Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

New Guitar player - what order to use videos

Hello everyone. I picked up a medium sized Martin 4-5 months ago and have been going at it trying to learn chords, finger picking, …blah blah blah… And realizing I’m overloading myself with Internet information. I really need a path to follow. My long term goal is to spend most of my time finger picking - but would like to be able to play with a pick too. I probably have things reversed, and should be focusing my time with a pick first. I have a background in piano so can read music, and prefer it over tab. I do not really sing, so playing songs with just repeated chords leaves something to be desired for me. I am focusing on songs that sound good with just the guitar alone. I do not currently have plans to play with others, although my daughter plays piano and it might be fun some time to do something with her.

So… I’m struggling with what the right path is to follow. I spent a fair amount of time reviewing this site and paid for the life time member. But, I don’t really see a step by step process. It seems more like various things to learn, songs to try, methods,… But up to the individual to choose the order of videos. I’m probably making this a to harder than it needs to be, I’m an engineer so I kind of think and enjoy having a plan. I’d appreciate any insight anyone might be willing to give.

I’m 44 and probably expecting faster progress than I’ve been seeing so far. Honestly I get to spend 30 minutes several days a week practicing - but probably should find more time.

Thanks anyone for their thoughts.


Hello Ben in Ohio and welcome to Banjo Ben’s Great forum. There’s plenty of good, helpful people here!

I’m in Ohio too (about 35 miles NW of Dayton), where are you?

My son is an engineer and believe it or not, his name is Ben. I know your thinking process very well. Take this lightly but you guys can sure make simple complicated sometimes. I’ve always been a mechanic and a propane technician, so you can imagine the conversations we have. :laughing:

Anyway, don’t worry about perfect order, whether to fingerpick or flatpick first, or whatever else you think should come first. Simply jump in and enjoy. Always remember, this is for your enjoyment, not a prerequisite to achieving a master’s degree. If you want to flatpick, I would go over the lesson on how to hold the flatpick, This is very important. It doesn’t have to be exactly 100% the way Ben does it, but use it as a guideline to reach your comfort zone. Everyone on this site most likely will hold the pick slightly different than each other including Ben. Ben has lessons in the basic section on both flatpicking and fingerpicking, so pick out something you like and jump in. Whatever you’re doing will help and improve your playing and increase your skill level.

As far as reading music, you won’t see that here or much anywhere else in this type of lessons. Most of us don’t read music and tab is so much easier for anyone to grasp. Not only that, the songs taught are guidelines. Once we learn them, we should be working on changing them up a bit and instilling our own ideas and creating some new licks and such.

I would work on some Carter style songs (Ben has lessons on this too). It’s chords mixed with melody and is great for playing alone and is usually simpler than the all out flatpicking speedy songs.

Most of all, enjoy and have fun. Hope this helps,

Good advice from J.W. My advice to someone just beginning would be to remember that you have to learn to walk before you can run. Don’t start out trying to learn advanced chords up the neck, or try to start flatpicking fiddle tunes right off the bat. Start with the basics. Learn the major chords with maybe a few minors and sevenths. Practice swapping between chords while strumming using alternating bass notes. Learn to throw in a bass run here and there between chords. In other words… learn to play good rhythm guitar with the basic chords first. To me that’s the foundation for learning guitar in many different genres. After that you can start advancing in whatever direction you want to go.

I’m also with J.W. on learning to pick Carter style when you’re ready. I play a lot of old Carter tunes when it’s just me and my guitar. Playing out of chords sounds good when you have nobody playing rhythm with you and is not that hard to learn once you have the basics down.

Disclaimer: I’m not a music teacher and have never played one on TV. Just my opinion so take it for what its worth. :laughing:

Oh and welcome to the forum Ben! We’ve got some good guys from Ohio on the forum so you should fit right in.

First of all , welcome to the site and hope you learn as much as you want here. I have put a link in here so you can down load tabledit . It will become so useful . Of course and always use what suits you , but I would give it a try . I can read tab almost as good as some read notation but that came after 3 plus years of using it . At 44 years old you should have plenty of time left to learn . I would listen and pick one or two that really sounds good to you. Start by watching the video to get some idea what it sounds like and also you can pick up some tips from Ben . The thing about tab is you can play it back with the program tabledit and slow it down and change the key and that is free but you don’t get all the bells and whistles with it . you can use standard notation with the program also. Good luck and hope you enjoy your time here. I have had a great time .

