Nine Pound Hammer on Bluegrass Banjo

Today I got into splitting some firewood for my log cabin’s wood stove and ran into some especially gnarly oak butts that were still waiting to be split and stacked on the woodpile. Since one particular round was putting up a pretty good fight, I brought out my favorite steel wedge and my heaviest maul, an 8-pounder. As I was slamming the maul into the wedge, I got to thinking that the maul was pretty dang heavy. As I was pounding away, I started singing that old bluegrass song, “Nine Pound Hammer.” The first verse suddenly became very real:

“Nine 
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What Kind of Guitar Should I Get?

By Wayne Erbsen

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

As you set out on your guitar-playing adventure, you might be wondering what kind of guitar to get. There are four main kinds of guitars, so if you find yourself in a pickle and don’t yet have a guitar, this is for you.

Before you figure out what kind of guitar to buy, you’ll need to decide what kind of music you intend to play. This will make deciding what kind of guitar to get as easy as falling out of bed.

Hank Thompson

Electric guitars

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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

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The Truth About the Lester Flatt G Run

By Wayne Erbsen

Bluegrass hero Lester Flatt had a lot to be proud of. One of his most lasting achievements was the G Run that bears his name. You can hear this distinctive guitar run in practically every traditional bluegrass song that can be played on the guitar using a G-shape chord. In its original form, it is basically a two-note run that is played at the end of a verse or chorus. It consists of playing the D string of the guitar at the second fret followed by the G string open. It more or less punctuates the song

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The Carter Scratch

By Wayne Erbsen

They didn’t call her Mother Maybelle for nuthin.’ Nope. In addition to being the mother of three girls (Helen, June, and Anita), Maybelle Carter was nothing less than the mother of flatpicking guitar. Starting in 1927, her lead and rhythm guitar playing laid the foundation of what would later be known as bluegrass guitar. Her signature lick on the guitar has been referred to as the Carter Scratch, the Carter Family Scratch, or the Maybelle Carter Scratch. That’s because of her way of playing the melody notes on the bass strings of the guitar while vigorously going

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How Hard Is It to Play the Guitar?

By Wayne Erbsen

The first question I hear from people interested in playing the guitar is “how hard is it?” For those of you with that same question, this article is for you.

The relative ease or difficulty of learning to play any musical instrument depends on three main things:

    1. Natural talent. It’s just a fact that some people are born with more musical talent than others. But before you jump to the conclusion that you were standing behind the door when music talent was passed out, stick with me here for a minute. Natural talent alone doesn’t guarantee
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How to Play Music by Ear

Playing by ear is, or should be, the holy grail of playing music. You just about never see a banjo picker, fiddler or mandolin player performing with their nose buried in a book of music notation or tab. It just ain’t done. Of course, there are plenty of beginner musicians who completely depend on tab to get them started. For these people, when they get to the point where they’d like to go out and jam with other musicians, they find it difficult or next to impossible to give up the addition to tab or music. Like quitting smoking, playing

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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

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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

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