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Apr 2, 2020 - 3:41:28 PM

Black Gold


8 posts since 11/11/2019

So ive been playing for about one year.

I feel i have a Long way to go, and didnt even start to play by ear yet.

I know you shouldnt compair yourself with anybody Else, but how good/bad where you after 1 year?

This is my first instrument.

Apr 2, 2020 - 4:36:02 PM



3458 posts since 10/29/2003

Not as good as I would have liked to have been

After 40+ years still not as good as I would like to be.l

It depends on how high you set the bar

Be in it for the long haul

Good luck


Apr 2, 2020 - 4:37:38 PM
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7816 posts since 8/20/2016

Tons worse than JD Crowe, in fact I'm still not as good as JD.

Edited by - Mooooo on 04/02/2020 16:39:04

Apr 2, 2020 - 4:49:27 PM



49195 posts since 10/5/2013

Coming from guitar to banjo back then, after 1 year I could play Foggy Mountain Breakdown,,,, badly, & with crummy timing. I had to re-learn it correctly later, which was harder than learning a tune right the first time.  Take your time,, go slowly,, make sure every note sounds good and is in time with the meter

Edited by - chuckv97 on 04/02/2020 16:51:06

Apr 2, 2020 - 5:09:43 PM



49 posts since 7/10/2017

I just finished my second year of learning and still play fairly poorly. haha. However when I compare how I play now to how I played a year ago, I have made progress, and to me that is all that matters and is why I will keep trying to learn to play this lovely instrument.

Apr 2, 2020 - 5:38:41 PM

575 posts since 11/21/2018

A better measure than a year, is how much one practices during that year and how effective each practice session is.
Things like working on something until you get it. Making sure it's in good time,learning one tune and memorizing it before moving on, not skipping all over the place, etc. etc.
One person's year of playing will vary greatly from another's depending on how focused they are.

Hard to remember for sure, but probably could play "Cripple Creek" "Worried Man Blues" "Foggy Mt. Breakdown" (lower part only, etc. and a melodic version of Blackberry Blossom, quite well on a stage.

 I mostly played "other than Bluegrass" parts on studio recordings or on singer songwriter material. Back to seriously working on Scruggs tunes, etc. in the last year. In the upcoming year I hope to get much more proficient at up the neck back up and memorizing (I'm a decades long orchestral reader_ a heck of a lot faster and play more by ear.  After a years long lay off I'm back to "my lst year" it feels like :-)

Edited by - northernbelle on 04/02/2020 17:45:59

Apr 2, 2020 - 5:59:04 PM

2118 posts since 5/2/2012

A year in, I'd made a short lived attempt to learn clawhammer, then switched to (and stayed with it for the rest of that year) 2 finger thumb lead. First tune took me a month to commit to memory and play up to speed. After learning that first tune I could learn a new tune anywhere from a few weeks to a few days. Had not gotten past the 1st 5 frets. I could play with hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides. Had not learned any chords. Didn't know anything about backing up others (that said, I was playing at home for my own enjoyment). Hadn't even thought about playing by ear (don't have a real good ear and am a visual learner). By the end of the year I could play maybe a dozen simple tunes at a level that was good enough for me. By then I think I could have thought of myself as a banjo player, very much a beginner,but having laid a good foundation for future learning.  Three years in I switched to Scruggs style and found out how much more I needed to learn to be a decent banjo player.  

Edited by - thisoldman on 04/02/2020 18:02:55

Apr 2, 2020 - 7:30:48 PM
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Players Union Member



5183 posts since 10/12/2009

If you've stuck with it for a year, and being your first instrument, then you're well on your way!

Apr 3, 2020 - 3:53:52 AM

3440 posts since 12/6/2009

Anyone who says they learned to play anything on the banjo that resembled anything bluegrass near or up to speed or even intricate enough to even call it bluegrass in one year is mistaken. This is why most beginners are disappointed because they hear this diatribe believe it and feel like failures and put the banjo back in the closet. I challenge any one to tape their playing complete songs up to speed and posting it...after proving they only are playing after one year. Telling us you can is not proof.
I'm not being nasty, I'm just trying to encourage those who want to learn but are always discouraged by rumors.

Apr 3, 2020 - 4:42:19 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)


24265 posts since 8/3/2003

For someone who has never played a stringed instrument, there is so much to learn and absorb that after a year, you have probably just begun to have a feel for your instrument. I know I was completely confused as to how to make chords and move them around, much less be able to play a tune and have it sound like it was supposed to, slowly, of course.

It takes time, effort and lots and lots of practice, practice, practice to become familiar with what you're doing and to let your brain and your fingers get together where they can pick without too many problems.

After a year, I could play probably a dozens songs slowly and not without mistakes. I still had no idea how to play by ear and couldn't hear licks that were being played in songs and had a problem hearing the melody in songs.

Take it slow and easy, you'll get better and better. Record your playing .... and that'll probably set you back at first because it's intimidating.... but then you can listen to what you did 6 months or a year ago and see how far you've come in that time.

