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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New Release: Easy 2-Chord Songs for Mandolin

Many folks are on the lookout for easy and foolproof ways to learn to play their favorite musical instrument. Who can blame them? Everyone wants a free ride down music alley. These kind of folks get lured to websites that make grand promises of quick success if you try their method. Not being afraid to jump on this bandwagon, I’m working on a new book entitled Easy 2-Chord Songs for Mandolin

***This book will be available in late February 2018. Email us at info@nativeground.com if you want us to let you know when it comes out. ***

It doesn’t

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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

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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

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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,

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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

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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

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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

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A Word About Free Mandolin Tabs


These free mandolin tabs are written out for you two ways, in standard musical notation, and also in a style of tab that I invented. Instead using numbers on the strings to represent the fret that you play, I put the name of the note.

This method does require you to learn the eight notes of the scale, and where to find them on your mandolin. This may seem like a “royal pain,” but trust me, this will give your music a Big Boost. You absolutely need to know the name of the note you’re playing, instead of just

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