Insanely Simple 1-Finger Chord Songs for Guitar

By Wayne Erbsen

Following is an excerpt from the book Easy Two-Chord Songs for Guitar.

The thumb is truly the king or queen of all the fingers and deserves our utmost respect. Let’s give the royal thumb the important job of strumming down on the strings. “Down” means toward the floor. While holding down the Small C Chord, strum down with your thumb on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd strings. For G7, strum down on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings. (See chord diagrams at the end of this post.)

Here are some simple songs to practice your

Read the rest

What Kind of Mandolin Should I Get?

By Wayne Erbsen

Unless a free mandolin just falls in your lap, you’ll need to purchase one. When you go shopping for a mandolin, I strongly suggest that you don’t buy a cheap one off the Internet. Most of these cheapo instruments will sound like a tin can strung with barbed wire. Instead, you should visit your local music store and get the expert advice of a knowledgeable sales person. Be sure to stress that you’re a beginner and that you need a mandolin that’s set up so it’s easy to play.

Mandolin stylesEven before you make a trip to a

Read the rest

Is It Hard to Play the Mandolin?

By Wayne Erbsen

Heck no! It’s easy as eating pie if you approach learning the mandolin in the right way. Of course, there is no shortage of free information, tab, and musical notation of mandolin music on the web. The challenge is finding information that’s geared to your style of learning.

A lot of the music for mandolin is written out in a system called “tab.” Numbers on lines represent the fret that you play on a string. This might be OK at first, but it’s actually a ridiculous way to learn. Why? Because learning from tab will insure that

Read the rest

How Hard Is It to Learn to Play the Guitar?

The quick answer to this question is “it’s pretty easy,” IF you have the right instructor or instructional materials (ie books or videos). After teaching guitar since 1962, I’ve had a wide variety of students walk through the door. The vast majority have learned to play and, as far as I know, have kept playing for years. The small number of people who didn’t get cozy with the guitar probably were missing one essential ingredient: determination. If you really want to play the guitar, neither hell nor high water can stop you.

As I indicated above, your success at learning

Read the rest

Man of Constant Sorrow – Guitar Tab & Lyrics

By Wayne Erbsen

dick-burnettKentucky-born, blind street singer Dick Burnett had every reason to compose I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow. An orphan by the time he was 12, Burnett was almost murdered in 1907 when he was robbed and shot in the face with a shotgun. Though he survived, Burnett was now a blind man. To earn a livelihood for his wife and child, he took to the streets with a banjo, a fiddle, and a tin cup tied to his leg. To add to his income, he produced little song books, which he later called “song ballets.”

Read the rest

How to Tune a Ukulele – Your Ears Will Thank You

By Colleen Kinsey, editor-in-chief of Coustii.

ukulelesEven if you are a professional ukulele player, having an out-of-tune instrument is going to make you sound horrible. We’ll teach you how to tune your ukulele and keep it in tune. Different ukes will hold a tune better than others, so it’s best to check every time before you play.

How is my ukulele tuned?

The most common tuning for a ukulele is G-C-E-A. This tuning is pretty typical for soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles. If you are used to playing a guitar, the four-stringed concept with a uke is much less

Read the rest

Playing the B-Flat Chord on the Ukulele

By Ted Parrish, ukulele extraordinaire and co-author of Ukulele for the Complete Ignoramus! and Ukulele Tunes, Tips & Jamming.

Beginning ukulele students often have this common experience: You are rolling right along, strumming and singing, you got your C chord down, Am, F, even G. Then you have to play a Bb and you decide to take a break. Forever.

The Bb is the most dreaded beginning chord for the aspiring ukester. Let’s break it down and see why it is so difficult (because it is, you’re right), and the proper way to play this chord so that it

Read the rest

Ukulele Advice: Do I Need a Strap? How Do I Hold This Thing?

By Ted Parrish, co-author of our newest release, Ukulele for the Complete Ignoramus!

A lot of ukulele beginners struggle with holding the instrument. It is important to have the instrument supported so that you don’t have to worry about holding it up and can instead concentrate on playing. The good news is there are many options for supporting your uke.

P2080145Traditionally a strap is not used with the ukulele. The classic way to hold the uke is to keep the neck more or less parallel with the floor, then push the end of the uke into your right bicep. Then

Read the rest

How Difficult is it to Play the Fiddle/ Violin? 

Old-Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus! instruction book by Wayne Erbsen

Among the many stringed instruments, the fiddle or violin has long been revered but also feared. Somewhere along the line, it got the reputation of being the most difficult instrument to play. Let’s look this question right in the eye and answer it right here and now, once and for all.

What do I say when someone says that the fiddle is the most difficult instrument to learn? “Hogwash.

A more detailed answer would go like this. “It depends on several things.

  1.  Talent. Some people have more natural ability to learn musical instruments more than
Read the rest

Playing Bluegrass Backup on Fiddle, Mandolin & Banjo

banjo player with gunBy Wayne Erbsen

As you might guess, there are numerous differences between old-time and bluegrass music, although they share a lot of similarities too. In old-time music, the banjo, fiddle, and mandolin generally play the melody all at the same time. During an old-time tune, the guitar generally refrains from playing the melody and concentrates on providing the rhythm and an occasional bass run. In bluegrass music, on the other hand, only one instrument plays the melody at a time. Everyone else plays backup. So let’s explore what playing backup means in bluegrass music.

First off, it’s good to remember

Read the rest