Fingerpicking Basics



Practice with the instructor: Guitar



Practice with the Instructor: Banjo



Theory From The Ground Up



Mandolin Week 1



Guitar Fingerboard Studies

Here is your list of the most popular Early Bird Bluegrass Jam songs in 2019



Banks of the Ohio (4x)

Blue Ridge Cabin Home (6x)

Bury Me Beneath The Willow (10x)

Hand Me Down My Walking Cane (4x)

I am a Pilgrim (7x)

I’ll Fly Away (5x)

I’m Coming Back But I Don’t Know When (4x)

I’ve Waited As Long As I Can (4x)

Lonesome Road Blues (5x)

Long Journey Home (8x)

My Cabin in Caroline (4x)

Old Home Place (4x)

On and On (5x)

Rollin in my sweet baby’s arms (11x)

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (7x)

Wayfaring Stranger (4x)

Will The Circle Be Unbroken (5x)
















Here is a list of songs played in 2019 at the Early Bird Bluegrass Jam Workshops.

There's some really good ones here! Check 'em out:


Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow

All the Good Times

Angelina Baker

Arkansas Traveler

Before I Met You

Bill Cheatem

Blue Ridge Mountain Blues

California Cottonfields

Cherokee Shuffle

Clinch Mountain

Columbus Stockade Blues

Crawdad Song

Dark Hollow

Darlin’ Think Of What You Done

Devil’s Dream

East Virginia Blues

Foggy Mountain Top

Freight Train

Girl I Left Behind

Gold Rush

Greenville Trestle High

Head Over Heels

High on a Mountain

Hold Whatcha Got

How Mountain Girls Can Love

I Saw The Light

I Wonder Where You Are Tonight

I’m Coming Back But I Don’t Know When

I’ve Waited As Long As I Can

In Tall Buildings


In the Pines

Keep on the Sunny Side of Life

Kentucky Waltz

Lonesome Homesick Blues

Long Black Veil

Love, Please Come Home

Make me a Pallet

Man in the Middle

Man of Constant Sorrow

Meet Me In The Moonlight

Midnight Moonlight

Mr. Engineer

My Home’s Across the Blueridge Mountains

Nellie Cane

New River Train

Nine Pound Hammer

Old Joe Clark

One More Dollar

Rain and Snow

Red River Valley

Reuben’s Train

Rocky Top

Roving Gambler

Salt Creek

Shady Grove

Sitting on top of the world

Soldier’s Joy

Somehow Tonight

Squirrel Hunters

The Fields Have Turned Brown

The One I Love

There Ain’t Nobody Gonna Miss Me

This Little Light of Mine

Wabash Cannonball

Walls of Time

Whiskey Before Breakfast

White Freight liner Blues

Tell Me Baby, Why you been gone so long?

Worried Man Blues

You’ll get no more of me

Your Love Is Like A Flower


Jamming Notes
Part One
Numbers Not Letters

If you’ve been to a jam you’ve probably heard people calling One, Four and Five chords. These numbers refer to the Nashville Number System. The system offers an easy way to convey chord progression information to others in the jam circle.

Three things about using the Nashville Number System

One, Calling chords by their numbers, not letter names.
If you choose to call chords by their letter names, keep in mind that all the letters, except F, end in the vowel ‘E’. If I call G, C, and D, for instance, the person across the room could be hearing D, G, and A (Or E, E, E). Using numbers instead of letters will help you avoid some confusion.

Two, Bridging the capo divide.
If a jammer is using a capo , it is especially important to use numbers, not letters. The classic scenario is a guitar player using a capo at the second fret calling out a G chord because the fingers are shaped like a G, when in fact the capo is making their instrument sound in A. Believe it or not, with all the distractions at a jam it’s an easier mistake to make than you think. Nevertheless, it can cause some real confusion. Bass players, fiddlers and mandolinists do not generally use capos, but guitars, banjos and dobros do. Using numbers not letters gives everyone the chord information in the same language.

Three, Pattern Recognition
Looking at chord numbers, you will start to recognize the patterns that are common to all chord progressions. For instance, most chord progressions will end with a Five chord resolving to a One chord. This helps our understanding of how chord progressions function and will help us get better at anticipating chord structures. You’ll also notice that many songs share identical chord progressions. Did you know that ‘She’ll be coming around the mountain’ has the same chord progression as ‘Rolling in my sweet Baby’s Arms’?

Nashville Numbers can also be used to transpose a chord progression to other keys. This is especially useful if you are a singer and want to find the best key for your voice.

Why is this called Nashville Numbers?
Chord analysis has been around a long time (around 400 years) and is also used by jazz and classical composers. While classical and jazz chord analysis is written using Roman numerals, with upper case signifying Major and lower case signifying minor, Nashville Numbers uses arabic numerals with a lower case ‘m’ or a minus ‘-‘ sign signifying a minor chord. (i.e. 4m or 4-)

What do the One, Four and Five numbers refer to? 

Scale degrees. In music theory, the term scale degree refers to the position of a particular note on a scale relative to the tonic, the first and main note of the scale from which each octave is assumed to begin. Every major scale has seven notes. We assign a numeric value to each note, numbering each note in relation to it’s distance form the tonic, or the One. For instance, in the G scale, (or key of G), G is the first letter and therefore the first degree of the scale. The note C is four notes from the G, therefore is the fourth scale degree.

Each degree is also the root of a chord that can have a Major or minor quality, based on it’s position in the scale. Here is a simple chart of the seven notes and degrees of a G scale.
















Once you know the notes in the scale and the scale degrees, a chord value can be assigned.

The sequence of Major and minor chords in a key is: Major, minor, minor, Major, Major, minor, diminished.

The One, Four, and Five chords are always Major and the Two, Three, and Six chords are always minor. Seven is diminished (more on that chord later).

Here’s what happens when we add those values. 
















You Need To Know

One Four Five in common Bluegrass Keys

These should be memorized.

Key of G 145: GCD

Key of C 145: CFG

Key of D 145: DGA

Key of A 145: ADE

Next level:
How can numbers help me transpose?
Why are there seven notes to all the scales when there are 12 notes altogether? Why do some keys have sharps and others flats?
What are keys and how can they help me?

If you want to find out more, I will be offering my theory class: Theory from the Ground Up scheduled for spring 2020.


Jamming Notes: Early Bird Bluegrass Jam Workshops July 14, 2018


What we played:


Roll in my Sweet Baby’s Arms (G)

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (G)

Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky (G)

New River Train (C)

Lonesome Road Blues (G)

Hold Whatcha Got (A)

All the Good Times are Past and Gone (A)

Red River Valley (Bb)

I’ll Be Alright Tomorrow (Bb)

Lamp Lighting in the Valley (G)

I Saw the Light (G)

Kentucky Waltz (C)


What we learned:

The difference between a three-quarter time waltz and a power waltz.


(We jammed on All The Good Times Are Past And Gone and Kentucky Waltz.)


A three-quarter time waltz (3/4) is characterized by a bass note on the downbeat and strums on beats two and three. Think: Bass/strum/strum or Oom/Pa/Pa. This type of groove is usually played at a slower tempo. Tennessee Waltz and Kentucky Waltz are good examples.


A power waltz is sung at a faster tempo that emphasizes the downbeat of ‘one’. It is still in three quarter time, but beats two and three receive less accent.

Ocean of Diamonds and All the Good Times are Past and Gone are generally sung as power waltzes.


Of course, any waltz can be played with either feel. It is often up to the how the singer wants to phrase.


What we learned Part Two

‘Faster Means Louder’


(We sang ‘I Saw The Light’ at a brisk tempo. The first thing that happened is everyone got loud. The second thing that happened is the song started to drag.)


It’s a hard habit to break, but for some reason when we play a fast song, there is a tendency to play louder. That is how most of us are wired. Unfortunately, as soon as the loud dynamic is set, we lose all nuance of the ensemble. We’re too loud. Everyone else is too loud. The banjo player is too loud. And now we have to play louder to be heard. Next thing you know your chord hand is mashing down the strings to match the energy level of the picking hand. It is a weird phenomenon.


Good news, though. This habit can be broken once we have more awareness of this tendency. Try this: Cue up a fast song that you like and play along with the track while keeping the volume really low. This will make you listen harder while keeping your picking/strumming in time. Your right hand will have to back off the dynamic while keeping up with the speed. By playing fast and quiet, you can develop better listening skills and increase your dynamic range.


