Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

One more stupid question

I freely admit as I stand before you, with a wrench in my hand, I’m a much better mechanic than a musician. I feel sorry for those with no mechanical inclination and do my best to help them at work. I really love it when they plop a turbo on my counter and I can tell them there is nothing wrong with it and save them hundreds of dollars! I’m a firm believer in Karma. So here goes my stupid music question. What would be the best roll to learn first to give me the most options when picking songs to learn later? I’m thinking, why learn to drive a stick shift if all you will ever drive is going to be an automatic? So I’m thinking why learn a simple forward roll when there are no songs you want to play with that roll. Right?

That’s a hard one to answer. I still consider myself a beginner, but with the songs that I have learned, I use a combination of all of them. However, if I had to pick a “most prominent” one, it would be the forward roll.

I know the stick shift takes more time to learn than the auto, but my advice is to start grinding those gears. Keep at it and before you know it, you’ll be floating them with ease.

By the way, I’m a self-proclaimed shade tree mechanic. Been restoring a few old cars the last few years. You do any restorations?

Take Ben’s lesson Banjo 103 Right Hand Rolls. Work on this for a week or so.

Rolls are just tools. The goal is to be able to play songs and such. Most songs can be broken down into a combination of different rolls. So learning rolls will acquaint your hands with the necessary movements to play these songs. But the point is NOT to learn rolls, it’s to play songs.

So there is not one magic roll that you can learn. You have to teach your fingers on how to move. Ben’s lesson will get your hands and fingers acquainted with the most important movements you need to learn.

That’s one thing that made me wonder about the instructor I had. After one lesson he showed me a forward roll and told me to learn that and come back in three or four months. Months!?!? Really?!?! Then I got lost coming home from his house. That’s when I took a second look at what I wanted to do, and set the poor thing back in its case. For the last year it’s been calling me from its case upstairs. So I took it out and bought a stand so it could join the family in the evenings. Now it taunts me, setting there silently, waiting for me to pick it up and play something that doesn’t sound like a piano hitting the ground from a high rise building.

Not to disrespect your former banjo instructor, but I bet I could make a banjo in less than three or four months… I could maybe even learn to tune it in that time frame.

First of all, learning to drive a stick may not add to handling an automatic but it will still improve your driving skills. I mean, learning a roll you won’t immediately use is not a waste of time, you’ll train your fingers to steer the banjo and you will benefit from any practice at this point.

Secondly, a tip I once got was to take a tab of a song you would like to learn and only play the right hand so without fretting with your left hand, which is then actually practicing different rolls in G. In that way, you can focus on the various roll patterns and the variations in there and you also learn to recognize them quickly in other parts of the song and in other songs. And you are assured they are rolls you will need in the near future.

We went camping last weekend and the ranger at the entry gate had a banjo on a stand behind him! Without holding up the check in line too long I told him I had brought mine and begged him to stop by my campsite and do a little picking for me. But, he never came by, and I never saw anyone at the entry shack again all weekend. Although I did have a little time to myself to practice in peace…

That may have been false advertising as Ben said about the Fiddle .LOL the guy either had an engagement to attend to or he could not play the banjo.