Apr 3, 2020 - 5:39:47 AM

187 posts since 12/16/2012
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I pretty much learned how to the picks on my fingers the first year. Just kidding, it took longer, but I will say for most, myself included, the first year or so you are getting comfortable with the instrument and the nuances of using three fingers on the right hand and coordinating those with the left hand.

Apr 3, 2020 - 7:12:07 PM
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161 posts since 12/18/2012

"Anyone who says they learned to play anything on the banjo that resembled anything bluegrass near or up to speed or even intricate enough to even call it bluegrass in one year is mistaken."

I recall being fairly happy with the songs I could play after a year. I'm pretty sure they resembled something bluegrass, and they seemed to be at a speed that pleased me and some who heard me. More important, I really enjoyed playing and practicing.

I suspect that if someone had told me the first week I picked up the banjo that after a year of sustained practice I would be able to play nothing that resembled bluegrass, I probably would have given up.

Apr 4, 2020 - 4:49:57 AM
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28 posts since 1/17/2019

Everyone learns at different speeds and have their own experiences. If you feel challenged and enjoy what you are doing then keep on picking! You will always feel like you can do better and If it sounds something like bluegrass to you that’s all that matters!

Apr 6, 2020 - 7:09:33 AM

43 posts since 9/23/2019

Not banjo, but I've been playing bassoon for over 15 years and am working on a doctorate in music. I still consider myself a beginner and just call myself a bassoon player (instead of the highly sought after title "bassoonist")

While a little bit of that attitude is perfectly normal, in my case, it was damaging. I had to put my degree on hold for two years and put my bassoon in the back of the closet.

The good thing was that I picked up banjo so I could still make music.

Apr 6, 2020 - 7:36:56 AM



8 posts since 9/8/2019

I have been playing for about a year now. I have learned a decent amount of basics, but I feel so far away from "being good". I know a couple of songs (Cripple Creek, Wildwood Flower, Grandfathers Clock, Blackberry Blossom, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, and Clinch Mountain Back step) though I can not play each with total perfection. I am happy with my progress, but it discourages me just looking at how far I still need to go. I think I heard it said somewhere that it takes 5 years to achieve the level of "suck", and so far I am keeping on schedule with that!

I have also learned that it is not always a good idea to base how you are doing off of how others are doing/did. Some people are more naturally inclined to music than others, and therefore learn quicker. This can be discouraging to others (like myself). My only advice is to keep on rollin' at you own pacesmiley

Apr 6, 2020 - 1:53:50 PM
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2048 posts since 1/16/2010

I think it all depends on “how bad you want it”, and if you’ve “naturally got the talent for it.” Now with that being said, there are exceptions of course.

I started playing around 12-13 years old and it came pretty natural. I had 2 free lessons from a fireman at the station where my uncle Jimmy worked, he showed me the basics, and I went from there alone. I was so engrossed and driven to learn banjo that it was all I focused on, I would practice 10+ hours a day, sometimes even more..never leaving my room. I had to turn the world off while learning. Of course I was only able to do this during the summer time and on kind of got in the way. But I didn’t have a job, no girlfriend, no real responsibility.

By the end of a year I feel I was pretty decent. Playing by ear, able to play several bluegrass tunes up to speed and able to hear licks and rolls in recorded songs.

I only wish that I had kept
progressing and gotten serious about it with a teacher. I’m an accomplished player, but 20+ years into it, I’m no better than I was 5 years into it. I don’t know if a person keeps getting better with time and age, but I keep trying to learn “different” things with the instrument. That’s the key I guess....keep learning different and new material...and create material.

I am very thankful that I became interested at such a young age, because now at age 37, working 60+ hours a week, I hardly have time to kiss my wife and daughter let alone EVER think of learning a new instrument....or anything new on the banjo.

Time and desire! That’s what you need my friend. Keep at’ll eventually achieve.


Apr 6, 2020 - 2:57:49 PM

85 posts since 2/21/2020

After a year, I could play anything , except the absolute hardest Crowe licks.
It wasn't a straight line in progress4-5 months in I started having things come faster than from 0-4 months.

Hang in there

Apr 7, 2020 - 10:01:11 AM

24 posts since 2/7/2020

How much general music background you have before you start playing banjo makes a big difference. I was halfway decent after a year but I'd been playing guitar and other instruments for more than decade at that point. I could hear chord progressions and could pick out simple melodies out of a scale. I'd also done some Travis guitar picking, which is a huge help.

One thing that I see as a pitfall is that people focus on repertoire over techniques that can be applied to any song. They get a couple of years in and they know 10-20 instrumentals (usually heavily weighted toward the Foggy Mountain Banjo album) but can't play a Scruggsian break on a simple vocal song, and might not be able to play backup, both things that are the bread of butter of bluegrass banjo playing.

Pete Wernick had a good article about this several years ago.

Apr 7, 2020 - 11:46:47 AM



161 posts since 12/18/2012

Don't assume your learning curve is linear. You may find that as time goes on, you pick up things faster than your first year experience might have you expect. I remember hearing licks/tunes that sounded very challenging and telling myself "that'll take 3-4 months to knock down" only to find that they came down pretty easily in 2-3 days of regular practice. You end up surprising yourself now and then. Be optimistic. And patient.

Full disclosure is, I'm still working on some things I tried decades ago...

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