Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

I need help with a chord transition

Hi guys.

I’m working on a song and I’m having a rough time getting to an F chord forward roll from essentially a G lick. I’ve attached an image of the tab from my tef file. I really don’t recall ever having this problem before.

When I go slow, no problem, but as I speed up, I’m just not hitting that 3rd fret 4th string, I can’t seem to plant that whole F chord shape. Temporarily, I’ve resorted to hitting the open string and hammering on, kinda, but I’d really rather nail it.

I find that I plant the shape from the bottom strings up and I can’t seem to plant my ring finger on the 3rd fret 4th string in time and the note comes out dead. While troubleshooting it, if I focus on just hitting the 3rd fret 4th string with my ring finger and ignore the rest of the shape, I nail it, but I’m screwed for the rest of the bar if I plant my ring finger first because it’s next to impossible for me to form the rest of the chord if my ring finger goes down first. Not sure why.

Anyone else have this issue? If so, how’d you work through it? Any suggestions?

Thanks for any help you give.

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doing the pull off (I’d actually use a push off) with the third finger could help you to be closer to the chord that’s coming…this sets you up for F position.

might try concentrating on “hovering” in F chord position as soon as the pulloff is done…then you just have to set down the fingers together for the “F measure”…in other words get your fingers in position as early as possible

if you combine these two things it may help you get in position faster…


I was already doing the hovering thing. I’ve got a whole beat for cryin out loud to get ready for it, you’d think I could get it done. Still working on it.

Now, doing the push off with my 3rd finger is intriguing. I just tried it and that may just have some promise. It seems to eliminate the need to move my hand up the neck slightly which may be just the time savings I need. Thanks David. :grinning:


I hope it helps!

Some things take longer than others…good luck with it!


Hi @maggie.williams1

I am taking it as read you can make the F chord shape and you can place all fingers down on the strings at the same time with ease.

Ok now try this little exercise, ONE FINGER AT A TIME starting with your ring finger LH place the finger on the forth string 3rd fret, next the middle finger on the 3rd string 2nd fret, next the index finger on the 2nd string 1st fret lastly the pinkie on the 1st string 4th fret. Now check to make sure all your fingers are down on the fret board in the F chord position. Adjust if necessary.

Repeat this exercise 50 times.

Now we are going to add the right hand, Start the exercise again but this time pick the forth string with the thumb after you put down the ring finger.

Put down your middle finger 3rd string 2nd fret

Next put down your LH index finger on the 2nd string and pick the 2nd string with your RH index finger

Then put down your pinkie on the 1st string and pick the string with your middle finger RH.

With all your fingers down in the F Chord pick the 5th string with your thumb then Middle, Index Thumb to complete the roll.

Now practice this exercise slowly 100 times or until you have it committed to memory.

This exercise may seem a little tedious at first but you should realise it’is preparing you to be able play more accurately and faster. It’s not an exercise in building speed per say but in time your speed will increase naturally.

In his reply Dave suggests using a Push Off rather than a Pull Off. I would agree with his advise whilst your learning this lick combination and go with the Push Off. Personally I use both and I think Ben does too. But I started out with the Push Off. The reason this is better is because your moving toward the forth string with that ring finger so it’s easier to place.

I have learned (over many years) to Pull Off with the Ring Finger (because I get a better snap) but it means that I have to move much more quickly to land my ring finger on that forth string in time to start the roll.

When your learning to make chord shapes your told to practice putting all fingers down on the strings together. This is a good way to learn your full chord shapes. But in point of fact when you play the banjo up to speed you rarely put down a all your fingers at the same time. More often you will make a chord in the way I have described in the exercise above one finger at a time (on auto pilot) and In time you will learn how to make partial chords using less fingers which means you can play faster still.

I hope this helps and goes some way to reassure you that we have all been through this frustrating learning process. We are all itching to learn to play all these tunes up to speed and error free. Relax, take a deep breath and start again. You need to have patience and perseverance if your going to succeed with the banjo.

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Hey Archie, no actually, I AM trying to put all my fingers down at once. That’s what I’m having trouble with. If I can plant them all down at once I won’t have that dead note.

I used to be able to do this, at speed, no problem. I’m just trying to figure out what the issue is and how to get past it. And I am doing the push off just fine. Eh, well, I’ll keep at it. I like your exercise though.