Thank you for the suggestions. Yeah, my father in law is a home builder and he and I go back and forth about accuracy needed for carpentry work - as you would guess, he makes fun of me spending too much time to be precise - but man my 2x4 stud is cut perfect! I live south east of Canal Winchester area which is south of Columbus.

From your responses perhaps I’m going in the right general direction. I just got back from vacation so time to get back to finding time to practice the guitar. I’ll be hanging around and reading the forums, so be looking for further advice.


Hey Ben,
You have gotten a bunch of great advice already. To add to what Welder said, download Tabledit. If you want, you can view (and print or play) tab as standard notation (or viceee verseee). As far as basic videos go, all the fundamentals are great (how to hold a pick, basic chords, etc.) I take it from your post that you might not that focused on bluegrass and that’s ok. With those thoughts in mind here’s a few songs Ben has videos for that I think you might like:
Wildwood Flower: Others have mentioned a Carter style song… this is the mother. It sounds great really slow or smoking fast. After many years of playing it, I still sit down and play it often.
Amazing Grace: A good starter as you will be learning your basic chord shapes for the key of C
Jesus Loves Me: A real nice arrangement. I use it in my church periodically and have worked up parts for other instruments to join in. Not super simple, but it is achievable.

I’d also be thinking of Christmas music… it would be pretty cool to have some Christmas tunes ready to go for December. It is easy to get a nice fingerstyle version of many Christmas songs.

As others have said, if something strikes you as being good to try, have at it!

Your question is one that I have often wondered about and I can’t answer it. My own experience is that the Internet is an ocean of info, much of it very worthwhile, that can overwhelm you with options.

I started up my flat picking vice about three years ago at 65. You did what I should have done.

There are a plethora of how to play videos on you tube which weren’t so available just ten years ago. I have gotten value out of quite a number of them. Still like Banjo Ben the best . I saw the Foggy Mountain Breakdown early on and Ben makes it look so doable. Three years into it and I am still working on it. All the same I have learned a lot of technique while working on it.

My opinions: Good rhythm is a good thing and many like me really can’t do it all that well.
I like to noodle. probably to a fault, but I think it still a good thing.
Scales can be tedious, but learn the G scale both major and pentatonic and the C scale and riffs and runs will get easier.
The more you practice the more you advance. The more you play with others, the more you solidify what you know.

I live near Tucson AZ and there is a group called Desert Bluegrass Association that holds weekly workshops and regular jams. Nothing beats playing with other people. This group has rank beginners and a few patient advanced players. and all in between skill levels. My activity in this group has really advanced my playing level. There are similar groups any a lot of other places and hopefully there is one near you.

Hope this discourse helps.

Jim Jones

I’m a little late here, but I’ll put in my 2 cents.

For new players I always suggest starting ‘simple’. I put simple in quotes because there is nothing simple about playing the guitar, even a basic strum is something we all take for granted once we have been playing for a while. I would say hold off on the finger picking and individual note flat picking until you learn the basics. This should help with your rhythm and also give you a good base to start building off of. I have met plenty of people that have gone straight into learning solos and picking, but never focused on mastering rhythm - they still struggle with rhythm years later because of they never trained their ear/hand with the basics (that I have listed below). If you don’t know rhythm, then you don’t know shit. =)

1 - learn all your major and minor chords and the basic ‘down-down-up-up-down-up’ strum.
2 - once you have them memorized, start making up 4-chord song progressions and switching from chord to chord. Come up with any and all kinds of combinations (even if they don’t sound great) so you can switch from any chord to any other chord, especially the tough ones.
3 - start to learn other strumming patterns.
4/5 - once you are comfortable with the above steps, then start learning finger picking/flat picking.
4/5 - start to learn how to palm mute when strumming, this gives a lot of character to the sound of the strum patterns.

I find this guy to be one of the best teachers on the internet today.