Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Michael Mark from Deland, Florida

What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
I was first interested in playing bluegrass music after a preacher named Travis Alltop, who is a superb flatpicker, came to our church and played. I started the guitar, and after about a year of hearing bluegrass music, I really wanted to play the banjo. Shortly after starting banjo I joined Ben’s site, and after about a year of being a Gold Pick member I figured it would only make sense to take up the mandolin!

How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I’ve been playing the guitar for a little over two years, banjo a little over one, and mandolin about a month and a half. My main motivation to play is that I just really enjoy the sound of the instruments, learning new tricks to incorporate into my playing, and the simple fun of playing. Oh yeah, and also I get really, really bored if I don’t.

What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
My favorite lesson is probably Banjo Utility Rolls, as it has totally improved my backup for bluesy songs. I also really enjoy I Have Decided to Follow Jesus for banjo, even though I still can’t play it without messing up at least once! Oh, and “How to Change Your Strings” has always been a helpful one.

What’s your goal when playing?
My primary goal is to be able to bring honor to the Lord Jesus Christ through my playing. My secondary goal is to sound good and not mess up :slight_smile:

Are there any other instruments or genres of music that you enjoy playing?
I don’t play any instruments other than Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar, but I do enjoy congregational singing and piano music. Maybe someday I’ll take up the dobro or fiddle.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I’d probably practice more, and also get to things that I have to do but that I never end up doing.

How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
Just over a year; I joined in March 2018.

Do you have a favorite technique? What is it?
My favorite technique is playing backup, especially on the banjo. I try to be subtle enough with backup so that it’s not overpowering the solo or singing, but I also really enjoy using fancy-but-still-tasteful licks in my backup.

What artist(s) most inspire you?
Earl Scruggs, Banjo Ben and The Purple Hulls inspire a lot of my playing. Most of my licks come from Scruggs, Ben, or Ben’s sisters.

What do you do for a living?
Well, I’m still in Eighth Grade so I don’t have a job yet, but I do go to school so I can eventually make a living.

What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
I’m not really an adventurous person, but I really enjoyed Banjo Ben’s Cabin Camp and I hope I can make it to another one someday!

How did you find out about Banjo Ben?
I found out about Ben whilst searching for Bleugrass Guitar instructional videos. He was one of the first to come up. I was actually trying to figure out how to play a guitar G Lick… so within the first few seconds of Ben’s video I was interested!

Who are your favorite pickin’ heroes (bluegrass and country artists)?
Earl Scruggs, Andy Leftwich, Russ Carson, Travis Alltop, Jim Britton, Banjo Ben, Penny Lea Clark, and Katy Lou Clark, to name a few.

What question would you want us to ask future Gold Pickers of the Week?
If you could take up another instrument, what would it be? For me, it would probably be the dobro, as I really like the sound.

Anything else you’d like to add?
As far as I can tell, the secret to playing well is to keep practicing, to absorb as much teaching as you can, and to listen to Blugrass music often so that you can hear what you have learned being used in action! God bless!


Welcome, Michael! Congrats on being GPotW. Reading through your profile actually looks quite similar to mine, in amount of time on each instrument especially,

And this comment is exactly what I feel like most of the time.
If you ever get the chance to play a dobro, do. I got to try one recently, and it’s soooooo fun! Hope to see you around the forum!


I’ve never played a dobro, I take it it’s mostly like a guitar tuned to an open chord with a steel/bottleneck? Are the roll patterns smiler to Banjo?

Congrats on being GPotW, Michael Mark! It was nice to meet you at camp, and cool to get to know you a little better here.

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Congratulations Michael on GPOTW. I saw you in the camp pictures and wondered who you are and here I just got your story which is pretty neat for someone in eighth grade. I’ve heard you’re a pretty good picker.

Well, on one hand I want to say there’s no hurry to grow up, but on the other hand, hurry up and grow up so you can travel/drive on your own and jam with people/us.

Keep the faith brother, and when life happens and you get side tracked, do not not not give up picking, trust me on this. Every picture I’ve seen you in, there’s a big smile on your face, so you’re off to a great start in life. I hope to see more of you here on the forum :smile:

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@Jono, I haven’t properly learned dobro, but it’s tuned like the first three strings of a banjo twice, so all your songs do work. The main difference is the slide bar, which is not too hard to figure out how to use

Oh really? Thanks for that info, if I ever get the opportunity I may give it a go. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Michael Mark, congrats on being the gpotw! It was good to meet you (and your folks) at the cabin camp. It can be quite intimidating at a gathering like that (I for one was nervous about it), and I can’t imagine how it must have felt for you (but of course it got easier for us all after the first day). I just wanted to let you know we are all so proud of you. I enjoyed seeing you inspire us all with your courage and abilities…keep it up!


Thanks for the kind comments, everyone! Hopefully, I’ll be able to come to another camp and meet some of you again. @Maggie, so sorry to hear that you were ill and couldn’t make it to the camp. Hope you’re feeling better now! @Dragonslayer, I’ll be sure to try out a dobro if I get the opportunity! :slightly_smiling_face:


Great to meet you Michael! I am very jealous of your camp experience…

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