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Hey Maggie, I need more clarification of what finger is not going down first, etc. I’m having a hard time picturing what you’ve described (bottom strings up?). If I knew more I’d prescribe something that could help. Thanks!

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Ok, I am somewhat puzzled so I’ll leave it with @BanjoBen to resolve.

Thanks Ben. I’m trying to plant all four fingers of the F chord down at once. Unfortunately, they’re not all going down at once. I used to be able to do this. I don’t know if it has something to do with the position my hand is in after coming out of this particular lick or what, but my fingers aren’t doing what my brain is telling them to do.

Here’s what’s happening. I’m planting my fingers on the bottom strings first and working my way up. Almost like if you were milking a cow, with your hand upside down I guess. So, down goes my pinky on the 1st (bottom) string 3rd fret followed almost immediately by index finger on 2nd string 1st fret. After watching my hand many times, I’ve noticed that half of the time, they both plant at the same time.

Then, after about a half second delay, my middle finger plants on the 3rd string second fret and then finally, my ring finger plants on the 4th string 3rd fret; usually just as I’m plucking the string, yielding a dead note; a melody note at that.

Not sure if you can visualize that or not. I’m trying to figure out why I can’t get all four fingers to plant in the right place at the same time. I know a video would be helpful. That’ll take some time though. I live alone, so I have to get a stand for my phone and get that all set up, blah, blah, which I am going to do eventually… especially, the blah, blah part. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m shy you see, so I’ve never filmed myself or even taken a selfie; yep, that’s right gang.

So, if you want to table this til I get that set up, I understand.

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See if this helps, Maggie. It’s a little technique I use to trick my brain:


HERD DAT :slight_smile:

Thanks Ben. I’ll get on it.


HERD DAT TOO, A picture paint’s a thousand words but I cant paint a banjo.

@Maggie what @BanjoBen just demonstrated was what I was trying to get over in my earlier message. Practicing fretting the notes in the order you play them and learning to do it accurately. Once you fall into a pattern of learning the brain goes Ok I got that and you find it’s a natural flowing thing to do.

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Hi @BanjoBen Now I’m confused. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Must be a Scottish thing but I’ve always refered to my first string as the bottom string and my forth string second from the top.

You see the first string is closest to the ground (down) and the fifth string is closest to the sky (up). I just wanted to make that clarification so your know where to meet me and your maker in banjo heaven with Earl and the boys don’t want you straying off in the wrong direction do we now :rofl:

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generally speaking “up” refers to higher note…

just like in “up the neck” , which would also be backwards if you’re thinking of direction, as the headstock is normally level with, or higher than, the body…


Well, yeah. As a troubleshooting exercise, I had already focused on planting my ring finger first and that worked fine but then I had more trouble than it was worth trying to plant the other fingers. Especially my pinky. It was sort of stuck to my ring finger once it got planted so it was hard to get my pinky to break away from my ring finger. I know that’s probably hard to visualize.

I’ll just keep working on it. I’ll get it. It sure is neat getting all this feedback from people though, that’s why I love it here.

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Yeah, that’s where I was coming from. Bottom, being more toward the floor than top strings, being more toward the ceiling. My sense of direction is pretty good, so I’m sure I’ll find you guys. Hey, I hear Heaven’s not so bad…

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Oh REALLY? Well that just makes too much sense. I wasn’t buying it til you mentioned “up the neck” being downward in direction. Now see… I always try to learn something new each day and now, I’m already set for the whole day.

Cheers for that David. :slight_smile:


@Maggie I understand the difficulty because I have been through that same process, but let ne reassure you its temporary if you stick with the plan. You have to push the brain to accept what it is you want it to do. The more you learn the more complicated fingerings your going to come across.

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It’s a common way for people to think of it, so you aren’t alone. I am in the opposite camp. I think of up being equated with going up in pitch. Moving “up” to the top string is going to the one with highest pitch, and going “up” the neck is moving toward the bridge. Both motions are generally towards the floor (but up in pitch). A bonus of thinking of it this way is that you don’t have to re-think your approach if playing while doing yoga.


@Mike_R it was a tongue in cheek comment. I knew exactly what @BanjoBen meant just me having a little fun.