Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Speaking the language (terms n Definitions)

OK I’m hearing some different terms of things you do when playing a banjo. Some I know what they are some I think I know what they are and some I have no clue. I’m sure they will all come in time but maybe I can get a few out of the way.
Roll / Pinch /and Slide I got
Pulloff and hammer I have a clue
Vamp / Lick & Break no idea

Vamp to pinch a chord, simultaneously dampening the strings by releasing the pressure, but not letting go of the strings. Playing the rhythm , backup. Same as chops on mandolin.

Lick - an embellishment, playing notes with a hammer on, slide, pulloff, pinch, roll etc.

Break - Playing a Solo - Giving the vocalist a break from singing.


I had basically the same question. Thanks for asking that one @Woody.


If you follow through Ben’s Beginners Learning Track all this kind of stuff is explained and more importantly demonstrated. You gotta get away from the notion that Ben is here just to teach tunes. He is, but he’s teaching you a whole lot more. He is sharing his knowledge and experience. Whilst it’s ok to ask lots of questions bear in mind that Ben’s time is valuable and whilst I know he loves nothing better than to sit down for a chat with us all we might be distracting him from more important stuff like preparing his next lesson.

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Didn’t mean to overstep my bounds with (inconsequential) questions. I thought a forum was a whole group participation. And figure Ben let’s alot of experienced members answer questions as long as the info is correct and up to his standards. My Bad

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Hi Woody, Sorry if my post made you think you were out of line. What I was trying to say was the kind of things you were asking are there within the Beginner Learning Track. Spending quality time working through these lessons will provide pretty much all the answers you seek. More importantly it will lead you to ask more searching questions on the content of what’s being taught. It’s OK to ask questions and your absolutely right we will all pitch in and help you where we are able. But you will learn more from study and your own research

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Woody, No silly questions… can’t you see? You helped another fellow player by askin’! What is better than that?

I saw your post and considered to answer but I KNEW @Archie would! He is always so supportive!

I would maybe expound on Lick… that in addition to what @Archie said… think of it as a series of notes that string together to supplement a phrase or musical transition. It isn’t an entire break… but a short phrase that is fit into a longer break… or maybe in backup too… like the way the G Lick is a fundamental Banjo way to finish a musical phrase. Can be 1 bar (measure) or more.

When you hear something someone else plays that catches your ear… and you think, “That part is so cool, I want to learn what he/she played in that spot”… that is a lick.

One thing… to be creative and work on your own - in addition to learning the standards… because licks can become musical signatures! Isn’t that idea cool?

Finally, I also agree with @Archie that the sharing on the site is much deeper… collective years of experience -principally from our Mentor Ben… but others too.

That said, I think @Archie‘s point is that the content on the site is vast and deep… well beyond the songs. In fact, with Ben’s new learning and lesson progressions… the songs are great in and of themselves… but are also tools to a higher purpose to develop a well-rounded playing ability.

I can also attest… I have musical training but am new to Banjo. Still, I am reviewing all lessons… because even the most basic ones have little nuggets that I have either overlooked or forgot.

An example for me recently… the lesson on wearing the strap! Basic right? There is no playing - but the info is crucial to ALL playing… and there were several points I pick out each time I watch again! That is also a point… since they are here… review and review… ‘cuz as you grow… your playing changes… so one thing that you may have overlooked as a beginner… may be a HUGE reminder as an intermediate player.

Sorry to go on so long… but I hope this helps put things into better perspective.

GREAT QUESTIONS! Keep ‘em coming so we all can learn!


Thanks for setting me straight. I was guessing the following…

Vamp: a banjo player that drools blood

Lick: what a banjo player does to get his hair to quit sticking up

Break: what a banjo player does on stage when the gassy pressure becomes too much to endure



Alls Good. Guess I should finish that first cup of Joe in the mornin before going through my Social media lol

J[quote=“Woody, post:1, topic:4768”]
Vamp / Lick & Break no idea

These are not specifically addressed in the beginners courses. One can make a jump or deduce what they mean. Like “break”…I was thinking that was the solo, but the use of the term did not make sense, Now it does when you think of the singer taking a break. I did not want to ask the forum, but glad some one else did. Vamp and Lick…had no clue what they were. and I have watched all of the videos up to rolls multiple times. Thanks @Archie for helping us new players even if we might miss a few things in the videos. :handshake: