I think most of us banjo players are guilty of wanting to play too fast. Let's face it. One of the prime attractions of the banjo is the effortless speed and fluidity that so many professional pickers exude. Nevertheless, if we want to achieve that level of apparent perfection, we must get back to the basics and utilize proper technique.
One of the best ways to analyze one's technique is to practice slowly. When we practice slowly, we cannot ignore the occasional missed string or flubbed hammer-on or pull-off. It is apparent and readily noticeable. Once you notice a flaw in your technique, it's time to correct it. Correct it at a slow speed and then slowly bring it back up to full speed. It's worth the effort.
Also, when you practice slow (or really at any speed), use a metronome. Learn to play with the metronome at any speed, but it is especially important to get it right at the slow speeds (for example, if you perform a song at 200 bpm, practice at 100 bpm).
I'm currently going back through old songs and licks that I know and testing how cleanly I really play them. Once I've perfected the lick at a very slow speed, I slowly bring it back up to speed. It's already paying dividends.
One further tip is that when you're practicing slow, pay special attention to accenting the melody notes. As you bring the song back up to speed, make sure you continue to properly accent the right notes.
Paying special attention to details such as note timing, tone, technique, and accenting is what separates the Terry Baucoms of the world from the rest of us.
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