Playing fast!


Hey banjo ben, I’m a gold pick member and love everything you post. If you found time, I dont feel it would be too hard of a lesson but I have difficulty playing rhythm at 180-195 bpm and as a primary rhythm player. It’s important that I’m able to keep up with the banjo and Mandolin players at this speed. I was curious if there was a different rhythm technique at these speeds?


Great question! One thing is for sure, there’s no technique that will work if you’re not used to playing that fast…it’s just crazy fast. If I had to play something that fast again, it would take me a while (days/weeks) to work up to it. If you try to do it with your arm/shoulder, it won’t work. This is mainly a wrist thing with some forearm, of course.

I find that I cannot do any upstrokes in my rhythm going that speed, not consistently, anyway. For the 4 beats in the measure I resort to a Bass-note/strum/rest/strum, sometimes a bass/strum/bass/strum, but even then it may be too fast/busy.

What you must remember is that the band, at that speed, does not require much from the rhythm guitar. The faster the speeds are, the less important the guitar rhythm is. It’s still important, just not as important. And if you try to take you fullish slower rhythm techniques and simply speed them up, they will be too much and too busy at those speeds, even if you can execute them.

I also will resort to big downstroke brushes on the downbeat of chord changes that will carry over the beats 1-3 of the measure: Strum/rest/rest/strum. So, two measures might be:
Strum/rest/rest/strum bass-note/strum/rest/strum

Also, bass note walks and runs are so very important and can add a lot, plus they’re not that hard to play even at these speeds. Make sure to do simply walkups and walkdowns from the G to C, D back to G, etc.

Let me know what you think of this advice, and I’ll try to get you some video later this week. I’m not in a place to record right now.


Here’s Tony doing John Hardy - I think probably at about 155-160bmp. It’s all from the wrist to the finger tips. I think he’s also grabbing some strings with his right hand digits here and there - it’s more than just the pick.


Incidentally, you can see Sam Bush chopping his mando and he’s doing a phantom stroke between each down chop.

By the way… what on earth are you playing at that speed, anyway?


I don’t think I’ve ever heard John Hardy played that fast. That was AWESOME!