Lifting The Fog On “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”

If you’re a banjo player (and if you’re reading this blog post, there’s a 99.9999% chance you are), it’s a pretty safe bet you’re familiar with the Earl Scruggs classic, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”. Let’s face it, any bluegrass banjo player worth their salt not only...

Searching for Little Sadie

When I began my bluegrass banjo journey as an innocent pre-teen, I remember coming across a little ditty called "Little Sadie". I had recently bought a Doc Watson record (yes, we all listened to vinyl back in those days), and I remember listening to him sing this...

Demystifying the Alternate-String Pluck

In my years teaching clawhammer banjo, I’ve found that once students have mastered some of the more basic mechanics (i.e. bum-ditty, pull-offs, slides, hammer-ons, simple chords, drop-thumb,  rhythm fundamentals), things generally go smoothly up to a point –  that is,...

The Open-Back Banjo vs. Resonator Debate

In the decades I’ve spent teaching 5-string banjo, a fairly common (and thoroughly reasonable) question usually crops among banjo newcomers just before the first lesson. This question takes many different forms, but usually goes something like this…“What kind of banjo...

Mastering The Bar Chord

  Since I began teaching banjo some three-plus decades ago, I’ve had the pleasure of helping hundreds of banjo students become great banjo players. Along the way, I’ve noticed a common issue that most students wrestle with at one time or another along their banjo...

Banjo Picks: Metal or Plastic?

Which banjo picks should you choose? Metal or plastic? If you’ve recently embarked on your bluegrass banjo journey and have begun looking at fingerpicks (or perhaps have already bought a set), you’ve probably noticed that both fingerpicks and thumbpicks come in two...

The Clawhammer Conundrum: Index vs Middle Finger

If you're reading this you are probably wondering "Which finger should I use for the clawhammer strum? The index or middle finger? Poring over online clawhammer forums this morning, I was struck by the amount of confusion there is over this question. Before I take a...

Reframing The Drop-Thumb

Thinking back to the days when I was beginning my clawhammer journey, I remember picking up a copy of Ken Perlman’s “Everything You Wanted to Know About Clawhammer Banjo” at my local library. That night, I began working through the book starting from page one. Things...

How To Stop Scraping Your Picks Against The Banjo Head

How do you get your picks to stop scraping against the drum head while playing? As a banjo teacher with years of experience helping beginning banjo students find their sea legs as bluegrass players, one issue that always seems to crop up is this age-old problem.  And,...

What is the fretless banjo (and why you might want one)?

What is a fretless banjo? Let's start with frets. Frets are the metal strips inserted into the fingerboard of a stringed instrument and a fretless banjo does not have any. Why? Let’s back up for a moment… If you’re somewhat new to banjo, one thing you may have noticed...
Searching for Little Sadie

Searching for Little Sadie

When I began my bluegrass banjo journey as an innocent pre-teen, I remember coming across a little ditty called "Little Sadie". I had recently bought a Doc Watson record (yes, we all listened to vinyl back in those days), and I remember listening to him sing this rueful tale of a man who, while out for a evening stroll, runs into a certain Little Sadie and blows her away with his 44. Pretty...

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Demystifying the Alternate-String Pluck

Demystifying the Alternate-String Pluck

In my years teaching clawhammer banjo, I’ve found that once students have mastered some of the more basic mechanics (i.e. bum-ditty, pull-offs, slides, hammer-ons, simple chords, drop-thumb,  rhythm fundamentals), things generally go smoothly up to a point –  that is, until another subtle yet slightly more complex left-hand maneuver is introduced: the alternate-string/left-hand pluck. True, this...

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The Open-Back Banjo vs. Resonator Debate

The Open-Back Banjo vs. Resonator Debate

In the decades I’ve spent teaching 5-string banjo, a fairly common (and thoroughly reasonable) question usually crops among banjo newcomers just before the first lesson. This question takes many different forms, but usually goes something like this…“What kind of banjo should I buy, an open-back banjo or a resonator banjo?” or, “What’s the difference between an open-back banjo and a resonator...

