Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Which lessons have you learned in what order?

Hey pickers! I’m curious as to the order that you learned from Ben’s videos, and if you think that was an ideal order. This may help people choose a more efficient path.

My order (came in with essentially no banjo or musical knowledge):

  1. Banjo 102 Pickin’ Your Picks (essential before learning a song)

  2. **Banjo-How to Read Tabs **(also an essential)

  3. Banjo 103- Right Hand Rolls (another essential)

  4. Essential Banjo Theory (essential)

5.** She’ll Be Comin’ Around The Moutain - C **(simple song with four different “slow speeds”)

6.** Banjo Cripple Creek- Timing Theory** (It teaches a little theory, and stomps out a possible bad habit. If I had know better I would have learned this before She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain.)

  1. Banjo- You Are My Sunshine (a simple reconcilable tune, comparable to She’ll be Comin’ Around the Moutain)

  2. Banjo- Nine Pound Hammer- Basic (very fun song with a very banjo sounding lick worked in and a fancy ending. I felt like this was a step up in difficulty from my first three songs.)

  3. **Banjo Basic Backup / Essential Chord Theory **(The essential CHord Theory is under basic guitar, but it applies to all music. It is mentioned in the Banjo Basic Backup lesson, and I ended up taking both lessons at the same time, switching back and forth between them. A better way to have done it would have been to watch the Chord Theory lesson first then done the Basic Backup. Although I have never actually played backup for anyone these lessons made me feel more like a musician and less like a guy parroting songs. Ben does a good job of working a little theory into his song lessons, but these videos are pretty much theory lessons with some song mixed in. I think these can be watched whenever in your progression, but should be watched at some point.)

  4. Banjo- Old Joe Clark (This felt like a step up in difficulty from Nine Pound Hammer, but I think it sounds that way too. This song took a long time for me to learn. The F chord lick and transitions caused me the most trouble. This song lasts much longer than any of the previous, and can be made as long as you’d like because of the A-part B-part format)

  5. Banjo- Banjo Setup with Steve Huber (I watch this as soon as it came out, but I think it was at a good time to watch it. It’s full of some pretty boring technical stuff about banjo upkeep. Something I wouldn’t have appreciated until I was more committed to the hobby. I did longer my action and tighten my head as a result of watching this series.)

12.** Banjo- Oh, Susanna **(This song was easy compared to Old Joe Clark. I learned it very quickly with only the melodic licks causing me trouble. This song taught me about harmonics, and the licks are fun and I often play them when I’m just messing around on the banjo. However, It may have been better to learn this earlier on. Or maybe it was good that I learned it when I did because it was a confidence builder.

  1. Satin In a Coffin( It’s a simple song I was able to learn in less than a day. Happy Banjo Dude has a lot of hip songs, but his lessons are nowhere close to quality of Ben’s)

  2. **Banjo 101- Changing Your Strings **(I felt as if it was time to change my strings. It changed the tone less than I expected. My strings were about 6 months old)

  3. **Banjo Introduction to Melodics in G **(Oh Susana got me interested in this. I think Ben knows exactly what he’s doing. I plan on getting this down and playing it everyday as part of my warm up.)

Soon to be 16. Banjo Blackberry Blossom is the song I plan to tackle next. It will be the first Intermediate song I try and part of the reason for this post is that I wanted to know about others experience with making that jump. Should I finish all the basic songs first? Am I well equipped enough for intermediate songs?

— Begin quote from "jsmoran"

Banjo Blackberry Blossom is the song I plan to tackle next. It will be the first Intermediate song I try and Part of the reason for this post is that I wanted to know about others experience with making that jump. Should I finish all the basic songs first? Am I well equipped enough for intermediate songs?

— End quote

I say go for it. I am pretty sure you’ll be fine. But just in case you aren’t ready, you can always move on to a different song before you spend too much time on it. It won’t hurt to stick your toes in the water.

I have been learning with Ben for about 18 months now. I played guitar for many, many years so I only did the the Cripple Creek and Rocky Top basic lessons before going on to Foggy Mountain Breakdown. That was not such a good idea as FMB is really quite difficult and 18 months later, I can only sort of play it to speed.

Even Rocky Top took me over a year to be able to play it fast.

Blackberry Blossom is okay to choose as your first intermediate song (especially if you really like the tune) but it is quite ambitious. Being a melodic tune means that your left hand is jumping around a fair bit. Learning to be able to do this (as well as to ‘swing’ the time, which this song teaches as well) are important to your playing so you will have to tackle this eventually. Maybe now is the time.

If you want something easier, try The Old Home Place. It’s short. It makes you work on your G lick and there is some good basic hammer on/pull off work in this.

I find all of Ben’s lessons get you to work on specific basic concepts (his current St. Anne’s Reel has some triplet work and more pinky workout and a really good backup mini lesson) so each one is valuable no matter when you tackle it.

Good luck and keep practicing.

Thank you both for the insight. I think I will go for blackberry blossom because i do like the sound a lot, but it’s good to know i have a tune like the home place to fall back on. Though I am a bit more interested in the recognizable songs e.g dueling banjos, FMBD, man of constant sorrow.

Because each of Ben’s intermediate lessons seem to focus in on specific points of technique (so some are 'lick’execises, some are 'up the neck’exercises, some are about the pinky or inside rolls etc.) they are all, to my mind, pretty essential (in 18 months I’ve done almost all of them). So wherever you start will be good.

If it gets tough, practice more! Good luck and keep it fun.

That’s solid information. Thank you.

— Begin quote from "jsmoran"

Am I well equipped enough for intermediate songs?

— End quote

I wouldn’t get too caught up on whether a song is intermediate, advanced or even beginner. I’ve found that some of the advanced songs are easier than the intermediate. For example, when Ben did Jazzy Joy to the World (advanced guitar version), I liked it so much, I just went for it and wouldn’t give up. It was intimidating to listen to and watch him play, but when you break a song down and work on a little bit at a time, it will come. It turned out easier than I thought although I have a long way to go before it sounds as good as Ben. Then on the other hand, I’ve worked on “Grandfather’s Clock” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” (both intermediate guitar versions) just as much and there’s places on both of those songs I’m stuck on and can’t seem to get past.

So I agree with Mike, go for it, mix it up a little and work on some easier stuff as well. It’s good to work on more than one thing at a time. It keeps you from getting burnt out, it gives more variety to learn which in turn causes you to learn more licks, phrases, scales, etc, which in turn makes it easier to learn something specific when that time comes, which in turn makes you a better player and will allow you to learn things quicker. Shewww, I’m out of breath. Hope that helps!