Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Realistic Expectations for Progress

Looking for other peoples’ opinions. Started playing a year ago, and I really want to progress faster than I am, but what is a realistic amount of time to aim for when practicing when I am working a full time job and raising two young children. I try to shoot for an hour a day, but it doesn’t always happen. I think a bigger problem is I don’t have the time to sit down and develop a good practice plan. I probably shouldn’t have waited until the busiest portion of life to learn an instrument, but it is what it is and I won’t quit, I love music too much. Figured hearing what other folks’ thoughts on the situation were might help me out.

7 Likes

Hello Ryan
Here is my thoughts… 1 hour a day might be a good idea for the first month. Ben’s lessons cover many techniques so with learning a few lessons (songs of your liking) during this time, you will have the basics. Things will be much easier after this first month effort. After that you can reduce it to 1/2 hour or even less or whatever is comfortable for you so it is enjoyable, rather than being an additional burden besides your work load. Be sure to use tef files to slow down the tempo, that helps tremendously. And all that said, it’s never late to learn anything!

7 Likes

Welcome to the club! I have yet to meet anyone that wanted to progress slower :slight_smile:
Like John said, an hour a day is really good. I went through a time where I tried to really progress. I spent multiple hours a day on it. I ended up with a related shoulder issue. My point there… more is not always better. One thing I learned the hard way is to just enjoy what I could do (while I was still trying to improve). I was working hard to get some tougher breaks up to speed. I never got fast enough and I was frustrated and I had worn out some body parts. I thought I might have ended my guitar days altogether. The shoulder did heal and when I got back into it, I started learning some easier arrangements and even some slower songs, and I started enjoying things again. I might make another pass at becoming a faster guy in the future, but when I do, I won’t eliminate enjoying what is already within reach.

5 Likes

Hi Ryan, I am retired, I have way too much free time but I never seem to have enough time to study & play banjo. Some days I’ll practice on and off for twelve hours whilst other days I’ll barely scratch 30 minutes… This past 7 months it’s pretty much been the latter. It’s not so much the amount of time you have but rather how you use the time you have wisely. You can achieve a lot in just fifteen minutes and if you work your way through @BanjoBen 's lesson programme you can achieve a huge amount in a month. Everyone want’s to be an expert overnight, but the reality is there is so much to learn. Rather than rushing your progress you’ll gain more faster if you take things slower. Give your brain time to process what you are learning. Take a break every once in a while. From what you say It seems that you have a very stressful life. So here is the best advice I can offer you. Relax when you pick up your instrument - remain calm - have fun - playing guitar is down time from your hectic lifestyle - Don’t use this time to burden yourself with more stress - instead use it to unwind. You’ll make much better progress if you learn to relax and just have fun.

5 Likes

Hello Ryan,
“Busiest portion of life” sounds familiar…
When I started learning my instrument, (I wasnt yet a member of Ben’s site, was just learning ‘on my own’), had 2 teenagers in school, with after school functions (one in marching band & cross country running) each learning their own string instruments at different locations (private evening lessons), was working full time with split off days, and also taking care of both my parents. It was tricky to set aside a dedicated practice time.
My solution was to take my lunch break at work & use it to practice in the warehouse 5 days a week. It was sometimes cumbersome to drag instrument into work, but I did it anyway & found a pretty safe location to store it in the building (way too hot here to leave instrument in the truck (dont leave it in the truck!)) So pretty much guaranteed I had at least 5 days “scheduled” practice time and anything else I could fit in at home, if I could find spare time, was bonus gravy. It helped me alot otherwise I probably wouldnt have had a dependable practice schedule at all.
About a year in to self-learning, I joined this site (best decision ever!). But I still didnt have the at home time to regularly play at home. So I recorded stuff on my phone (not allowed to use internet at work & no cell service in metal warehouse) printed the tabs, and took it to work. Lunch time became my favorite part of the workday :grin:! I realize not all jobs are conducive to doing something like this, but if yours is, it might be worth a try! Best wishes! You can do it!!!

