‘Shortenin’ Bread”‘ – Ukulele Tab + Lyrics

“Shortenin’ Bread” has certainly wins a prize for longevity. After all, it has been around for over 150 years. This version of “Shortenin’ Bread” comes from my new book, Ukulele for the Complete Ignoramus!

I can’t tell you why, but I find playing Shortenin’ Bread almost addictive. When I start to play it, I can barely force myself to stop. I must not be alone because this song has been popular since the early to mid 1800’s. The song was first collected and published in 1915, and was known as a ‘plantation song.’ All this talk about shortenin’ bread

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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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Ukuleles Come From Where?

This is a guest post from Sarah Jacobs of Know Your Instrument.

The ukulele is long-hailed as the national instrument of the Hawai’ian islands. It’s played at luaus, family gatherings, and while simply relaxing on the beach. A lot of children in Hawai’i even learned how to play at a young age. For hundreds of years ukuleles have been deeply intertwined with Hawai’ian culture – but they didn’t originate there.

Ukuleles actually hail from Portugal – technically, they are evolved versions of the Portuguese machête. The uke was originally invented in Madeira – a small Atlantic island off the

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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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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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‘Run Mountain’ – Music + Lyrics

Among the more bizarre songs in old-time and early country music is one called Run Mountain. The song is curious both for the melody and because some of the lyrics are rather mysterious. The melody is set in the key of G but it starts in the key of A. By the time the chorus comes around, it is in the key of G. Are you confused yet? If so, join the club!  As if the melody and the key changes are not strange enough, what really takes the cake are the words to the chorus. More on this

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Ralph Stanley’s ‘I’ve Just Seen the Rock of Ages’ – Bluegrass Banjo Tab

By Wayne Erbsen

Ralph Stanley Photo by Jim Scancarelli

Cold chills. That’s what I get when I hear the eerie voice of Ralph Stanley. You can say that I’ve been a true blue Stanley Brothers nut since I first heard them in 1962. Just thumbing through my collection of LPs, I count 58 Stanley Brothers or Ralph Stanley albums, and that doesn’t include several bootleg CDs of live shows. Most of the albums have been played half to death.

When I heard that Ralph had passed away, I felt a deep sense of sadness. Of course, I started to think of all the Stanley Brothers songs

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‘Whiskey Before Breakfast’ – Clawhammer Banjo Tab

Clawhammer Banjo CoverI recently published my newest clawhammer banjo book-Clawhammer Banjo~ Tunes, Tips & Jamming. Among the forty four tunes in the book, I included “Whiskey Before Breakfast.” I always wondered about the origin for the tune, so I took this opportunity to do some research. Here’s what I found.

Chasing down the history of “Whiskey Before Breakfast” is about as easy as finding the Rosetta Stone at a flea market. Thanks to the painstaking research by Andrew Kuntz and Vivian Williams, we can start to get an idea of the origins of this great old tune. There are a

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A Different Approach to Learning Bluegrass Banjo + Tab for ‘Katie Kline’

Kindle the dogThere are certainly as many ways to learn to play bluegrass style banjo as my dog has fleas, bless his heart. After playing and teaching banjo for many years, I came up with an approach that is different from any banjo books that I’ve seen. Let me explain.

The most common way to teach a beginner the fundamentals of playing bluegrass banjo is to sit them down and show them the basic rolls. Then the teacher often show the student a tune like “Cripple Creek” or “Bile Em Cabbage Down,” using those rolls. We’ll call this approach the “Roll Method.”

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‘Fall On My Knees’ – Clawhammer Banjo Tab + Lyrics

Clawhammer Banjo CoverMore than forty years ago I wrote my first banjo book, Clawhammer Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus. About five years ago I decided it was time for a follow up, so I started working on it. Recently we received delivery of the new book – Clawhammer Banjo ~ Tunes, Tips & Jamming. To make it easy to use, the new book has coil binding and contains 44 tunes not included in the Ignoramus. I’ve also loaded it with playing and jamming tips as well as information to help people join jams and improvise plus almost 200 vintage photos

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