Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

It ain't easy... but it's getting easier... -ish

As I practice quite often, I’m able to recognize certain things that trip me up more than others.

The C chord in Worried Man Blues… still takes a bit to get it. Have to think about where to place my fingers and how to arch them so they don’t mute other strings, but it’s getting easier. Today, THAT was the least screwed up part of the song for me. So, that’s nice.

Whole step hammer ons - holy crud, these are HARD right now. Most I can’t do with the prescribed fingers. 2 to 4 ends up being index finger and pinky, rather than ring finger. Gotta work on stretching and just doing it. I understand it’s because my neural and muscular pathways haven’t been forged yet to do these, but still, I like to whine about them. They hurt.

Speaking of hammer ons, they seem fairly interchangeable with slides most of the time. I can’t hear the difference between a half step hammer on, and a half step slide. Is that because I’m so new I’m not doing them perfectly? Is there really is an auditory difference when done correctly? Or, are they truly interchangeable, and useful for adding different mechanics to a song to make it easier to play?

Timing… it’s a good thing I didn’t choose to learn drums. I’m horrible at keeping time. Imagine a drummer that can’t keep time. At least with a banjo, you can just shrug and people nobody knows (unless you’re in a band… then I s’pose that could be an issue). Funny thing, I have an easier time using the TEF files and visually timing with the moving line (turn off sound and watch the line) than I do with the metronome app on my phone. Something else I’m working on: getting away from the visual timing. Wonder if this is because I’m a visual artist and I’m trying to learn a performance art… hmmm…

Okay, that’s my ramble for today. Carry on.


They are mostly interchangeable, but there will be times when only a whole step will do. However, using the pinky is not technically wrong.


@mike_thomson, we ALL feel your pain, brother! Take joy in the little bits of improvement you see…it’s what keeps us going.

I agree slides and hammer-ons are quite often interchangeable. Sometimes I pick one over the other depending on what is easier at that point in the song. It also seems important to learn both because there are some instances where it can speed up a chord change or affect the flavor and add variety. It’s amazing how different I sounded on both techniques after…umm…a while. If you try recording the same passage using one technique and then another, and hear it from in front of the banjo instead of from above, the differences may become more clear over time.

If you’re anything like me, as time goes by, some things in the mechanical processes (and muscle memory, etc.) will improve almost automatically and it will free up mental processing resources you can apply to focus more on timing. It’ll come.

As Red Green says, “Remember I’m pullin’ for ya-we’re all in this together.”


That is a good idea!

I always appreciate hearing from everyone. Thanks!


Don’t do what I did. I’m an old geezer, so I decided to stained the deck yesterday.
Today I am so sore :weary: I can barely pick up my banjo. Holding up my left arm to work the fret board is out of the question!
Another 24 hours & I expect to be picking again.


Yeah, no. Not gonna do that. :rofl::joy: