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...

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...

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...

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...

Capturing The Magic

Most every moment playing oldtime is lost to eternity, and that, perhaps, is a great part of its joy. As we sit with friends old and new, we dig into the now, riding the...

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...

Clawhammer Banjo and the Great Fingernail Dilemma

There are some fine clawhammer banjo players who have unbelievably short fingernails, trimmed or bitten to the nub. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how they manage to get anything like a...

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...

Gimme that Old-Time Rhythm

At first, as I was coming to love oldtime music as an adult, I found it curious that percussion and rhythm instruments seemed to play such a minor role. Having played the drums while...