Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Learning how to Banjo solo within any song


I want to know how to solo.  My teacher is a bluegrass instructor, and he said that I need a melodic teacher to learn to solo for country and folk songs on my banjo.  I thought that learning melodic scales would help?  But I don't know what to do with this scale in order to make melodies/ solos within songs.  I looked at Banjo Ben's 3 video's in Melodic G scale.  That's was great, but how do I turn that into a solo with the melody within a song?  Boy would I also like some examples, step by step, and listen to a finished result.  My brothers have a band and they are pushing me to take solo parts.  I currently know chords...that's all.  Could Banjo Ben or someone provide me direction on how to turn melodic scales into solos within a most songs?  Am I going about this all wrong?  I need a "how to make banjo solos within songs" program.  

Thank you

This is not what you are going to want to hear but this is my personal experience.

I can improvise and play solos on the piano and I can sort of fumble around and solo on guitar. I’ve been playing the banjo for three years now and only recently have I been able to noodle around a bit, which for me is the first baby steps to being able to improvise and solo.

I don’t think there is a ‘method’ or ‘primer’ for soloing on the banjo (though maybe I’m wrong and someone will come up with something brilliant here).

In my experience, soloing as all about being able to play what you hear in your head. So you just play the notes you hear in your head as the song is going along. It’s pretty easy to say but being able to do this involves quite a lot. You need to be able to play your instrument. Then the licks and phrases and scales just become the tools you use to do this.

For instance, learning scales teaches you where to put your fingers when you want to play a certain note (or a string of notes). A lot of solos are just bits of scales stuck together. But when you solo, you’re not really taking bits of scales and sticking them together any old way, you’re hearing this collection of notes in your head and then playing them.

When I was learning the piano, I asked my teacher to teach me how to solo. He gave me this book with blues piano solos. They were written down and so I learned them. After that, I was able to play a ‘solo’ but every time I played it, it was the same ‘solo’. It takes more than that to be able to really improvise and solo.

You need to be able to make your hands do the things you want them to. Then you will be able to play the notes you hear in your head using scales, fretboard geography, licks and phrases.

When I was learning how to improvise on the piano, I would spend hours just playing whatever my hands wanted to play (I could play fairly well at that point). Most of it sounded pretty terrible but I would start to hear things I liked, I would start to play things I heard.

So now, on the banjo, I’m starting to do this, noodling around. For me, it’s the first steps.

Sorry that this has been so very long. I hope there are at least some useful insights in there. … ildabreak/

This series of lessons has helped me quite a bit, but the process is still really long for me. I figure if I keep at it, one day I’ll be able to do this much faster.

Don’t quote me on this, but I think Ben once said he still builds most of his solos at home before he goes to a jam

Pete Wernick (Dr. banjo) has a nice DVD that helped me. Very basic and starts at ground level. … anjo-solos

Thank you all very much for your input. Together, you helped me figure out a basic plan.

Just a final word to my long post.

At least for me, Ben’s lessons have put me on the path to being able to solo and improvise. The song lessons are less about the song and more about the mechanics of playing.

Again, this may apply only to me and my personal experience but I think I needed at least a decent technique before I could start to get the music out of my head and into my fingers. Ben uses songs, rather than boring exercises and more boring scales to get you up and playing and working on your technique. The ensemble of Ben’s Intermediate lessons will give you a pretty good base to work on getting your technique up to the speed necessary to really improvise and solo.

You are right on blue note. You really need the foundations before the next step of soloing.