Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

I need help in Indiana

I received a five string as a Christmas gift after years of interest, but not willing enough to buy one on my own. I’d convinced myself I have zero musical talent. Which may be true!!! I found one instructor that was 20 miles away, but after one lesson he didn’t want to see me again for 3 months. He was a great guy, just not the best teacher. I’m on the west side of Indianapolis and have not found anyone that teaches the banjo. What the heck am I to do? Can anyone recommend a simple roll to start with? I checked out the online free lesson on this site, but that didn’t teach me much. Sorry Ben. I can type like nobody’s business, so I thought this would be easy. I just need to learn the process and practice.

Ben’s ‘Section Rolls’ lesson (part of the Banjo 103 Right Hand Rolls lesson) is where I started.

The banjo is not easy to learn. I have been playing guitar for 28 years but I spent 7 or 10 days just doing the ‘Section Rolls’ lesson over and over again before I thought about tackling a song. I practised at least 2 hours (usually more) a day, 7 days a week.

Now this lesson will cost you $19.95 (well, subscription for a month will cost you $19.95). It depends on how badly you want to learn to play. For me, the price was not a problem if I was able to learn.

If you already tried out this lesson and that did not work for you, then that’s another story but if you didn’t try the Banjo 103 lesson, then I would think that if you really want to learn, $19.95 is not too much to spend.

If you haven’t tried it, there is a free tryout option which will give you access to more (I think) than just the free video lessons. I would sign up and check out the Banjo 103 lesson.

Also the free videos are older ones, before Ben really got his teaching format worked out. The newer ones (like the Banjo 103 lesson) are much more detailed and go at a much slower pace which is very good if you’re just starting out. They are worth paying for.

That sounds great! I always say, “you get what you pay for”. So I never expect much for free. Is there a limit to how many times you can watch the same video over the month? I doubt it, but it never hurts to ask.

You mention you practiced at least two hours a day. The instructor I had for one visit insisted a half hour a day is all I should practice as more would be tiring and a waste of time. I would think there must be common ground somewhere in the middle if a person didn’t have two hours to himself each day. Lord knows I need it, but I have little “me” time during the summer months when the grass is growing. We have a private grass airstrip that requires lots of mowing.

Fiddlewood, I received your PM but as I’m too new I can’t reply or post a new Pm. I’m interested!

You can watch the videos as much as you want. If you haven’t already done so I’d also suggest downloading TableEdit and getting used to using it. It’s great for learning stuff as you can set the speed wherever you want it. The viewer version of TableEdit is free. Here’s a thread on the basics:
Have fun!

— Begin quote from "beeryboats"

You mention you practiced at least two hours a day. The instructor I had for one visit insisted a half hour a day is all I should practice as more would be tiring and a waste of time. I would think there must be common ground somewhere in the middle if a person didn’t have two hours to himself each day…

— End quote

I practice a lot. Playing music and riding my bicycle are the two things I most enjoy doing so practicing is not work. When I was starting, I practiced just about every free moment that I had and I could hear the improvement from one day to the next which drove me on.

Ben’s lessons were very helpful in putting some structure into the practice. His ‘Section Rolls’ exercise is like a little song so that it’s not just doing the same singular motion over and over but there’s a logic behind it that makes it more enjoyable.

If you practice less, your progress will be slower. That’s not necessarily bad. You do what you have to do in the time you have to do it. Practicing the banjo is supposed to be fun so you stop when it’s not fun (of course, it is not as simple as that but there is a guiding principle in that thought).

Learning the banjo is about teaching your mind and your hands to do things automatically, without thinking. For those of us without innate talent, that means repeating and repeating and repeating. There is no simple solution to this, no tricks. It’s just about time.

I agree with blue note. It is all about repetition and muscle and mind memory. You first need to determine how hard you want it. I was not born with I innate musical talent but wanted to play classical guitar. It took years of practice and commitment to learn to at least play at a decent level. I have always loved banjo and bought one over Easter. It is completely different and challenging in its own way but I have used the same approach as the classical guitar. I start every practice with the rolls for 30-30 minutes each day and then go into the songs. I am now comfortable with many of the beginning songs. It just takes time and repetition. And I am 64 years old!

I work in the oil field, which is known for lots of hours and very little sleep, and I also have a 2 young, very energetic kids. Still, I’ve always said that people will make time for things that are important to them. I don’t always get to practice 30 min a day, but then there are some days that I get to practice for hours. I just take what I can get and enjoy every minute of it that I get.

With that, I may not advance as fast as those who do commit 2 or more hours per day, but I’m also not into pickin’ to see if I can learn the fastest. I just enjoy playing and enjoy the journey of learning. I suspect that is everyone who plays an instrument, and that’s why some do practice hours a day (I know I sure would if I could!).


What’s important is that you approach practicing, not as something that just ‘has to get done’ but rather as a tool for learning.

When I was very young and learning the piano, I would ‘have to’ practice a half hour (or maybe it was an hour) a day and it was like an obligation to do it and I approached it that way.

When I say you need to practice X hours a day, it’s to get across the idea that you have to WANT to practice. You can’t just say ‘oh, my half hour is up so I’m done’.

We all have constrictions on the time in our lives. If you only have a half hour (or less) to practice, as long as you’re really enjoying it, that’s all that really counts.

Thanks all. I would love to pick up and pick tonight, but I’ve been working in the yard all day. I mowed 10 acres (private grass airstrip), dropped two trees, and cut them into firewood. Tomorrow looks like about the same all over again. Just no grass to mow. I hope to end the day in the driveway with a banjo in my lap and a cold one by my side. It will be the first time I’ve been home alone for fathers day since my daughter was born 11 years ago. I’m kinda bummed. Maybe I should take up the blues guitar? :frowning: