5 Ways To Get Your Banjo Playing Out Of A Rut

3 comments Sep 1, 2014

We all find ourselves there from time to time.  We keep playing our banjo, we practice every day, but we don't find ourselves going anywhere.  We end up playing the same songs and licks, have the same mistakes, and never get to the next level.

Well here are 5 easy ways for you to grow into a better, more interesting banjo player.

1. Practice with a metronome

Rhythm is key in music.  Without rhythm, there is nothing.  Make it a point to practice with your metronome as much as possible.  It is your friend.  Your free drummer that won't talk back and has perfect timing.

  • Make sure your metronome has a click that sounds natural and won't drive you insane.  
  • Get rid of any that "beep".  
  • Make sure it has the same sound on all of the beeps.  
  • Don't use one that has a different sound on beat 1.
  • Don't always have the "click" on all of the beats.  Try playing when the click is only on beats 2 and 4.  
  • If you are hitting the note squarely on the click, you won't hear the click.  The sound of your banjo will cancel out the click.

2.  Transcribe some music

Take some recorded music and learn note for note a version of a song, a solo, a lick, a note... whatever - that someone else plays totally by ear.  No tab here.  Then write out the tab for this.

3.  Read and Play Music Written In Standard Music Notation

Take some music written in standard musical notation (not banjo tab) and learn how to play it.  

Don't know how to read music?  Well, here's a great video that breaks it down very well.


4.  Write a Piece Of Music

You don't have to compose a symphony.  Start with something simple such as a four note lick.  Be able to play it cleanly.  Write out the tab for it.  Write it out in standard musical notation.

Why write it out?  Well for one, you'll be able to remember it.  Two - writing it out in both tab and standard musical notation will help your ear, rhythm, and creativity.

5.  Practice What You Can't Do

Often we "practice" what we can already do easily.  It's hard work to practice what gives you trouble.  Spend the beginning of your practice session working on the things that give you trouble.  If there is one part of a particular tune that gives you trouble, don't keep playing the whole tune.  Only practice the part where you continue to stumble.


If you use these 5 tips regularly, you will see your banjo playing moving into new and more creative areas.  Good luck!


  • Miguel Harary March 13, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    Why do you recommend using a metronome that does not have a different sound on beat one? Good article, by the way. I don t find myself in a rut at the moment but I still think these are good tips to improve my playing.

  • David January 7, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    I use an app on my iPhone called Pro Metronome. Works and sounds great.

  • Stephen Ory December 29, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    Do you have any recommendations for a metronome that fits this criteria? Thanks, Stephen

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