When I first started, I played Ben’s Right Hand Rolls Banjo 103 lesson for about a week or so until I felt like my fingers sort of kind of went where I wanted them too. Then I started learning some songs.
Speed only comes when you are so familiar with the movement that you do it without thinking. That takes a lot of repetition and rather than working on repetition for speed, which I would find a colossal bore, I think it best to learn some songs.
Ben has chosen the songs in his lessons to help you repeat, over and over and over again, the basic licks and phrases that make up the banjo vocabulary. As you learn this through constant repetition, you will gain speed. But you will (or at least, should) have fun doing it this way.
Don’t worry about speed. When your fingers go more or less where you want them to go, learn songs. Even with the songs, I learn a new one every three weeks (with each of Ben’s new lessons). You don’t have to play one perfectly or at speed to go onto a new one. When the tune sounds recognizable and you can play it at a decent speed, go on to a new one.
BUT keep playing the old tunes you’ve learned. As I said, it’s repetition that’s the key and each of the songs contain key elements that you need to burn into your brain and hands.
Banjo is tough. I’ve been at it over two years now so I can pick up a song pretty quickly now but when I started, I had to play a tune hundreds of times before I started just to get the hang of it. And even now, I must have played Foggy Mountain Breakdown 2000 times and I still can’t quite get it!
In today’s modern music (like Mumford and Sons, or the Avett Bros or Crowder, all of which I have only heard in passing) the banjo playing sounds pretty simple and sounds like simple rolls but often played really fast. So I understand where the desire of new players to play fast rolls comes from. But if you learn the basics of banjo playing through the songs that Ben presents in his lessons, you’ll be able to play these fast rolls easily as well as being able to come up with these kinds of accompaniment on your own. But I think you need to lean how to walk before you run.
Keep on practicing and have some fun!