Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Sometimes frustrated!

I’m been trying my hand at flat-picking the guitar (gee-tar) since January 2019. Before then, I was just a strummer… As I’m practicing some of the songs on the camp list (and others), when I start my practice session, I may play it correctly the first time, maybe the second time, then for the next 5 or 6 times I play it, nothings seems to go right. Sometimes it’s pick accuracy and other times the left hand just won’t cooperate. Frustrates the heck out of me…
Any suggestions? Practice routine suggestion?
Is this normal and does it corrects itself over time?
Maybe I’m just expecting to play better than I should be at this stage in the game…



If you tuly can play it clean on several attempts… especially back-to-back… then I might suggest it is a mental anxiety block. I know that there are times where I am cruising through a tune - clean as a whistle - when it will suddenly occur to me and I will flub up on the familiar caboose that I know I have played many times before.

Then I ponder, “Why did I trip up on the part of the song that is most common and portable for me to lift from other songs?” Doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? There seems no good explanation for it.

That is when I ponder it may be my thinking about playing it so cleanly or eager to play through it mistake-free that interfered.

I once read an article about Ted Nugent (that’s right, the Rocker who grew up here in Michigan)… answering a question about how he learned to shred… where he gave credit to a man - Joe Pedorsek - who once taught Ted (when I knew Joe, he was a gifted studio player that was conducting my mom’s church choir when I was growing up - no kiddin’! Joe had told me about teaching Ted when he was just starting out… which I thought was just a tall-tale until I read Ted’s article referencing Joe by name)… but I digress.

The technique was to play licks and riffs while watching TV… just to get the muscle-memory engrained to an automatic response level.

I recall the idea was to not even concern yourself with playing each note perfectly clean or clear… but to go on auto-pilot and just repeat the heck out of it while your mind was busy on something else.

In this case, it was riffs or scales… utilizing the “TV Exercises” approach to increase speed through countless reps.

Let’s face it… unless @BanjoBen crafted a gem of an exercise into something fun to play to accomplish the same thing… Licks and scales can be hardly engrossing musically…

Then after many, many unconscious repetitions comes the time to listen and pay attention that you can play it clean with good form (avoiding bad play habits).

I don’t know if other players have tried some variation of this… but maybe this will help you overcome the impasse? I have tried it on occasion when I had that one measure in a song where my fingers just wouldn’t cooperate.

Another note on my own playing: when I flub up, I sometimes note that I am playing “aggressively” or loudly… Which is an enemy of speed and control.

When I notice this, I sometimes try to ratchet it back dynamically… playing intentionally soft.

Hope these ideas help…


Yes, thanks for the input… I do notice many times, that the more times I play a song or if I’m trying to play faster, the more aggressive I get and things really start to go sideways. Trying to learn to play with more finesse.

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Try your best to relax, and don’t push too hard for speed, and enjoy the journey.

It all comes over time.

As a side note:
In over 40 years of playing & performing I think I’ve actually played a lead part nearly perfect about twice, and nobody was around to hear one of them . Everything else had a flaw that was easy for me to spot (but not for others).


I think it is very normal. I have felt so too and still. But practice, practice, practice is the solution. Like doing it 1000 times, or 2000 etc. Practice also auto corrects some wrong techniques employed unknowingly. Sometimes problematic area, or area require techniques, would require more focus and attention than the rest of the part. Also moving on to other lessons to come back to it later would help too.

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I’d totally listen to @Fiddle_wood! He is a gifted, experienced player and I am totally a newbie.

What I offered was just in the light of opening up your mind to other strategies to get past that frustration factor.

@Fiddle_wood, I like what you say here. I might even go just a bit further to suggest… Bluegrass is so… Pure… Earthy… that the artistry actually seems to allow for this as additional character within the context of the song.

Non-Bleugrass fans might not hear it (like I was once naive)… but as the great master Earl wrote in his book, transcripts are sooo time-stamped because he always switched up on playing tunes… so much so that nearly no two performances were truly duplicated.

Each performance has elements of improvisation and this makes them set among themselves as stylistically unique and full of character.

Blues also seems to share elements of this same idea…

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Thanks for all the input… very helpful! God bless!


[quote=“Fiddle_wood, post:4, topic:10859”]

I’m glad I’m not the only one Dave! I’ve been playing for about 40 years as well and I can say the same thing! It’s not my original post, but that’s a huge encouragement to me!



Try tapping your foot, I know this sounds crazy but I recently started doing this religiously and it works. Also try to play through the mistakes without stopping, then if you have a problem area go back and hit just that section. When you start a song try to continue without stopping even though you will make mistakes along the way. Be proud of how you’ve progressed and have fun. Music should be a stress reliever not a stress causer.


All good info and advice. I believe it happens to all of us, I know it does to me as well. What I find helpful is to use a metronome and play the song at a much slower speed than I normally would focusing on fingering, technique, etc… After playing through slowly several times I bump up the speed on the metronome 5-10 bps and repeat. I hope this helps and all the best on your pickin’ journey!


Do us all a fav…

6 months from now… When you have seen your progress bust through your wall…

Share what worked best so others (and me) can benefit from your experience!