Fingerstyle Banjo Song and Tab of the Week: “Goin’ Down That Road Feeling Bad”

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Speed kills.

That’s a phrase with multiple meanings. So what exactly does speed kill when it comes to banjo playing?


Or, perhaps more accurately, the desire for speed kills timing.

The banjo has a reputation as being a “fast” instrument. Many are first drawn to the instrument, especially bluegrass banjo, by the never-ending barrage of staccato, rapid fire notes.

For some, learning to play is mistakenly thought to be the most important technical hurdle.

Why does this matter? Because it’s all too easy in the earlier stages of learning the banjo to sacrifice timing in the name of speed.

It’s a sacrifice that reinforces bad habits that, once established, are hard to undo.

NOTE: I’ll be conducting a live “Playing & Singing” tutorial for this song next week. Click the button below to subscribe to the Fingerstyle Banjo YouTube channel to be notified when it airs.)

The seduction of speed may account for more closeted banjos, more dashed dreams of banjo picking, than anything else.

So don’t let that be you!

And the ultimate irony, and tragedy, is that the secret to being able to play music fast is being able to play it slow – an adage repeated in musical conservatories the world over. Nothing exposes flaws in timing and tempo like slow playing.

Speed isn’t required to build a solid technical foundation. On the contrary, it’s usually an impediment. Yet, once that foundation is established, speed becomes an effortless byproduct.

The other issue with the speed fixation is that many people lose out on all the great banjo music that can be made at slower tempos. The truth is, banjo picking sounds great at any speed.

You could spend an entire lifetime picking nothing but slow to moderate speed music on your banjo and never run out of material to delight your ears (in fact, in my experience, most audiences welcome the change of pace!)

Take this week’s song of the week, “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad,” as an example. The tempo played here is moderate at best.

Yet, played fast, it would lose much of its charm and nuance. A fast paced rendition might sound okay with a full band behind it, but not here. Instead, when we play it slower, the song is given room to breathe, and we get to savor each and every note.

“Goin’ Down That Road Feeling Bad”

gDGBD tuning, Brainjo level 3 (3 finger banjo)

Goin down that road feeling bad 3 finger banjo tab part 1

Goin down that road feeling bad 3 finger banjo tab part 2

Recent Banjo Songs and Tabs of the Week:

Notes on the Tab

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