Bluegrass Banjo Sheldon Friesen

Banjo lessons, teacher, performer – Vancouver / Surrey, BC

How Long Will It Take?

When that new excited banjo student arrives for their first lesson, undoubtedly there is one question they all have whether they voice it or not.

“How long will it take me to be a good banjo player?”

I can’t answer that question with a simple statement and be fair to the student. Sure it would be nice to say that it takes so many months or so many years but its different for everybody.

So how do I answer that question? Well, here goes.

First, someone once said that the difference between someone who can play and someone who can play well is about 3000 hours of practice. This is not a precise amount of time because so many things affect it like previous musical knowledge, quality of the actual practice time, is there experienced tutoring or music lessons involved, and even some personal aptitude or gifting. (That is a subject for another post at another time). Having said all that, I still think that 3000 hours is a fair appraisal that would generally get an average student from beginner to proficiency at playing the banjo.

So please read on and let me explain.

OK, let’s say you spend 1/2 hour a day practicing for seven days a week with no holidays. That means your goal would be achieved in 6000 days or about 16 1/2 years. Now, that may sound just absolutely scary to most aspiring musicians but its not that bad. Look! Practice 1 hour a day would then drop that time to about 8 years. Two hours a day would drop that to 4 years. And remember, there are a multitude of joyous victories along that path to your goal as well. You, definitely will not be in the closet the whole time. In fact, you should be playing with others as soon as you can play three chords. That won’t take long and you’ll have lots of fun too.

Now, most of us can’t spend 8 hours a day practicing so you have to be realistic with how long it will take you to reach your proficiency goals. However, the more you practice will greatly increase the years you have left to enjoy your instrument at a higher skill level.

So, let me try to sum it up here. Don’t get discouraged, don’t quit, you’re not any wierder than any other banjo picker 🙂 and you will get better with time. No; shortcuts don’t work, only dedicated time to practice.

OK, you still want me to tell you how long you will have to play before your any good. I knew you’d force me to this point, I don’t like to make general statements like this but here goes. I don’t think you should make a decision to quite before at least 5 years of consistent progressive practice and learning. I think at that time you’ll know yourself better regarding your ability to play and if you still can’t get it, you might want to try the accordion. But, most likely, you’ll find that after this amount of time, you’ll have developed enough skill to have lots of fun, and to understand where your strengths and weaknesses are and you can then chart a course for the next five years of playing.

Hope this helps you to keep the big picture goal in mind.

Keep pickin’


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2 thoughts on “How Long Will It Take?

  1. Thank-you for a well rounded estimate! Most people I’ve talked to at Music stores don’t even come close to being so detailed as to time increments and goal setting time frames. Your answer to that time old question ‘how long till I’m able to play’ really does give one a good idea of what to expect compared to the time dedicated to practicing. Thanks for your experienced incite. S

  2. I have been playing for 13 months with lessons most every Monday from the beginning. I am working on Foggy Mtn Breakdown right now. I try to get in 1/2 per day but too often I don’t make it with full time work and other committments. However I do enjoy pickin’ and it offers a bit of mental health that other endeavors do not… My teacher also noted 5 years was a good rule of thumb for any degree of proficiency. I plan to continue with the lessons indefinitely…. I think my lessons have significantly accelerated my playing ability….Doug in Oklahoma

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