Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Rhythm Tracks Confusion

I’m singing the Beginners Blues.

When playing along with one of the mp3 rhythm tracks, I get very confused. Am I supposed to be listening to the banjo or the rhythm bed…or am I simply supposed to concentrate on keeping time and not “listen” to anything?

The banjo is loud, so I have to crank my speakers to hear the bed, and it’s difficult to find that right blend.

Am I doing something wrong or is it just a matter of “getting used to it?”

Is there one song in particular you’re referencing? Most all my jam tracks have the solo instrument featured on one, then just a rhythm bed on the others. Thanks!


I also found the banjo loud, so I use a banjo mute when learning something new, and playing along with the rhythm track.

Maybe it’s not a jam track. For example, one is an mp3 file labeled “CrippleCreek-G-160BPM” that I download from a lesson. It’s simply a rhythm guitar and no other instruments. I provide the banjo. (ha!) I’m letting Win Media Player play the bed while I try to keep up. And I get confused trying to listen to both the banjo & the guitar because I’m not clear in understanding what I should be listening for.
I hope I’m making sense.

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I’m still a beginner at banjo, but played sax in a jazz band many years ago. I learned that it was best to “feel” the downbeats—particularly at the beginning of each measure. Don’t actually listen to others, that’s for your audience, instead just get in that beat groove and play your stuff. When you play Ben’s stuff you’re playing the lead and the background track is setting that beat. I find it fun sometimes to listen to the track with the banjo and attempt to be the backup player (play rolls using the chords marked above the tabs). Then you’re responsible for setting a nice beat. The banjo tracks are also good for double checking you’re accuracy on the lead stuff. But then I generally have to use Slow Downer to break the speed way down for learning. Hope this makes sense.

“your accuracy” that should be

Think of it this way…
When you listen to a song on the radio can you only hear the singer or one instrument? No! You hear a 'mix"

the same applies to playing with a rhythm track…you should hear both. But…may concentrate on one aspect more than another.

A few observations"

The banjo is loud because you play it loud…it can take some time but you can learn to play at different volumes. You might be amazed at how quietly some really great pickers play the banjo…Lloyd Douglas & Dana Cupp are two I’ve known for many years who come to mind right away.

It takes time to learn to really hear your own playing (really listening while you play)…adding in a play-along track is another step in the process and this also takes time to get used to. Your brain needs to have time to adjust to listening to more than one thing and “compartmentalise” what you are hearing.

You can practice this while not playing…listen to a favorite recording several times. Each time through pick a different element (or pair of elements) to concentrate on…you will still “hear” the rest of the elements in the recording, but you are concentrating on specific ones. For instance: you’re learning banjo and probably listen mostly to that…what are the Bass and Mandolin doing? Can you hear them through the whole recording? How does the guitar match up with the vocals? Is there a volume difference so one doesn’t drown out the the other or so one can sound more “up front”?

My normal mode of practice on a fiddle is to have the jam track on headphones quietly and play the fiddle live (no mic). This is the best way I’ve found to balance tacks for myself…other things may work better for you, but it all takes time and some experimentation.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different methods of listening.

All this stuff can be hard for beginners and it takes time, patience, and practice to get used to it all. Hang in there, and enjoy the process! It only gets better with time…


Actually, it makes a lot os sense. Thanks for the insights!

Hi @BanJoe

Just to add to what @Fiddle_wood said.

I practice banjo whilst wearing headphones. I listen and play along with the TAB Tef Files that @BanjoBen creates with each lesson. These TEF files include a Guitar Rhythm TAB…

I can adjust the speed to a comfortable position and use this to prepare to move to Ben’s Mp3 Rhythm Tracks once I have learned the tune

As I become more comfortable with the Mp3 slowest speed I move up to the next fastest speed. The slowest speed is located at the bottom of the list

Sometimes these MP3 files are way too fast for me so I download the files and use the FREE Audacity player to slow them down.

The top MP3 on the website includes the banjo. If you get into the habit of listening to that track over and over, You will become more familiar with the tune and in time will help you build speed.

Key points to focus on:

  1. Where Ben counts you in and where he starts the kick off. Mp3 & demo video
  2. On the TEF file the clicks that count you in and the position in the measure where the kick off starts.

Oh, okay! Gotcha, yeah that is something that you get better at. Make sure you are using the .tef tab as a learning tool. That will help your ear get trained!

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