Heading to the Delta .. With the Blues in Mind

Group Photo of the Down 2 The Crossroads Blues Workshop


I recently attended a guitar and bass workshop at the Crossroads, the cradle of the Delta Blues in Clarksdale Mississippi. I have never been a big blues guy, not that I disliked it, just never overly exposed to the genre – so how did this come about? It all started when a good friend and bassist, whom I regularly jam with, asked if I would be interested in heading to Mississippi for a week to immerse myself in the culture and music of the blues during a week long guitar/bass workshop.

At first I was on the fence, Mississippi has never been on my bucket list to visit and one

Blues Shack Student Housing

only has so many vacation days to enjoy. After a few weeks discussing the goal of the trip and listening to some blues “staples”, I decided I would like to give it a try – it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while.

This was my first experience traveling with my guitar on a flight, interesting tidbits to share… the first flight I carried it onboard, while dodging the rolling eyes of other passengers concerned they would not have enough overhead space since I was taking all the room with the guitar case. For the connecting flight, my buddy recommended that we gate check the axe – much better decision.

Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale

We arrived in Memphis, picked up the rental car and headed towards Clarksdale and the Down 2 The Crossroads workshop at the Shack Up Inn. What immediately struck me as we hit the outskirts of Memphis was the unfortunate economic depression that was prevalent throughout the region. We arrived a bit too early to check into our rooms so headed straight for Clarksdale and Abe’s BBQ, a Clarksdale institution since 1924, for lunch. It was the first of many pure southern comfort meals of the week.

Abe’s Barbecue

What I was most struck by when entering the “old” downtown portion of Clarksdale is how much it embraced its roots as a significant contributor to the foundation of Blues music. Clarksdale is a significant stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail that was created in 2006 and contains a number of markers and historical sites related to the birth, growth and influence of Blues throughout the state.

Clarksdale seemingly still exists today because of this tie to the Blues, the town is depressed, but there are a few businesses, restaurants, etc still around, all seemingly there to support the tourism business that exists because of the Mississippi Delta Blues. In fact, a few newer additions have moved in because of the musical influence of the area including; the Ground Zero Blues Club (owned by Morgan Freeman) and the Delta Blues Museum (partially funded by Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top). The town of Clarksdale was best summed up on the back of a t-shirt I bought at the John Lee Hooker Grocery and Eatery – “Clarksdale, Mississippi – home to – 49 Blues Legends, 107 churches, and 0 Starbucks.

Jeremy Visiting the Delta Blues Museum



Jeremy Ferral, a guitar and banjo student of Fretmentor, contributed this article.  This is Part I of a two part story on the Clarksdale Blues Experience.

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Ukulele – The New Hip Instrument?

Is the Ukulele gaining popularity?

I have taught many individual lessons and classes throughout my life.  As I have posted in previous Blog articles here at Fretmentor’s Blog, the community education classes offer a great deal for someone wanting to learn how to play an instrument.  The classes are inexpensive and the savings compared to private lessons always helps.

Due to the popularity of the Ukulele, I decided to schedule a new class this term for those who may be interested in learning this instrument.  To my amazement, the class quickly sold out and there is a weight list to get in.  My other classes in guitar, banjo, mandolin and music theory are still open for enrollment.

Which leads me to one question, Why do you think a Ukulele class has become so popular to sell out with still two weeks left in open enrollment?  I would be curious to hear back from others about this topic.

Here is some information for those interested about upcoming classes:

Starting on September 9th and 17th, I will be holding an 8 week music classes, in Jupiter, Florida. To learn more about these classes, please message me. To sign up, Go To www.pbclearn.org. and look for classes at the Jupiter Community High School. Registration can be completed online or in person at the school.

Here is the class schedule for not only 5 String Banjo, but other instruments and a theory class as well.

