How to Practice - Recognizing Progress (split from Blackberry Blossom topic)


Good idea. Not sure how one does that, can you do it and keep all the good bits from this thread?

The title needs to catch people’s eye. How to Practice - Recognizing Progress - etc. Something great.


Yup. I’ll take care of it when I get home today. Glad you guys like the idea.

Memorization vs Reading Tab

Oh I don’t know about that, and you’re sweet to say so. Wayfaring Stranger is the only advanced tune I’ve got and the last parts still need polishing and more speed, but I do have the licks down. I think anyone can do it if you put in as much time as did. THE toughest measures for me were 62 & 63 - it’s that stretch and I still dread it every time as I approach it. As to Angeline The Baker, I’ve got the first basic part. I’ve played through the rest once so far and very slowly, about 20% if that even. The point I want to make is that it doesn’t look so scary after having gotten through the other.

I still need to learn more about playing backup, chords and learning the fret board. Hey, did you Ben’s Octaves lesson?

My top priority challenges are the memorization and playing with backing tracks which will all help me to my goal of jamming with others. And I was able to identify those two tasks by being part of this thread, so I’m digging this.


Me too btw


Hi @Maggie Wayfaring Stranger is two breaks the first is aimed at the beginner/intermediate level student whilst the second is aimed at the advanced level. If your tackling the advanced break good for you, it’s good to take on a challenge like this every now and then as it will help increase your knowledge and playing skills.


@Maggie, I can relate to that. Well, like I say “I have a photographic memory, I just don’t have any film”. It seems like a lot of us struggle with the same thing. I was going to post something to the same effect. I don’t know what to practice sometimes, should I learn songs or work on rolls or what?. I know that this is a looooonnnngggg term if ever mastered, learning curve. I guess when you start learning a few things you want to get better fast, I look at songs and think, Hmmm, I can play this, but then I realize I cant(I am Earl in my own mind). A lot of songs I have never heard, so I don’t know how they sound. I know it will come eventually, but I guess I am impatient, and that is not a trait you need to have when learning this joyful instrument. I just don’t want to lose my motivation in learning…again. Thank you to everyone who has chimed in on this thread, just reading through has given me the motivation to keep trying.


This is HUGE! You’ve just hit on an issue that we haven’t covered yet… learning the song before learning the song.

I’ve found that if I really want to do well learning one of Ben’s song lessons, it’s a lot easier if I download his MP3 of the whole song with him playing the lead instrument and listen to it over and over… to the point that my mind anticipates the notes he’s going to play. This may not seem like a necessary step, but it really is. Even if you don’t realize it, your mind is learning where, on the fret board, those notes are. If your mind can anticipate the notes, your fingers will be more likely to go there on their own. With enough experience, you can use this knowledge to build your own melody leads on songs you don’t know when you’re at a jam session.

So, in a nutshell, here’s my learning process:

1 - listen to the song until I feel I know it.
2 - using the TEF file, highlight small sections of the song and memorize each section and a slow tempo (sometimes as slow as 20% of normal speed.) I keep repeating it until I can play it without looking at the tab.
3 - highlight the next small section, repeat #2, then add those sections together.
4 - reference Ben’s video if a section seems too difficult. Often, I’m fingering it incorrectly and the video straightens me out.
5 - Once all parts are memorized, I use the TEF file to start speeding up the song. Once I can play the song through 3 times in a row without messing up, I up the speed 5 to 10%, then work to play it perfectly 3 times in a row at the new speed.
6 - Once I get it fast enough, I download Ben’s jam tracks and play with them. They’re funner to play with than the TEF files. Also, if you use Audacity to play the MP3 files, you can speed up and slow down the jam tracks. The recording I posted of Blackberry Blossom was actually played at 110% of the original speed, just because I liked the way it sounded sped up just a tad.


:joy: :laughing: that’s a good one, I’ll remember that one (well, I’ll try to)
Personally, I prefer to practice my rolls by playing songs that use them. Same with hammers, pull-offs, licks etc. It is an eternal learning curve, as even the “masters” keep improving and learning, so we should too.
You can keep motivated by listening to banjo music, and that will help with knowing more songs too


You just beat me to the punch. @Mark_Rocka This is all stuff you I and @BanjoBen keep repeating but somehow we are just not getting the message across.

Fundamentals are the KEY to learning to play banjo guy’s & gals. Master the Beginners Learning Track and everything after that will through time begin to fall in place.


I think part of the problem is the growing popularity of the board. I love how busy the board has been lately. The downside is that good info tends to get pushed down pretty quickly.


@Mark_Rocka I do have “Song Surgeon” and when I am learning one of the songs on @BanjoBens lessons, Ill download the mpeg file of him playing with backup and download the tab and play it slow. I love the song “John Henry” (basic) I play it around 60bpm. I still have to look at the tab. But there are songs I would love to attempt to play, that are NOT on Bens lessons. I made a book when i first started playing 5yrs ago of songs that i would like to learn. So that’s what I would like to learn to do also. I’m a show me/let me listen kind of guy so just trying to play “some” song doesn’t work for me. I know we are all at different levels of learning. I wouldn’t want to go to some jam somewhere and then when they pick a song, I’d be like “i don’t know that one i am still 4 lessons away”. The cool thing i do like about playing is that when i am following a lesson and playing along with Ben at a slow pace, some of the chords I hear make me think of another song.


This right here! Learning the song before trying to learn it is very important! That’s why I can’t just play a song from a tab, and why I can’t fluently sight read music (standard notation) I always have to hear it first



I re-read your post and want to call it out once more… FANTASTIC! So glad you have joined us… plus the parallel of us both starting with the Banjer but crossing over to Mando around the same time.


I have to say I struggled with TAB in the beginning and learned the basics from the Murphy Method watching and listening> I knew though that if I wanted to improve I had to learn to read TAB simply because all the other teaching methods out there at the time relied on TAB as a teaching tool. It’s hard work trying to learn a tune from printed TAB by the time you’ve read it converted the information into finger movements the moment has gone.

Are you using TefView or TablEdit @Dragonslayer if not then your progress will be painfully slow and I would encourage you to at least get the free TefView software and spend time learning to read TAB.

I would say the vast majority of banjo players don’t use standard notation.


I love that and I’m gonna steal it.

I’ve never heard of the banjo referred to like this and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. A joyful instrument indeed.




[quote=“Maggie, post:36, topic:7025”]
I’ve never heard of the banjo referred to like this and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. A joyful instrument indeed.
@Maggie, Here you go Maggie.




Oh, @Archie, that wasn’t what I meant; I can read tab for guitar, banjo, fiddle/mandolin, and harmonica. What I meant was, I can’t get the tune from tab by itself. If I hear the tune, and have the tab, I can learn it easily. I just have to hear the tune. I don’t use tef. Tab. When I learn one of Ben’s lessons, I watch the video, pausing to practice frequently, and commit it to memory on the spot, and refine it later. I usually download the pdf. tab and rarely even look at it


Hi @Dragonslayer I understand what your saying I was in that same position when I started out that’s why I encourage folks to get free TefView or purchase the TablEdit software. you can then download the .tef files and play the TAB on your computer or phone.

You will make much better progress using Ben’s .tef files.

Checkout this thread.

TablEdit - RU a Nubie ? READ THIS