Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Practice Routine

Hi. As a 64 yr old newbie to the mandolin I am curious about what a good mandolin practice routine would be. I started a couple of months ago and have a goal of playing a bit of rhythm mandolin with our church worship team (country / bluegrass gospel style). My fingers can now handle about an hour a day. In a video you made with JP the statement was made “It’s not practice makes perfect…it’s perfect practice makes perfect.” I am chasing the elusive ability to play 2 octave major scales perfectly. Should I exclusively pursue this ability before attempting to learn anything else? Should I mix my practice time between scales and other techniques? How would you structure a practice routine?

Thanks for all of the time and talent you have invested into this online training. It is something I will continue to use for a lifetime.

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Hi Wayne.

I’m not Ben but I would like to throw a few ideas at you. Just for reference, i’m 58 and spend several hours a day playing different instruments.

Playing scales is a great exercise, but it isn’t necessary to get one thing absolutely perfect before starting the next thing…and it doesn’t teach you to play chords.

Once you have a scale memorized you can play through it for a short period and give it your best attention…under normal circumstances, after a certain amount of time on a specific thing you will naturally start paying less attention and not progress further on it until you get away form it for a while.

this is where having a variety of things to work on helps a lot.

If you start getting any pain, or tiredness in your hands, or tight muscles…it is time to change what you are working on or stop for a while to recover., constant repetition gives us endurance…but, also can damage to your body,improvement comes from attentive repetition (high amount of concentration) Which can deteriorate over an extended time of playing.

If your Goal is to play chords with the “team” I’d suggest part of your practice routine be dedicated to something to help you toward your goal.
It could be learning a chord you don’t know, working on getting the right strumming pattern down to match the song, memorizing a chord progression, etc.

It would probably help a lot ot work your way through the mandolin path Ben has set up here on the site. There is a lot of great information there that can help you to become more accomplished on the instrument…

Might be a good idea to talk to someone who plays on your worship team about getting a chord chart or two to a couple of the simpler songs they do.

Hope this helps some…good luck and have fun with the journey!



Hi Wayne,
Just a few observations I would add. One is don’t obsess over ‘perfect’, but do count carefully and start slow. I started playing a few years ago also later in life. The best thing I did is carefully get the rhythm right by following Ben’s example and played along with his mp3s. You might could work on pieces in the beginner list selecting keys that your worship team frequents. Also check out Ben’s lessons on rhythm – they’re great. Everyone’s different; I like to do about 20-25 minutes several times a day. That way I don’t over do it and learn faster.


Howdy Wayne! Good to have you on board!

Nope, that’s not what I meant by that. Please continue playing and exploring other things. That statement is more of a quality control statement, meant more to guard against playing things too fast for “practice” and not paying attention to what you’re doing. @fiddle_wood is hitting at the same idea with “attentive repetition.”

Yes, I would mix. Scales serve many purposes, perhaps the most important right now being the coordination and dexterity it develops with the two hands. I advise you to practice what you’re gonna play like @fiddle_wood recommended. Let me give you a sample one hour practice time…just a sample:

10 minutes: Warm up by playing scales and working on the stress-free single-string exercises in my vid with JP.
10 minutes: Work on a specific problem area identified at end of practice session from last time (see below)
10 minutes: Play through your favorite tunes and licks as fast and fun as you can/want.
10 minutes: Play rhythm with a song on your computer. Do you know all the chords? If not, spend needed time to find them.
10 minutes: Learn a new song from my lessons. If you know the melody of one, play along with a slow jamtrack and try to improvise.
10 minutes: Reflect on what happened over the last hour. Spend a few minutes trying to quickly improve or nail down something that you messed up. Take the most glaring problem area and commit to working on it the next practice session.


Thank you all for taking the time to pour into me. I’ve adjusted, and increased the frequency, of my practice times. My wife is beginning to enjoy listening. Again, thank you!


I just crossed the time marker of three score and two years odd , ah’ old… I traded a GF-85 banjo for a customized Epiphone of a good mando player. Because of playing the guitar and banjo for a long time, the first thing I was amazed with ; how much sense the mandolin makes! You don’t like the pitch of the starting note; move it over left or right! Wow! I made the mistake of learning more difficult pieces I liked, “Whiskey before Breakfast” and “Ashkalon Farwell” etc. because I could, on YouTube. One of the reasons for getting the “Gold Picker” of Ben’s was to learn the parts for all three instruments! I have re-started the Mando way of things, taught by Bum Badda Dummm himself; from the VERY first beginner lesson and checking off each box as I move right along. Last two comments; Ben applies each stage to a few tunes, building on firm ground work. This gig is not his first rodeo. Second, you can’t fake wanting your students to have fun as they are learning the blessin’ of making music. { lot’s of cliches and mixed truisms here, but hey, I’m getting aged here… } I encourage you to stick around this way of showing you how to play the instrument of choice, it’s incredibly worth it in so many ways…

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3 and 2 makes you 32, right? :thinking:

Oh wait… :smirk: