Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Singing the Blues

Before joining Ben’s site I’d actually been devoting a lot of time to rhythm playing and singing.

I used to go to a local pub to play with some folkies (as they call them here in the UK). I’ve been going for a couple of years. Most of them seemed reasonably impressed with my guitar playing and would ask me to sing a song.

I simply couldn’t do it! I had go a few times and it never worked - I would completely forget the chord progression and crash. They’ve rarely asked me to do again as they know what will happen, I’ll get very embarrassed and crash out in confusion with a blank expression on my face.

I’ve had time to practice at home - live music is UK pubs is still not allowed (I think) - so I’ve not seen any of the good old boys for a while. I’ve been practicing sing Hank Williams songs and I really like Jimmie Rodgers along with other old timey music. The early bluegrass songs are often brilliant too - though I don’t get the high lonesome sound (I do like it but its not my favorite style). So I was interested if others here spend a bit of time trying to sing and what they sing.

Also when I first started to learn - I had no idea that Tony Rice used to frequently sing - he had an incredible voice and sang so well. I really value a song as a whole with lyrics, I’ve never been entirely interested in listening to bluegrass as just a melodic thing - though I do that sometimes and it is very beautiful. So if anyone could recommend any bluegrass singers or great songs - from any period I’d be interested to hear what people like listening to or performing as songs with lyrics.

Thank you for your time


Here’s a couple of tunes that got my whistle wet…

Great singing and playing



Nice video @worldatlas

Singing makes you a much better musician, that is for sure. I think everyone should study a little even if they suck at it like me. lol

We had a few modules in music school, even if you were only there to learn an instrument. It helps a lot with the overall perception of music. I usually practice it along with the bass or the banjo, singing intervals and triads and scales. I really sharpens the ear and I think it is very good practice.

In regards to reccomendations I have a non-bluegrass singer called Richard Bona, he is amazing at this kind of exercise and he applies it to his music and bass playing. Worth checking out.

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Hi frank

I absolutely love singing. I am not any good at it but I can sing (in a way) . Been practicing a lot. I am quiet when I do sing, which surprises the people I know, as I’ll have no trouble being heard in a loud pub with my conversation - I used to work as a high school teacher and you get used to making yourself heard when no one else wants to listen to you…

I think you are correct that it does make you a better musician. I think that there’s a line in a Bob Dylan song which goes “I’ll know my song well before I start singing”. That by being able to sing and play song that you know it in your heart - which will make it more meaningful. That you will truly really know what you are trying to do or say, maybe even make it your own one day.

Many of the great musicians that I meet in the pub that I really admire those that can sing above all else. There is an old Irish guy and boy can he sing a song. His actual guitar playing sometimes gets unfairly criticized by others - who seem to miss the point. He really delivers and performs his songs - mostly blues. They are powerful and you can’t stop listening. He can take you on a journey with a song - He’s brilliant at it. The whole pub will stop and listen, and he will often gets a round of applause. I could play Billy in the Low ground all day and not miss a beat, but most people will still carry on drinking and talking. Which is fine - but it did make me realize that I was missing out by not even trying to sing. I used to try and join in - you are free to drop out - and I’d try to harmonize - though I don’t know what I’m doing - but it is fun and I’ll have a grin on my face when the song is over. I miss singing with my friends.

I’d love to hear someone sing and play the banjo - I’ve heard recordings of Doc Watson doing this and they are extraordinary. If you read my other comments I got a banjo and wanted to learn some back up rolls. I’ve had a lot of fun singing Way Down Town doing vamps - with the banjo clucking like a chicken. The banjo seems quite uncommon over in the UK. Guitars and mandolins mostly. So it’s really interesting for a Brit to see how many people here are banjo players, which is great!

I shall check out Richard Bona - I’ve not heard of him - and my own musical tastes are wide. With music if I like it and its good I’m listening.

So thanks for sharing your thoughts

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