7 Likes

I keep my guitar hanging on the wall hanger so that it is readily accessible. This allows me, during a busy day, to grab it for maybe 5 minutes every hour and practice a lick or part of a song. Those 5 minute sessions add up… I do schedule time during the week for much longer practice sessions so that I build up playing stamina.

6 Likes

It’s not stressful at all, just busy. In reality, I am probably one of the least stressed people you will ever meet. I’m just trying to optimize the time I do have. It definitely isn’t feasible for me to take my guitar to work. I do keep it hanging on the wall though.

3 Likes

Consider trying to practice an hour a day, but break it up into 20 minute sessions. 1 session on scales and technique, 1 session on a tune you are trying to learn, and the last session on whatever needs the most work at the time. If we go past 20 or 25 minutes, we begin to get diminishing returns on our practice time investment, and end up with body parts hurting. A break for our body AND our brain is good between sessions. I’ve done a session before work, sometime after work, and just before bed time. It doesn’t alway work out that nicely but its the schedule I try to keep.
Also, like @Mike_R said, give yourself a break when it doesn’t come together just right and ENJOY the journey! You’ll get there!!

4 Likes

My humble apologizes. Just ignore my advise I thought you were seeking help. I can see now I was wrong . I’ll try not to rush to judgment in future.

1 Like

How me saying I’m not stressed could be taken as not wanting help is beyond me. I didn’t intend to imply that at all.

1 Like

Sorry I can’t help you. I made a few suggestions clearly not the advice you were hoping for.

1 Like

Regardless, I do appreciate you taking time to respond. I didn’t mean to offend. I will use the advice you did offer, and be sure to put down the guitar when I get frustrated.

1 Like

Here are a couple YouTube videos from a banjo playing neurologist regarding effective practices:



They are at least food for thought. Dr Turknett’s overall message is that we need to build neural pathways, and those grow while sleeping based on our focus that day.
6 Likes

Hi Ryan , I am not offended, I am here to help if I am able, if my advise is not what your seeking then that’s not a problem for me you’ll need to be patient until @BanjoBen is available to address your query

In you initial post you said

That’s something you need to resolve on your own.

You asked for our opinion, I shared mine. So now I need to get on and fit in some practice before I head to bed.

1 Like

Archie, I think what Ryan is hinting at is he has deep pocket! :wink:

This reminds me of a game where you pass a message using sign language to a number of others each one passing to the other in succession and how it is finally understood.

Ryan said busiest->I mentioned burden (I partly take the blame)->You said stress->Any others?? :slight_smile:

1 Like

Ouch! I wouldn’t do that. I get inspired by the kids here but I will never try to match them as we have only limited time.

1 Like

Hi @JohnM

When I was working and had a young family life was pretty stressful even if I didn’t recognise it at the time. It was definitely there. I had a really short fuse and would snap at folks without realising it. My doctor quickly diagnosed the problem. I was working long hours, grabbing food on the go and trying to do too many things. In the end I walked away from a job I loved and my health improved overnight. As I said in my post to Ryan he needs to figure out what works for him. I wish him well bear him no ill.

2 Likes

I definitely don’t have deep pockets, lol. I assume you’re referring to wealth. All is well, Archie wasn’t offended. I apologized, thinking he was. Let’s move on from the misunderstanding. He is right I think in that I need to figure out how to practice on my own. Each person learns differently (I can see that in my two homeschooling children), it’s more than likely my lack of patience, which has been addressed by others (i.e. take your time, smaller spaced out sessions). I’ll just have to keep grinding it out.

2 Likes

Ok Guy’s I think we need to draw this topic to a close before this goes south. @BanjoBen will be back in a few days and hopefully he will be free to take up the reigns on this and find a solution.

2 Likes

Find yourself some social gathering, a bustling atmosphere, or just a secluded room. Put an instrument in your hands and start messing around on it. The world and all its troubles go away.

4 Likes