One in every pocket: the rise of the harmonica in old-time music

“It has changed a lot, but it shouldn’t have changed. It should be the same all the way through, ’cause people that comes to see the Grand Ole Opry, they’re coming to see – what they...

Ten Places to Start for Oldtime Fiddle

Oldtime fiddle - The Devil's Box? Let's be straight – oldtime fiddle is not for the faint of heart. It might be scratchy and "mossy", played all kinds of ways by generations of folk musicians,...

Strum Machine or How to Have Fun Practicing

For most of us, the best part about playing oldtime is playing music with other people. It is a rare joy of human existence to connect with others as we sound together, recall old...

Banjo Roots and Branches: Exploring the African Roots

This is post 1 of 4 in the series Banjo Roots and Branches. When I started learning how to play the banjo in 2006, I was unaware of the rich and complex history of the instrument....

Turkey in the Straw – harmonica fiddle duet

Seth Shumate is one of a small handful of great oldtime harmonica players. What he can do few others can. Here Seth and Ben Smith (fiddle) sit down to play the iconic "Turkey in...

Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky’s Forgotten Ballad Collector

Congratulations on publishing your new book, “Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky’s Forgotten Ballad Collector” (University Press of Kentucky). Who was Katherine Jackson French? Katherine Jackson French was a remarkable woman. She was born in London, Kentucky in...

10+ Ways to Get Better at Your Instrument

Benjamin Smith, James Peterson and Richard Osban It's an unfortunate truth that the best musicians are usually the ones who are willing to spend some of their time consistently focusing on the things they're...

Is oldtime out of tune?

Whether we admit it or not, almost all of us have had that moment of listening to an oldtime fiddler – it's almost always the fiddler – and cringing. "Oh good Lord Almighty, that...

A Reasoned Defense of Notation in Oldtime Music

There is some controversy in oldtime communities around the use of musical notation – both tablature and standard notation – in learning tunes. What role does notation have? Is it ok to learn a...

Oldtime in the Golden Age of Instagram

When fiddler George Jackson first saw a banjo player post an Instagram video of themselves playing “Dorrigo”, an original tune off Jackson’s new record, he was flattered. He didn’t expect that three weeks later...