Classes Held from 9/9/19 to 11/4/14


Intro to Five String Banjo – 6:50-7:50pm

Ukulele for Children – 4:30-5:30 pm

Ukulele for Adults – 5:40-6:40

Intro to Mandolin – 8-9pm

TUESDAY CLASSES (delayed one week due to the storm)

Childrens Guitar 4:30-5:30pm

Adult Guitar 5:40-6:40 pm

Music Theory 6:50-7:50 pm

Blues and Rock for all fretted Instruments 8-9 pm

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“Glamping” At Riverhawk

Givens-Style Glamping Via the Airstream

What is “glamping” you might ask?  Well, “glamping” is a term used for glamorous camping and what better way to do that than at a music festival.  Those glamorous festival goers love to camp in style in an Airstream or mobile home. Here is the way it is done by our guest writer Tim & Blair Givens and friends.

Riverhawk Music Festival 2018

Each year it begins in April at String Fest (another yearly festival ) in Brooksville, Florida, when you sign up to keep your reservation for Riverhawk. We begin preparing the trailer and discussing plans with our fellow campers. We typically have about 12 or so at our site , staying in trailers or tents.

Glamping & Formal Dining

Group dinners are always the center of discussion and prepared by a different group each night, Breakfast and lunch are found at a variety of great food booths around the venue. Peggy always prepares epic cheese eggs grits on Sundays .

Our days begin early, re-stoking the previous nights fire, coffee, walks through the campsite, tidying up the camp and then a bike ride through the hills. The music begins at noon and runs through out the day on three stages, ending around midnight.
that’s when the real fun begins. lots of jamming around campfires and ending in the wee hours .

Jamming With Other Musicians

Before you know it , the weekend is over, camps are breaking down and the talk is of reconnecting at String Break in April.

Our guest writer is Tim Givens of Palm Beach, a mandolin and banjo player and student for many years.  Tim is an avid boater, skier and camper.

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Enjoy A Musical Holiday Season


from www.Fretmentor.com

Each and every year, I hold a holiday party where students learn to play Christmas tunes.  They are assigned a song and together, work for weeks on playing the tunes.  We held our party last week and each of the three groups did a wonderful job.  They all had fun working together as well.

Available At www.fretmentor.com

Christmas music, whether you are a big fan or not, is an excellent genre to practice in order to learn more on your instrument.  First, most if not all musicians have heard these tunes throughout their lives.  The familiarity makes it easier for the beginning student to pick out a melody line.  Secondly, these are not simple songs to play.  Unlike a I, IV V progression commonly found in blues, rock or country music, some Christmas tunes can have more complicated chord progressions.  These different chord progressions are beneficial to students wanting to expand their knowledge and rhythm technique.


David Grisman’s Acoustic Christmas


Let’s not forget that as you attend the holiday parties each year, one of these times, someone will ask a group of musicians to play a Christmas tune.  Others will enjoy singing along to these tunes.  So it helps to expand your repertoire and learn a couple of holiday tunes.

One of my favorite Christmas albums is by mandolin great David Grissman.  Bela Fleck, Mike Marshall and others appear on this album as well.  It was one of the first albums I could find that had Christmas arrangements for bluegrass instruments.

If you care to learn Christmas tunes, I offer an acoustic Christmas collection of tabs for guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle.  You can learn more about this on my website of by going to my previous blog (click the tag Acoustic Christmas Music or go to this blog link: http://blogs.fretmentor.com/?p=959).  Email me or leave a comment below on how to acquire these tabs.

Once again, have a happy, safe and musical Christmas holiday season.


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A Night To Remember

August 18, 1965 at 8:15 I was sitting in the Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta Georgia waiting to see The Beatles. That’s right, The Beatles. The story I recount below is pulled from the dusty memories of an impressionable 11 year old.

Original Beatles Ticket Stub

The stadium was completely sold out. Walking to our seats below the stands, the noise rose in volume as we approached the gate to our seats on the field level. As we moved through the gate into the stands the sights and sounds were astounding.
Girls, mostly late teens into their 20’s, were standing in their seats screaming at the top of their lungs. The Beatles were an hour and a half from playing. Hands over their faces, some tearing, hugging the person next to them as in disbelief they were there. I am sure they were.

