I am a serious newby to the banjo and am trying to learn some cords. I find myself not knowing whether to look at the fret board or at the rolls I'm trying to do. I seem to be more comfortable looking at right hand rolls. This maybe a stupid question, but I was wondering if one or the other is best when learning.
Assuming you are beginning, with, say, Boil the Cabbages, the easiest song, your left hand is taught to be open, and then to land on the strings in 2 positions, C and D. So my thinking is that you need to learn when and where to drop that left hand (maybe strum along wiht recorded song, or hum, till you get the rhythm, chord changes, timing. THEN, you know what the left hand is doing and there is not really a lot to look at. May take two nights to get that. You now concentrate on learning the squre (alternating) roll , forward roll, etc while you play that song. so you will be looking at right hand to learn where the strings are for each finger
IMHO it's best not to look, except when up the neck. But, if you must look; look at the left hand - the rolls will be second nature after a bit. Easier, though, to train yourself from the beginning NOT to look and to navigate the fingerboard by sound and touch.
When you're beginning to pick, it's normal to have to look at both the picking and fretting hands. After all, you've just started learning and neither hand knows what it's supposed to do. After some practice, practice, practice, the hands and fingers will develop "muscle memory" and know where to go. Chords will become easy to make, rolls will be easy to play. Then you can stop looking at either hand -- unless, as sais above, you're going up the neck, then look at the fretting hand so you'll be sure to go to the fret you need to be on.
And, your playing will improve when, after you are comfortable with left and right hands, to not look at either. Where to look? Look at the house across the street or just watch TV, look far away. That really works for me
Don't look at your right hand. Picking needs to done without thinking about what each finger does. Once in a while I'll sneak a peak to see if my picking looks impressively fast - and I mess up whatever I'm doing!
I think that looking at your left hand is OK in that it won't slow you down; but it will be a habit that's hard to break later on. I still need to look if I'm going up past the 7th fret.