Getting your picking hand moving and performing rolls is one of the most important pieces to giving your playing the distinct banjo sound. Banjo roll exercises are designed to get your right-hand muscles moving and make sure your fingers are ready for playing.
This article will give you a few different banjo roll exercises that will loosen up your fingers and get you playing your favorite tune!
Banjo Roll Exercises – Picking a Warm-Up Routine
Playing the banjo, and especially performing complex rolls, requires a lot of agility and dexterity. Trying to just pick up your banjo and play will not help your overall ability to play. Anytime I pick up my banjo I have a sequence of warm-up exercises I do to get ready to play.
Before I even pick up my instrument I start stretching my fingers. This is a key step in making sure my fingers are ready to go. Getting the blood flowing to the fingers and loosening up the joints before playing, or even as you’re sitting around during the day, is a great way to keep your hands loose and agile.
Here is a great video with a sample finger stretching routine you can do before you begin even beginner banjo roll exercises.
Play A Beginner Banjo Roll
The next step is to slowly walk through a beginner banjo roll just to get my fingers moving and to practice playing in time. I will often spend a few minutes playing something like the forward roll, then switch to a slightly more complicated alternating thumb roll.
By doing this both my fingers and my thumbs will get some work. I always use a metronome for this step too. If I need to I’ll start as slow as something like 50 bpm and only progress when I’m hitting each note flawlessly!
How Do You Practice Banjo Rolls?
When people ask me how to practice banjo rolls my advice is almost always the same. Slow down!!!
Most players try to play too fast to start with. This leads to sloppy practice and eventually sloppy playing, and nobody wants that!
I use a metronome every time I pick up the banjo, but if you don’t have one don’t fret. Just make sure you aren’t pushing yourself too much. If you’re pushing yourself to be faster than normal it will become harder for your muscles to respond and move quickly when it’s time to do so.
If you don’t have a metronome, you can get one for cheap or you can download a bunch of different apps for your phone. There is also a great resource at metronome online that you can use from your computer! Either way, find a speed that you can pick perfectly. Do 10 rolls and then speed up just a few beats per minute. If you make a mistake at this new speed slow back down.
By taking your time and really drilling home the picking pattern you are getting valuable banjo roll exercise and creating the muscle memory you need to perform these skills at faster speeds!
How Do I Speed Up my Banjo Rolls?
Speeding up your banjo rolls mostly takes time and practice. Make sure you focus on playing at the speed where you can hit each note perfectly, then you can gradually speed up your rolls.
Speed really just comes with time. I don’t know a single banjo player who could rip through a forward roll on their first time. Practice, practice, practice!
The Final Note
If you’re a beginner, make sure you take your time with your banjo roll exercises and don’t push yourself too much. Speed will come with practice and patience! I hope this article was helpful and I hope you find it easier to get started.
Remember, practice makes perfect!