Why should we break this habit? ‘Faster Means Louder’ is ruining our dynamic palate. By starting loud, we can get stuck at that dynamic and lose access to our quiet sounds. We lose the ability to duck under vocals and solos and our ears get fatigued quicker. Our fingers get tired from mashing down onto the fingerboard and we find it difficult to keep up. 


Another great technique for rewiring the picking hand and fretting hand is playing louder with your pick hand while focusing on keeping the left hand relaxed. In general, the fretting hand will try to match the intensity of the picking hand. The fretting hand only needs to place the fingers behind the frets to produce the sounds we are looking for. Reprogramming this connection can save you tired fingertips, string changes, and costly fret replacements.


Winter/Spring Workshops
Let's Sing: Bluegrass Harmonies
Mondays 7-8pm at Guitar Associates
Jan 29
Feb 12, 26
Mar 12

Let's Pick: Intermediate Solos Got the Blues
Mondays 7-8pm
Feb 5, 19
Mar 5, 19

Let's Jam: Intermediate Bluegrass Jam 
Tuesdays 7-8pm at Guitar Associates
Jan 30
Feb 13, 27
Mar 13
We will close our workshop series with a round up jam night at Apple Mountain Music.
 $135 (plus tax) per workshop
Special Discounts and Deals
-Want to take two classes? Take the second class for $110 plus tax.
-Current students are eligible for the $110 discount on all classes.

Here is the official book of the Bluegrass Early Bird Slow Jam.

If it's in the book, you can call it.

No Beatles, AC/DC, Tom Petty or Neil Young.

And please, no Wagon Wheel.


The fall Jam and Band Scramble is in full swing. Watch out!!

See you at the show on December 10.

Outpost Performance Space. 3:30pm Free


This is the best advice for surviving a jam session.

Take a deep breath. Go back to the One chord and wait.

Listen to the rhythm players. Most importantly, Don't Panic!



Inspired by Douglas Adams

Howdy, Pickers!


Here is the playlist from our jam in October

I Saw The Light

Red Wing

Billy Boy

The Girl I Left Behind

Whiskey Before Breakfast

Long Journey Home

White Freightliner Blues

I'll Fly Away

Blue Ridge Cabin Home


Keep learning those fiddle tune chord progressions.

Red Wing and Whiskey Before Breakfast for starters.

We had a great jam at Apple Mountain Music Saturday.

Songs and Tunes:

Dark Hollow

Red Wing

Banks of the Ohio

Whiskey Before Breakfast

Bury Me Beneath The Willow

This Land Is Your Land

I’ll Fly Away

White Freightliner

It was great seeing some new faces. Jamming is a fun way to get a lot of chord practice and learn a lot of new songs.

Red Wing has been called many times now, so if you haven’t learned it, get going! Whiskey Before Breakfast is another tune that gives jammers that deer in the headlights look. Get those chord progressions down for next time.

I was really impressed with how much progress people are making. There were some really nice breaks, some fine singing, and solid bass playing. Thank you all for continuing to support this jam at Apple Mountain. See you next month.

Early Bird Bluegrass Slow Jam at Apple Mountain Music


As always, thanks to everyone that showed up to play. We always seem to get the right number for that room. Some really good jam tunes got called today. We jammed on Mountain Dew

My Home’s Across The Blue Ridge Mountains

I’ll Fly Away

Cherokee Shuffle

Whiskey Before Breakfast

White Freight Liner

Faded Love

I Am A Pilgrim.

It was a good combination of songs and fiddle tunes. If you want to jam with groups, you gotta make sure you know your chords for fiddle tunes. Cherokee Shuffle and Whiskey Before Breakfast are complex in their chord progressions, so they are good ones to practice. I would consider Blackberry Blossom and Arkansas Traveler to be in the same category.

Next Early Bird Bluegrass Slow Jam will be meeting Second Saturday in August.

The room is booked for the jam 9-10am. I’ll sometimes go a little over if we can get a few more tunes in. We start up pretty much on time.

If you want to join us, you are welcome to.

please contact me with any questions. 

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