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Mastering The Bar Chord

Mastering The Bar Chord

  Since I began teaching banjo some three-plus decades ago, I’ve had the pleasure of helping hundreds of banjo students become great banjo players. Along the way, I’ve noticed a common issue that most students wrestle with at one time or another along their banjo journey. This particular issue seems to rear its ugly head somewhere around the second month of lessons. The issue in question,...

read more
Banjo Picks: Metal or Plastic?

Banjo Picks: Metal or Plastic?

Which banjo picks should you choose? Metal or plastic? If you’ve recently embarked on your bluegrass banjo journey and have begun looking at fingerpicks (or perhaps have already bought a set), you’ve probably noticed that both fingerpicks and thumbpicks come in two basic varieties: metal and plastic. Let's dive into what to consider! Banjo Instruction Books on Which Picks to Choose Banjo...

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The Clawhammer Conundrum: Index vs Middle Finger

The Clawhammer Conundrum: Index vs Middle Finger

If you're reading this you are probably wondering "Which finger should I use for the clawhammer strum? The index or middle finger? Poring over online clawhammer forums this morning, I was struck by the amount of confusion there is over this question. Before I take a crack at answering it, let me first provide some background. When I started learning clawhammer back in the mid-2000s, I began by...

read more
Reframing The Drop-Thumb

Reframing The Drop-Thumb

Thinking back to the days when I was beginning my clawhammer journey, I remember picking up a copy of Ken Perlman’s “Everything You Wanted to Know About Clawhammer Banjo” at my local library. That night, I began working through the book starting from page one. Things seemed to be going smoothly for the next three weeks – that is, until I got to the section on drop-thumb. Suddenly I hit a wall....

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How To Stop Scraping Your Picks Against The Banjo Head

How To Stop Scraping Your Picks Against The Banjo Head

How do you get your picks to stop scraping against the drum head while playing? As a banjo teacher with years of experience helping beginning banjo students find their sea legs as bluegrass players, one issue that always seems to crop up is this age-old problem.  And, as with pretty much every other issue a banjo student might encounter, there’s more than one solution. The Size of Thumbpick...

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What is the fretless banjo (and why you might want one)?

What is the fretless banjo (and why you might want one)?

What is a fretless banjo? Let's start with frets. Frets are the metal strips inserted into the fingerboard of a stringed instrument and a fretless banjo does not have any. Why? Let’s back up for a moment… If you’re somewhat new to banjo, one thing you may have noticed is how many different types of banjos are actually out there. Banjos with resonators, open-back banjos, 4-string banjos, banjos...

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Video: How To Use Banjo Mountain

Video: How To Use Banjo Mountain

Welcome to Banjo Mountain! This video breaks down how the site works and will help get you up and running quickly. You'll learn how to start a course, mark a lesson complete, track your progress as well as navigate the site.

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Get The Most Out of Banjo Mountain

Get The Most Out of Banjo Mountain

Welcome! We couldn't be more pleased to have you at the Mountain and we want to make sure that your path to learning banjo starts off smoothly! Here are some tips to help you make the most out of Banjo Mountain. 1. Decide Which Style You Will Learn: Bluegrass or Clawhammer?  Which style of banjo you choose to play is an important decision for a beginner. Most new players don't know the...

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: ABIGAIL WASHBURN

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: ABIGAIL WASHBURN

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: ABIGAIL WASHBURN photo courtesy of abigailwashburn.com THE SONG THAT CAUGHT OUR EAR:Abigail Washburn Country of Origin: U.S.A. (Illinois) Style: Clawhammer Current Album: Echo In The Valley (2017)   FROM ABIGAIL'S WEBSITE: If American old-time music is about taking earlier, simpler ways of life and music-making as one's model, Abigail Washburn has proven herself to be a...

