from getting stuck on plateaus. Most of all, always make sure it brings you joy!


Fiddle? That’s so cool!

You’ve already been introduced to both camps of thought here. I’m in Steve’s camp. When I learn a song, I will literally play nothing but that song until I can play it without thinking about it. On average, that’s usually about 1,000 times (no joke.)

It also depends on your goals. While I rarely play in front of people, I keep that as my goal, so I learn with the intention of performing, and often imagine I’m on stage while I practice.

That’s my 2 cents, adjusted for inflation.


I agree that it depends on your goals. I am a guitar player. I like to jam with other pickers. I need to be fluent in a lot of songs, so I have a list of common songs that I practice. Mostly I want to learn the chord progression and hopefully the melody! I spent practice time trying to improvise off those melodies. I have a few songs I lead at jams and have a break or kick worked out ahead of time for those. Overall, I’m working in a different skill than playing a song thoroughly from a lesson.

That being said, we’ve got our eyes on a couple of local open mic nights. For those I’ll learn songs as thoroughly as I can and do up an arrangement with the other players. Thats a different skill set - for now!

And fiddle tunes are a different story! Those I learn an arrangement note for note and work it up to speed.



A good rule of thumb is, if your family members aren’t screaming, “For the love of god, would you please play something else!”, then you’re probably not practicing enough. :grimacing:


Anything but the 2 things you mention probably, cause otherwise I would have given up long ago. :wink: Fiddle, cool!

P.S. Quickly reading other’s views, mine sounds like a bad practice! :slight_smile: But watching Gunnar’s play, he doesn’t play it to perfection or to speed, but I think he tries out a lot of music, and now he does play it perfectly and to speed.


Funny story… years ago I had decided to pick out Dancin’ On My Grave because that was the first song I ever saw Ben, Penny, and Katy play, and it’s such a cool song. I must have practiced it for a month straight. My office is right off the living room, so my family was pretty tired of it… but they didn’t know the name of the song.

About 2 months later we went to see the Purple Hulls live for the first time. They got finished with their sets, left the stage, then were brought back out for an encore. Penny turned to Katy and said “We’ve played so much… what are we gonna play?”

I yelled out “DANCIN ON MY GRAVE!” Penny said “Oh, that’s a good one.”

They broke in to that opening lick “DING DING diddly-dee ding” and my wife and daughter literally screamed out loud “NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” :laughing::laughing::laughing:


Well said. If you want to ever perform, strive to get it as perfect as possible, even if it’s not up to full speed. Otherwise, just play to enjoy.


I’d say it depends what your goals are for each song. Some of the songs I learn are just for technique purposes, and I don’t worry about getting them fast. Others I know I’ll be performing so I don’t stop practicing them till they’re at my target speed. If you’re just going through Ben’s lessons one after the next, it might be a nice balance to learn some of them at a moderate tempo for learning purposes, and get some of them as fast and polished as possible - performance ready. And then be sure to actually perform them someplace! To sum it up, a relatively equal balance between practice tunes and performance tunes has always been good for me. Also, I always like to be working on at least 2 tunes at a time (usually more). That way burnout can’t really happen!


Well, I can’t say anything that hasn’t been said already, but I would like to welcome you to the wild world of fiddling! It’s really fun. And if you are looking for lessons I recommend


Thanks everyone! I definitely am a perfectionist, so it drives me nuts to move on from a song if all the notes aren’t perfect. At the same time, I LOVE speed! :grin: I liked the idea of working multiple tunes and setting a goal for each one, whether for technique practice or for performance quality. Oh, and thanks for the fiddle site, Gunnar. I actually already looked into it and hope to use it here and there, to supplement the lessons I’m taking in person.

So funny thing about the family telling you to stop playing, my little siblings actually like to hear me play! The little ones (ages 6 years to 9 months) like sitting in a semicircle at my feet as I practice in my room. Or, if I made them leave because they were distracting me, they crouch at my door and try to be quiet. I usually can see their little eyes peeping through the crack at the bottom! :joy: Gotta love siblings!


Hi Taryn. I should have added that learning to relax is the key to reducing errors. If your the slightest bit frustrated you will make mistakes and the more mistakes you make the more frustrated you’ll become.


Thanks Archie, I keep that in mind.:grinning:


Cool, they’ve got a great forum too, I hope to see you over there!

That’s good! Some of mine like it, some are indifferent, none of them dislike it


Hey folks,

Just curious…for these forums, how can you copy and paste to a word document in order to save lots of valuable info like this here topic? I am new to the forum.



1 Like

One way to save it is to bookmark it. I use this quite frequently:
First, expand the … beside reply by clicking on it as seen circled in RED below, and then click the bookmark icon as seen with the green arrow.

After that, you can come back to it by clicking your login picture/icon inside the FORUM, which reveals the image seen below, then click on the bookmarks icon as shown with the BLUE arrow.


To do exactly what you are asking, simply highlight (by holding down the left mouse button and drag over the desired text and release) the text you seek, then right click your mouse (on PC) and then select copy as seen here:

Then just paste it into word as you normally would by either right clicking and selecting paste, or with the paste icon, or with Control_v.

I prefer the bookmark so I can look at other info inside the thread as well since sometimes there’s more good info or maybe someone might add something later that could be usesful.