The stadium formed a circle around what was normally a baseball playing field. Immediately inside the perimeter guardrail separating the seats from the field were 3 concentric rows of police officers locked arm and arm around the entire circle. Behind the three rows of police were several random groups of officers moving around. In the center of the field was the stage flanked by two walls of speakers maybe thirty feet high by twenty-five feet wide.

My memory is faded a bit here, but I remember a warm up act took the stage first, mostly consisting of dancers in pink costumes, dancing to generic recorded pop music. The screaming continued at the same deafening level as when took our seats during the entire warm up show. When you thought it could not get any louder, the stadium light screens consisting of lighted bulbs would flash the names John or George or the other Beatles and the decibel level of screaming would rise fifty percent.

Finally a garage door to the right of me across the field opened and a black limo entered the field and pulled behind the stage. “The crowd went wild”. It was totally deafening, totally chaos. Girls now were standing their seats screaming louder than I thought possible. You could not hear the person sitting next to you, my aunt by the way who took me to the show.

Beatles Album Cover

As they took the stage one notch below total pandemonium set in. Many girls left their seats and ran down the isles toward the field and jumped the guardrail into the rings of police. The police would grab them, as they struggled to break through the police line to the stage, by their hands and feet, swing them and throw them off the field back into the stands. The show started and the screaming was absolutely deafening and you could not hear one note of music coming from the walls of speakers. If Paul or George blew a kiss to the crowd hundreds of girls would faint and fall into the seats in front or back of them banging their heads and would be bleeding and passed out. Paramedics would rush in pick them up on stretchers and carry them up the aisles and lay them out on the floor below the stands. Medics would then run for the next one.

The Beatles played for about twenty minutes and I never heard one note or sound from the stage. My impression watching them as they played was they were in some ways enjoying it, but at he same time terrified for their lives. I believe absolutely if the police lines had failed the girls would have rushed the field and literally ripped them to shreds. The Beatles seems greatly relieved rushing off stage and into in the limo: they were alive.

On our exit we walked past rows of girls laying or sitting on the ground having been attended to by the paramedics recovering from the show. Walking out we spoke to a man walking with his son and they said, “this was nothing compared to Shea Stadium!”

I remember thinking before the show, ‘I wish my aunt had purchased tickets to the Beach Boys.’ After the show I remember thinking , ‘This was for all time: I just saw the Beatles!’

This article was submitted by our guest blogger Hugh Davis.  Hugh, lives in Palm Beach plays bluegrass guitar and is currently a fretmentor student.

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SIRSY – One of a Kind Duo

SIRSY’s Melanie Krahmer & Richard Libutti

The other night I met some friends at a local gathering spot in Jupiter, Florida, known for its music.  Every so often, should the urge hit me, I will head out to listen to new bands.  My friend invited me to go listen to a band called SIRSY and although I never heard of them, I trusted my friend for her musical instincts and good taste.

Melanie Krahmer

The band is actually a duo out of Saratoga, New York.  Yet, the interesting thing about SIRSY (named after Melanie’s childhood nickname) is the audience is treated to the sound of a full band.  I am all too familiar with trying to put a band together with all the essential pieces: lead and rhythm guitar, bass, drums and of course, great vocals.  It is hard to pull it off sometimes without a tight rhythmic section and a good band is only as strong as the lead singer.

It is refreshing when you hear a band that is both original and pleasing to the ears.  I was surprised to hear this duo perform their own arrangements and do so with a charismatic and energetic approach on stage.  Melanie Krahmer is the lead vocalist and percussionist.  To say this lady has strong vocals would be an understatement.  Melanie can flat out sing.  She utilizes a sampler pad for bass parts with her drum stick and incorporates flute in certain arrangements.  Her ability to sing while playing drums at the same time would make many bands jealous.

As for the rhythm and lead play, Richard Libutti puts it all together with a blend of his Rikenbacker electric guitar solos and his effects pedals.  His styles vary from reggae, blues and rock rhythms.  He makes fine use of special effects on his pedal board,  that compliment each arrangement and plays bass with his feet.

