Speed


#1

Hello.

I’m new to the site and new (3 months in) to banjo playing and I’ve got a question. I’m starting with the Basic videos and practicing my rolls. My question is: How fast should I play the rolls before moving on? (i.e., what should be the beats per minute I should be playing at?)

Thanks,
Patrick


#2

I’m not a banjo player, but I played similar right hand stuff on guitar. In my opinion… go for it. Start learning a song you like. I’d still stick with the easier stuff, but pick whatever would motivate you to play more. For me, the picking hand was something I thought about really hard, and then one day it just started doing the right things without me thinking. That’s when it gets fun.


#3

BTW, I realize that I didn’t answer your question about how many BPMs… I think if you have been doing it regularly at all for three months, it’s time for some variety.


#4

— Begin quote from “patrickb”

Hello.

I’m new to the site and new (3 months in) to banjo playing and I’ve got a question. I’m starting with the Basic videos and practicing my rolls. My question is: How fast should I play the rolls before moving on? (i.e., what should be the beats per minute I should be playing at?)

Thanks,
Patrick

— End quote

IMO there’s not a BPM you should be playing at. If you’re learned the basic stuff start adding in some of the Intermediate. Keep it slow enough to get right but push yourself a little bit also. I always like to find a good song that emphasizes something I might be struggling with.


#5

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!


#6

Thanks for the replies.

The question about speed was not so much because I want to play fast (even though I do), it was because I thought I was supposed to play fast. Every banjo tune I’ve heard sounds fast to me. :slight_smile:

When I started, I couldn’t find finger picks, so I learned to play without. Now that I got the finger picks, I feel like I just took a huge step backwards. Without the finger picks, I can pretty much rip through the basic rolls. With the finger picks on, I feel like I’m playing with numb fingers because I can’t feel the strings and my fingers seem to not want to go where I tell them to (my index finger seems particularly rebellious, no problem finding the 3rd string, but finding that 2nd string is a real challenge).

Overall, I am finding banjo a real challenge to learn. I took guitar lessons (finger-style) a long time ago and it was much easier for me to pick up. I love it, though.

And as they say, “Practice makes perfect.”

Cheers,
Patrick


#7

It took about 7 months for my fingerpicks to start feeling ‘normal’ and comfortable (and that was with practicing 7 days a week). Sometimes when I want to practice or learn something while I’m watching TV, I’ll play without picks (because the banjo is too loud) but when I do, my fingertips feel sluggish and they drag on the strings.

So yes, it is easier, as a beginner, to play without picks but if you persevere, they will eventually feel normal and then you’ll get that sharp banjo tone and you’ll be able to play with more speed.

And yes, a lot of banjo tunes are played pretty fast. Eventually, certain things will just come automatically and you won’t have to think about them when you play them. When this happens, you’ll find that you’re playing these licks and phrases pretty fast. It just means a lot of repetition.

Keep picking and having fun.