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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New to Ukulele? Join a Ukulele Club!

By Ted Parrish

One of the many wonders of the modern world has been the proliferation of ukulele clubs in almost every metropolitan area of the country. A Google search and a few inquiries at your local music store will usually direct you towards a group of ukulele enthusiasts. Let’s talk about what these groups do and why you should seek them out.

girls with ukesMost ukulele clubs meet weekly, often at a café or restaurant. There is a big circle of ukulele players of varying levels strumming along to tunes. The tunes are often chosen by a leader, and are written

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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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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
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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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Tips for Figuring Out Chords

By Wayne Erbsen

Shindig. To people in western North Carolina where I live, “Shindig” is short for Shindig on the Green, which is an outdoor bluegrass music festival held on the courthouse steps in Asheville, North Carolina. The Shindig is a unique summer festival, drawing regional bluegrass and old-time musicians who just want to get together to pick and socialize and strut their musical stuff on stage. For the musicians, it’s not a paid gig, just a big music party with a large audience. Only the house band, The Stoney Creek Boys, get paid.

On Labor Day, I attended the

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