Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Matthew Cooper from Denver, CO!

What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
I spent a summer working in Alaska in my early 20s, and my buddy had a banjo with him (and some Old Crow Medicine Show albums). I picked it up to try it out – along with Mel Bay’s Bluegrass Banjo book – and was hooked. Both my dad and I started talking lessons with Aaron Youngberg after that summer back in Fort Collins, Colorado, and the rest is history (as they say).

How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I guess I’m coming up on almost 20 years now with the banjo, and maybe 7 with the guitar (just the last few years of those being serious). I’m mostly motivated because it’s just, well, FUN. There’s not much else I’d rather be doing than pickin’–either with others or alone. However, I’m also in a couple bands, and when we’re not on pandemic lockdown, I do enjoy trying to put on a good show as well. There’s nothing like good, fun music to bring people together.

What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
I love all the Bag O’ Licks lessons, with my current favorite the Tony Wray banjo lesson with Ben. In addition to the super-salty licks, it’s just fun watching Ben and Tony banter and enjoy playing together. (It’s pretty hard to narrow this down. There are so many great lessons on this site–for all three instruments!)

What’s your goal when playing?
Have fun. Get better.

Are there any other instruments or genres of music that you enjoy playing?
I love listening to all genres of music, and so also love playing all genres of music (that I can–still mostly a bluegrass musician). I just bought my first electric guitar–a 60’s-style telecaster–so I’ve been playing more blues and rock these days. In addition to guitar and banjo, I’ll also pick up the mandolin from time to time but my chops are very limited there, so it typically doesn’t last too long.

How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
Oh man, it’s been so long I can’t even remember how long it’s been. Long enough that I know I’ve got a screaming deal by this point.

Do you have a favorite technique? What is it?
Three-finger Scruggs style is still (and probably always will be) my favorite banjo pickin’ technique. But the longer I pick, the more fun I have playing with all kinds of different styles. I’ve been loving clawhammer the last couple years, especially when singing with a banjo in my hands.

If you could play in anyone’s band, who would it be and why?
This question is too hard to narrow down, but as for a current bluegrass band… Del McCoury, just so I could listen to that musical magic in person on the regular.

What type of gear or accessories have you found that work best for you?
Blue chip thumb pick with Shelor finger picks have been a game changer for me. My Shure GLXD wireless setup has also been amazing when I have to plug in.

If money was no object, what would be your dream instrument(s)?
An original Gibson RB-75 or Granada.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
More pickin’, more playing, more reading, more writing, more exercise, and more time with my wife and kiddos (assuming they didn’t have to sleep either).

Anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve loved It’s been the best lesson site I’ve experimented with and the only that I’ve lasted on for this long. Thank you for all you do!

How did you find out about Banjo Ben?
My dad, who just recently passed, bought my Gold Pick membership as a gift many, many Christmases ago.


Congrats on being member of the week, Matthew! Nice to read your story


I’m sorry, I’m calling fake news on this. Between those beautiful kids, the dog, and presumably the wife and work, there is no way he’s got time for music. Can’t be done.



Matthew, congrats on being the gpotw. Thanks for the great interview and sharing with us. Looks like you’ve got your hands full there!


Congrats buddy on gpotw! It’s always cool to read about fellow members.


Welcome and Congrats! I hope to see you around the forum some