Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Play by ear for banjo

Are there any lessons on your site to help learning to play banjo by ear or are there any plans for some in the future?

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Any lesson could be used that way…just don’t look or read the tab…

you can always use the video or tab to check for correctness though


You took the words right out of my thoughts Dave 2ThumbsUp

Hey Craig! Welcome to the forum!

That’s a pretty broad category. Are you trying to learn where chord changes are and how to know which ones to switch to, or are you trying to learn how to listen to a lead banjo part and pick it out by ear?


Learning to play by ear is a worthy pursuit! I used to rely on tab for breaks, but when I learned to play by ear, EVERYTHING became easier. So how did I learn to play by ear?

Well, um, I don’t really know.

I guess spending more time listening and less time trying to cram arrangements into my head helped, but it’s been kind of a slower, steadier climb. It clicked for banjo first, then guitar, then harmony singing, and then (hopefully) it will start to happen on my other instruments… but I really don’t know how it works. It’s probably similar to the learning processes of other skills such as foreign languages, which I’ve kind of noticed.

I’m not sure if any of that helped at all, but these are just some ideas… it may be entirely different for your brain. I think the closest thing to an ear-training lesson so far is the Make-a-Break lesson, which is one of the best in my opinion.

Happy picking!


Here’s my thoughts on playing by ear. I have done that for over 25 years. If you know your basic patterns…and you figure out not only the timing, but the chord changes it would be just fitting in the rolls and finding out which direction you want your pull offs/ etc… to go. That’s why I came on here to learn more accurate songs - Yea, I can play pretty much any song by ‘ear’… but I want to learn the real melody to a song… Let me know if I can be more of a service. For example here’s one I just recorded today playing by ‘ear’