Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Memorize everything you play

Hi guys, would appreciate some advice on wether or not you guys memorize every song you have ever learned? When you start practice for the day do keep playing those songs first and then move onto the next one? It seems if I don’t play the song for awhile that I once had down then I begin to forget it and have to memorize it all over again. Thanks!

I tend to forget songs over time, so I keep a folder of Ben’s backing tracks called “Songs I’ve Learned” and try to play all of them at least once a week. It’s so frustrating to put effort in to learning something and then having to relearn it.

So you’re not alone. The old noodle isn’t as sticky as it used to be.


I usually start with some simple warm ups or just dive into something I’ve learning, tearing it apart, and fixing licks. I might play up to an hour before I do a complete break…I find running through small sections or phrases really helps smooth out any new piece I’m working on.

When I learn something new I’m always looking to see where it fits as a substitution in what I already know…this keeps me thinking about the stuff I know.

Much of my time I’ll simply run through the phrases I haven’t quite mastered…those I repeat daily until they are ingrained in my thought process.

I’ll have times when I’ll go through all the songs I do in a specific key.

I also have a folder of backup tracks to things that I’ll run through periodically.

It’s good to just have a “jam day” from time to time and let your mind have a break and catch up on all that learning.

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Hi Cody,

Err NOPE. Some tunes I manage to retain others just seem to vanish from my memory and I have to relearn them. I guess the tunes that stay with me are the more memorable. For example Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Cripple Creek, Fireball Mail, Old Spinning Wheel and Cumberland Gap which I learned as a beginner using the Murphy Method I can play thiese without much effort. More complex tunes like Duelling Banjos, Maple Leaf Rag, Under the Double Eagle. Tennessee Waltz which I learned from TAB I struggle to remember parts of these, More recently learning Banjo Ben’s lessons where I am using both TAB and Recordings I seem to remember much more, even the more complex tunes which often take longer to learn. i.e Months rather than days.

Like @Mark_Rocka I keep a folder with Ben’s tunes but I my case it’s TABs rather than MP3 maybe I’ll start following Mark’s advice and store the Mp3 too although I do play them on the site when I practice.

Listening is an important part of learning a tune the more you play it the more likely you are to remember the tune. Having said that if the tune is boring you can drive yourself, your family and the neighbour’s nuts.

It’s important to revisit stuff you have already learned, A lot of the licks and phrases you learn in the easy tunes will surface again in the more complex advanced arrangements. So every thing you learn on your journey you will retain in your long term memory. Sometimes they grey cells need reminding what you already know so listening and playing will help you recall what you need.

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Hi, I do memorize every tune that I learn, and I also try to rotate old tunes into my playing with the new ones, but when I learn a new one it will be 90% of my playing till I’ve got it down (usually two or three days depending on difficulty) I don’t remember having forgotten one yet :roll_eyes: :joy: but I haven’t been playing for much more than a year

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Wow, phenomenal advice! Thank you very much. It’s nice to see the different perspectives on learning.

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Hi Cody, It’s worth remembering we all learn differently and I have yet to come across two teachers who teach the exact same way. I have studied with pretty much ALL the best banjo teachers who’ve created video teaching tutorials and some not so good… What I’ve learned from my learning experience is not to expect too much from oneself. Your going to make mistakes and your going to have self doubts trust me on this.

When you start out the learning curve is steep and at times may be frustrating but after a year or two things start to level out and your progress will begin to see a marked improvement, You’ll go though periods of high’s and low’s and there are times you’ll feel like your standing still.

When you actually study the learning process, learning to play the banjo isn’t easy in fact it’s quite complex. You are using lots of different skills, the left and right hands do completely different and complex tasks at the same time, each finger works independently of all the others. your using your eyes to read TAB whilst your ears to listen to the sounds your making.

Your brain needs time to process all this information and the more you learn the more you have to remember. If you try to store too much info too soon the brain like a computer will crash out. You need to take time out to rest and let the brain recover. Our brains are amazing organs they store huge amounts of information throughout our lifetime. I turn 72 next week and lately I have been remembering things I did when I was a child as though it were yesterday but ask me what I was doing last week and I’d struggle to remember.

So for what it’s worth here’s my advice. Stop worrying about what you can and can’t remember. Just sit back and enjoy @BanjoBen 's lessons in the knowledge that he is passing on his knowledge and playing skills through his teachings.

I mentioned earlier that I studied with ALL the best banjo teachers who’ve created video teaching tutorials. Of these two teachers stand out as having outstanding communication and teaching skills one being my first teacher Murphy Henry who inspired me to take up the banjo and Banjo Ben who continues to surprise and inspire me daily.

Of the rest I have worked with they too have taught me a lot but I have had to work a lot harder with those resources because the teaching methods and communication skills of those teachers are no where near as good at getting the message across. Now that may say more about ME and the way I learn than the way these other teachers teach.

Now go pick up you banjo an have some fun