Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

When did you start getting comfortable up the neck?

I’ve been playing for 1.5 - 2 years and I’m feeling very comfortable with the first 5 or 6 frets, but I still struggle a lot with playing up the neck. There are a couple solos to a couple songs I can play (kind of), but I’m just finding it hard to grasp. When did you all start getting used to fretting up the neck? Any songs or lessons you’d like to recommend to help me get better at it?


I’m sure @BanjoBen has a bunch of good lessons on that but I just joined so I haven’t seen them yet. I’d suggest learning all the positions in a row going up the neck for all the chords in a scale with the circle of fourths or fifths. So start with G playing all the positions until you reach the top of the fingerboard, then C and so on. I’ve just recently been working on an exercise like that and it’s helped me a lot.


Oh yeah…lots :wink:

Here are some to start:
Backup chord drills:
Fretboard Geography course:
Waypoints in G:
Waypoints in C:
Up the neck with Blackberry blossom:
Boogie Woogie Backup:
Bag O’ Licks up the neck:

I have tons of solos and lessons that have up the neck breaks, but the lessons above (and more) specifically focus on teaching you the neck all over. Enjoy!


Yay! Thank you so much to both of you! Ben, can’t wait to get started on these. I just started here so I’ve been poking around through the lesson list and wasn’t sure where to start. I’ll work through these next :slight_smile:

Actually, just went and started the backup chord drills after I read your reply and this is just what I need. I have to admit I have been just learning how to play songs rather than trying to actually learn the chords. It was great for a while, but I think it’s time to make my practice a bit more structured… as boring as drilling can be sometimes :grimacing:


I’m finding myself getting more comfortable up the neck at jams, if for no other reason than just camping or some simple rolling backup. What I’m discovering is that the more I play backup up the neck, the more I try to play little lead parts there as well.

It’s just a matter of finding a couple of little parts to work on and doing them over and over.

I never thought it made that much of a difference, but having a jam group is proving to be extremely valuable for learning new things. It’s totally different from using jam tracks.


Mitch, we are in the same boat. I’ve been at it for three years now & just starting to get comfortable a little bit further up the neck. There are places my fingers still don’t fit.
What Mark-Rocka says about live jams vs recorded jams is accurate in my experience. It does seem a bit easier to get up the neck, but you won’t get there until you practice up the neck. When jamming a song you know, you have a pretty good idea when that C (or IV ) chord will come up, so you get a chance to think how you will play it when the time comes. How about up the neck!

After three years I find myself more interested in learning how to do techniques properly rather than learning new songs. And my mind has made a shift from “this is boring” to “I wonder if I can do this exercise three times through without a mistake?”

Finally, it is extraordinarily difficult to tell if you are making any progress. However,try to get into a routine of recording your practice session, even just the five minutes where you think you did pretty good, Listen to it once, then listen to it in 30 days. You’ll be embarrassed by what you hear because you are so much better now! :grin:


Mark, I’m both excited and nervous for my first bluegrass jam, whenever that is. I have a few friends I sometimes play with but we all have such different styles that we don’t often make what we’d classify as music! Really fun to mess around still, but I’m still on the search for bluegrass fans in my area :slight_smile:

I’m hoping to have that same mindset too, BanJoe. I was just doing the drills there for a bit and it almost sounded like backup banjo and it felt pretty cool! I have a few recordings from when I first started and it does feel good to listen back, although a touch cringey.