Unlock Your Banjo Speed! Learn How to Play FAST.


Hi Ryan, I became a member a couple of weeks ago and have started to follow some of you beginner lessons.
I have been trying to play for some time. I get the rolls, licks and some of the chords and can get the tunes, …almost.

I’m struggling with speed. You play the licks in slow motion then show how you would play in a band and the sound is completely different up to speed.

Do you have any tips on developing speed?



What a great question! Here’s a step-by-step guide to accomplishing speed on the banjo. 

1. Close Your Eyes

Start with a simple instrumental such as “Train 45?. Practice the song until you can definitely play it without looking at the tab or notation.  The key here is to fully comprehend how the song moves. 

2. Look Ahead at the Finish Line

You may want to watch a pro, a teacher, or another banjo friend play through the song a few times up to speed so you get the feel of what your trying to achieve.  You must identify your goal by observing someone play the song at the level your trying to master. 

3. One Bite at a Time! (It’s how you eat an elephant)

Practice only the first lick of the song and try to get it up to speed.  If you can play a small piece of a song fast then you soon will be playing the entire banjo piece up to speed. 

4. Start Putting the Puzzle Together

Play the first two or three licks together at the desired speed.  The tricky part comes when adding multiple licks together without pausing in between.  Don’t add an unwanted pause. If you’re doing it then work it out of there. Don’t give up; however if needed take a break (go horse riding or something). 

5. Loosen Your Hand Up

Playing fast songs when new to the banjo can really cramp your fingers. Stretching is a good idea. Expect a little discomfort, but it’s worth it.  

6. Break All the Rules. This is the secret!

Play the entire banjo tune all the way through faster than you can actually play it. I’ll repeat this so you get it!!! Play the entire tune all the way through faster than you can actually play it.

You should play the tune at a higher rate of speed than you have been practicing.  You will miss a few notes here and there, but don’t be too concerned about hitting every note at this point. 

Play through the song in this manner two or three times, increasing your speed each time.  When you have reached the point where you totally destroy the song then start slowing it back down and focus on hitting all of the notes properly.

You’ll find after repeating this process a few times that you’ll actually be able to play the tune faster than you expected.

First of all it pushes the coordination limits with your picking hand and it also challenges you to think through the song at a much faster pace. It pushes your mind to a new reality in picking speed.

Work through this process with each song and you’ll be playing at lightening fast speed.

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  • Earl


    Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for the re=confirmation on learning how to acheive speed on the banjo. I joined about a year ago, and I struggle with missing notes, I pracyiced so much and kept making the same mistakes, in different parts of a song. I was ready to quit…….but….I’M NOT A QUITTER. I can’t let this instrument get the better of me. I like all kinds od music, and especially love the banjo. I actually have 2 quality banjos.
    I’m trying to understand the music structure, tablature and different musicial technics….sldes, pull-foos…etc.
    I am piano trained and I, myself think this may be interfereing with the acceptance of banjo , music. I find it haed to accent the songs in the proper places.

    Got any more advice, or should I take up the clarient


  • Earl



    Thanks for the great advice on how to learn to play faster..or up to speed. A helpful hint I’ve found is to play in front of a mirror. I find for me, it helps with confidence, of getting the feel for the proper distances for playing up the neck,example….Cumberland gap.
    Hope this is a benifit to some.


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