Roll On Buddy” – Lyrics + Tab for Mandolin and Fiddle

While doing some research on one of the songs for my book Bluegrass Jamming on Mandolin, I uncovered some interesting things about the song “Roll On Buddy,” which is considered a bluegrass standard as recorded by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. On May 17, 1924 Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters recorded “Baby Your Time Ain’t Long” with Charlie Bowman on fiddle. Four years later, Charlie Bowman & His Brothers used this exact same melody on a song they called “Roll On Buddy.” Although usually thought to be a traditional song, “Roll on Buddy” was apparently composed by

Read the rest

The Hanging of Fiddlin’ Joe Coleman

American Fiddler cBy Wayne Erbsen

The story of the hanging of Fiddlin’ Joe Coleman is enough to send chills up and down your spine. In 1847, near the town of Slate Fork, in Adair County, Kentucky, a shoemaker and fiddler named Joe Coleman was living with his wife, and his wife’s mother and sister. According to some accounts, Joe had been acting erratically and not long after that, someone smothered his mother-in-law to death with a pillow. A few days later, Joe’s wife went into the woods to gather bark and never came back. Joe went searching for his wife in the

Read the rest

Build Your Own Chords on Fiddle or Mandolin

MandoFrogBy Wayne Erbsen

One of my students recently asked me to give him a sheet with all the fiddles chords he would need to play most any bluegrass song. I certainly wanted to help him out, but I decided that I wouldn’t be doing him any big favors by handing him the chords on a sheet of paper. Instead, I needed to help him understand how to make up his own chords. That way, if a big gust of wind blew his sheet away, he wouldn’t be up the creek without a paddle, so to speak.

As you already know,

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

Rattlesnake Fangs, Fiddles, Mandolins & Folklore

By Wayne Erbsen

Jarrell & Cockerham Archives of Appalachia, ETSU +People have always had a strange fascination with rattlesnakes. As one of America’s most poisonous snakes, they are both feared and hated, and yet their rattles are prized for their mythical and magical properties.

While doing research for this article, I ran across an amazing number of stories, some true, some pure myth, about rattlesnakes or “rattlers,” as they are sometimes called. One old timer personally told me the following story as the gospel truth, but I have since found versions of it that were collected both in the Southern Appalachians, and in Western Europe.

It seemed

Read the rest

Doc Watson’s ‘Your Lone Journey’ + tab for fiddle, mandolin & banjo

Doc Watson c 1969Whenever two old-time musicians get together to sing, there is one special song that is always held in high esteem: “Your Lone Journey.” I’d always heard that Doc Watson’s wife, Rosa Lee, wrote it, but often wondered about how she came to write it.

Recently, I asked my friend, David Holt, what he knew about the song. Of course, David and Doc played together for years.  Here’s how David explained the origins of the song:

Rosa Lee told me she was sweeping the house one day and thinking about people in her family who had passed on. She

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

Samantha Bumgarner: The Original Banjo Pickin’ Girl

This article was written by Charles K Wolfe.

One of the sillier myths being bandied about these days by the Nashville establishment involves the role of women in the history of country music. It is said, down along Music Row and in the August pages of Country Music Magazine, that before the advent of Kitty Wells in the late 1940’s, women had little to do with country music’s devel­opment: they were cast as only pretty faces along to dress up the act. This, of course, is nonsense, and an account of the significant women artists who contributed to

Read the rest

Secrets of Playing Fiddle by Ear

By Wayne Erbsen

Practically every fiddle player dreams of being able to play by ear. What does playing by ear mean? It means playing without reading music.

To play by ear, you need to know a little bit about three things: 1) Simple scales, 2) Chords, 3) Walk-ups and Walk-downs.

1) Simple scales. This is the “do re mi” you learned as a kid. In the key of G, it’s do=G, re=A, mi=B, fa=C, so=D, la=E, ti=F#, do=G. As you can see, you start with G and go right up the alphabet – G, A, B, C, D, E, F#,

Read the rest