Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Metronome Mental Explosion!

Hey Team,
I could use your advice! When I try to jump in and roll with a song at a quicker pace it is hard to know if I can step up from 8th notes and roll at 16th notes. Even if I know I can roll fast enough my brain freaks out, my mind goes blank, and I crash and burn hard! Does anyone have tips on how to know when you can kick your picking up from 8th notes up to 16th notes mid song? I feel like my brain has different gears: slow, medium, and blazing fast/ crash. I am missing a gear in there somewhere. Do people spend time trying to memorize BPM on their metronomes or is it more a feel it out thing?



Thanks for sharing. I am interested to see how others respond. I think @Archie is about to send a reply.

I don’t think you are alone - if I understand your quandary… about increasing speed up to another level (with BPM or rhythm track).

Or is it about “16th notes blur” syndrome (a name I just made up)? A fear of the impeding speed of those little black bars?

I think @BanjoBen has been suggesting to use .TEF files because they will help both with playing in exact time… and you can control the pace completely and gradually build up speed.


Hi Dano, I have never really been a big fan of the metronome. I used it early on as a beginner to practice roll patterns. My goal back then was to play evenly. Never faster than 120 bpm. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to play fast it was because I couldn’t play fast. Pretty much every banjo teacher will tell you that in order to play fast you need to practice slow and build speed gradually. Unless your gifted in which case it all comes naturally.

For me building speed came about when I started using TablEdit. I start off slow and build speed over several days/weeks. I set the tempo at 40% and increase the speed by 5% increments. It works best with a rhythm guitar strum and bass… I sometimes add a click track.

Do people spend time trying to memorize BPM on their metronomes or is it more a feel it out thing?

I can’t speak for others. But I don’t, I know some folks obsess about speed but I don’t I am more interested in hearing a tune played at a comfortable speed where you can hear the melody not a machine gun rattling out the notes so fast that you cannot hear the melody. Earl played fast but you can clearly hear the melody.


Really are you stalking me now @WillCoop !!!


Lol… It showed you were writing… as I was replying, my friend.:joy::joy::joy:

I found this topic to be interesting as speed is a barrier for me too. I know you aren’t a Mandolinist but a peculiar thing for me is that my right hand pickin’ (and even cross-pickin’) is much faster than my left. So… My challenge is to coordinate the two hands to work together.

As for banjo :banjo:, it is all about the rolls… And as pointed out in another thread about rolls, my thumb is exceedingly loud on my rolls too. :pensive:

One has to be quick on the draw :gun: to beat the response time of the infamous @Archie!


I can’t speak to the banjo, but can speak to my experience with a metronome.

  1. I try to use a metronome all the time except when using a backing track. My goal is to play at a steady pace when I’m the song leader at a jam. I am the poster child for temponically challenged!
  2. In setting the metronome to click on every quarter note I found that I became hooked on it. I was chasing the clicks rather than learning to keep time. So now I set the metronome for beats 1 and 3 - it forces me to be a little more self reliant. My goal is to have just the 1 beat click and see if I can stay in time!
  3. I have found is that there is a difference between playing as fast as I can and staying on the beat vs. playing in time comfortably at a fast tempo. If I’m at my speed limit I can physically hit the notes but musically it doesn’t feel good. So if my goal is 180 bpm 1/4 notes I’ll try to hit my speed limit at 190 or so, then when I play 180 my brain feels much more in control.
  4. Some days I just take a break. I’ll play songs I know at 75% of my target bpm on the metronome and it feels good. It gives me a chance to play songs without feeling like I’m working out. Those can be really good days!



When you put fractions in there that’s where you loose me ! Practice slow learn fast, Like driving a stick,you gotta feather the clutch learn the burnout part later!:wink:


Thanks for your thoughts everyone!

@WillCoop! I will have to take a look at the .TEF files i havent been able to open them yet.

I think the “16th notes blue” syndrome is something i am working through. It was like playing basketball growing up. I could shoot just fine from a step inside the 3 point line but as soon as i crossed the line i couldn’t make anything. Its like I know I have the “athleticism” to play the faster notes but when I get in a jam circle and kick it up a notch my mind goes blank. The common theme in these answers is to practice practice practice. Good thing we like practicing!

@stephen_cassell, I like the idea of switching up the metronome beats. I shall give it a go! Also, being able to play faster so you can slow it down when it counts seems wise to me.

Thanks @Archie, I love how my first thought with the world record holder was “how is he going to play fast without picks?” I totally agree I am much more about a nice smooth sound as apposed to blazing lightening. Thanks for the tangible advice!


Thanks @Archie

I love how my first thought with the world record holder was “how is he going to play fast without picks?” I totally agree I am much more about a nice smooth sound as apposed to blazing lightening. Thanks for the tangible advice!


Hi Dano, This thing you have with the 16th note is just like the I need to play fast to be good syndrome. By playing things real slow you come to realise that a 16th note is little more than a passing tone. But playing things slowly the duration of each note is stretch out a shade longer. Your fingers and ears become accustom to this and the brain goes OK I am comfortable with that, so you tweak the speed a fraction and the fingers, ear and the brain doesn’t really note any change, So you tweak the speed again and again and before long your up to speed.

Let me just say that @BanjoBen really takes the time to explain note duration in his lessons. Very few other teachers go into such detail. Take the time to listen to Ben when he talks about 16th and 8th note slides. Much of the learning is in the listening not reading from the TAB. Hope this helps.


If you’re switching from 8th notes to 16th notes mid song, I think I’d want to hear the song you’re trying to play. There aren’t many songs written like that, so I’m wondering if maybe you’re trying to do the impossible. :grin:


That Guinness guy is a slow poke, I could beat that :joy::joy: also, notice how he used a lightweight banjo with no tone ring…


I’ve seen that guy before. He actually got featured on Smarter Every Day because he can talk backwards while playing the banjo too.


Funny. I would have thought talking backwards was way more common among banjo pickers. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Kurt is actually a member of the site :wink:


@Michael_Mark I knew I recognized that guy!!! (Kurt)

Love Smarter Everyday!

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