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Artist Spotlight: Adam Hurt

Artist Spotlight: Adam Hurt

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: ADAM HURT photo courtesy of adamhurt.com THE SONG THAT CAUGHT OUR EAR:Adam Hurt Country of Origin: U.S.A. (Minnesota) Style: Clawhammer Current Album: Artifacts   OUR THOUGHTS: Adam hurt is arguably one of the most innovative and influential banjo players currently playing in traditional/clawhammer style. Adam has described his playing as, “elegantly innovative clawhammer...

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Artist Spotlight: Dan Walsh

Artist Spotlight: Dan Walsh

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: DAN WALSH photo courtesy of https://www.danwalshbanjo.co.uk THE SONG THAT CAUGHT OUR EAR: Dan Walsh Country of Origin: U.K. Banjo of choice: Deering Banjos + D’addario strings Style: Clawhammer (+magic??!) Current Project: Dan Walsh Trio  OUR THOUGHTS: If you haven't heard Dan Walsh you are missing out on a truly original banjoist. The above track "The Vaults" barely...

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The Difference Between Clawhammer and Bluegrass Banjo

The Difference Between Clawhammer and Bluegrass Banjo

So, you’ve got your hands on your first 5-string banjo and now (naturally) you want to learn how to play the darn thing. And that’s when you make the discovery: there’s actually two styles of playing - clawhammer and bluegrass - common to the 5-string. So how the heck do you decide which one to learn??  Before we do check out our video of examples of both:Clawhammer Banjo  Clawhammer banjo, or...

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We Released 12 Songs This Summer!

We Released 12 Songs This Summer!

Well, gang, it’s been one helluva summer. Hope yours was fantastic and that you were able to find some time for the three “R”s - relaxing, reflecting and recharging….Oh, and playing your banjo, of course. Can't forget that one. Over here at the Mountain we’ve been working on overdrive since May arranging, shooting and editing a wide variety of new songs - songs that will further challenge you...

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FIVE FUN PLACES TO PLAY YOUR BANJO THIS SUMMER

FIVE FUN PLACES TO PLAY YOUR BANJO THIS SUMMER

TAKE IT OUTSIDE: FIVE FUN PLACES TO PLAY YOUR BANJO THIS SUMMER I think we can all agree everyone needs a change of scenery from the monotony of our daily routines every now and then - a place to unwind, recharge and get a fresh perspective on things. I've found this especially true when learning an instrument - particularly an instrument that's portable. And while we rarely ever take this into...

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The Importance (and fun) of Bluegrass Festivals

The Importance (and fun) of Bluegrass Festivals

Topanga Banjo & Fiddle Festival 2016   Bluegrass Festival Season Well, gang, it's that time again - bluegrass festival season! And in my neck the woods it's already in full bloom. As a matter of fact, in less than a week one of the most iconic of all Southern California bluegrass festivals gets underway - the Topanga Banjo & Fiddle contest.   Topanga Banjo & Fiddle...

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The Best Way To Learn Banjo

The Best Way To Learn Banjo

Start Today   So, you say you've always wanted to learn banjo? Perhaps it's a dream you've harbored ever since you were young? Your number one goal in life before you die, you say? In the decades I've been teaching banjo, I can't count the number of times I've heard people express sentiments like this. It is, without exception, one of the most common refrains I hear from people whenever the...

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PICKS OR NO PICKS: PICKING YOUR WAY THROUGH THE PICKING PICKLE

PICKS OR NO PICKS: PICKING YOUR WAY THROUGH THE PICKING PICKLE

In the years I've spent teaching bluegrass banjo, I've often been asked by students if it's imperative to use fingerpicks. Perhaps you, too, have grappled with this question and have sought advice from "experts". If you go online, you'll notice the majority of people weighing in on the picks/no picks issue are fairly inflexible on the subject. Almost without exception, the consensus is a...

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