Richard Libutti

SIRSY plays its own mix of blues, rock and alternative tunes. Whether you prefer the original upbeat tunes such as “Lionheart” or “Revolution”,  to a catchy ballad  “Brave and Kind”, there is something here to please everyone in the audience. Most importantly, what these two musicians do together is have fun playing music.  You can see it during their performance. So in addition to buying their latest CD, you might want to see them live when they come to your area.

Check for their tour schedule at www.SIRSY.com.



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Memphis Blues

Memphis is the home of the delta blues sound and here I was, walking with my ten feet off of Beale. Walking in Memphis, but do I really feel the way I feel?

Memphis, Tennessee

While on a recent business trip to Memphis, Tennessee,  I was able to experience Memphis itself, including my tour of the Blues Hall of Fame Museum, the Gibson guitar factory,  and finally the home of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley’s mansion at Graceland.

While many business trips are rather mundane and not very musically inspiring, little did I realize I was in for a treat with this trip to Memphis. I had heard and read about Memphis and the famous Beale St. in my study of the Blues.  After all, WC Handy, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, James Cotton, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Minnie and many other artists laid the foundation for Blues and Rock and Roll from this very place that is still being built to this day.

A Modern Juke Joint in Memphis

Very fortunate for me, I was about a 40 minute walk from my hotel to downtown Memphis. The city itself is very easy to navigate around, either by foot, or by old school electric trolley.  Old buildings and architecture reminiscent of an earlier age make up most of the buildings, preserved in time for me to enjoy today. I was kind of taken back by the security cameras, and dark alleys and old buildings.  At first I had wondered what was I doing, walking in this strange city, a blonde headed surfer from Florida. I kind of felt like a fish out of water.  I also noticed the heavy police presence , but I soon  realized the people here were friendly and inviting. My sense was that the locals had pride in their city, and wanted to preserve its mid-south feel. I could hear the sound of a lead guitar in the distance, I continued to walk in the direction of the source…. Beale Street.

Beale Street

Beale Street in Memphis, TN

The one way I could describe Beale  is that it was like a very large block party, loaded with street performers and live music. Places with names like Pee Wee Saloon, Silky O’Sullivan’s, The Blue Note, Rum Boogie Café Blues Hall, Blues City Band Room, and of

Silky O’Sullivans

course BB King’s Blues Club, all have stages where live blues bands perform. (And a rather large security person at the front door).  Duck in, have a beer and a burger, and listen to a live blues band. The music was every bit as smooth as the titles of some of these clubs. (and as smooth as that golden lager going down!). It doesn’t get any better. One could easily spend hours here, and lose track of time watching live bands perform, and street performers working for tips. Beale was closed to vehicular traffic during my visit, which made navigating both sides of the street safe and enjoyable.

BB King’s Blues Club

Another thing Memphis is famous for is their barbecue. BB King’s Blues Club serves up good Memphis style barbecue, I sampled their beef brisket which was awesome. While the sound of smooth blues guitar massages your ears, your nose will be equally pleased with the smell of various smokers churning out ribs, chicken, and brisket. Don’t go there hungry, it will be a hard choice! I guess a juke joint that serves up good blues and Memphis dry rub would be my first choice! But definitely go at night,  that’s when it comes alive!

Sign Outside Pee Wee Sullivan’s Saloon

When most people think of a musical type of vacation, they might think Nashville. But for those of us who love rock and blues, Memphis must be high on the order for a visit. I know for a fact I could go back again, and not be bored, and likely learn something new.  In my next installment, I will describe my visit to the Blues Hall of Fame Museum.


Our guest blogger, Dave Lamont, has been playing guitar for 11 years, and is a student of The Fretmentor, Dave enjoys blues, classic rock, and Christian Contemporary. Dave currently plays acoustic and electric guitar with the West Pines Baptist Church Worship Team. Dave’s favorite rock bands are Boston and .38 Special. His favorite Christian Contemporary bands are Casting Crowns, Third Day, and Mercy Me.

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The Minstrel Show & the Banjo

This morning, I watched a segment called “Blackface” on the Sunday CBS Morning Show.  The show accurately portrayed this time in history as “Unmasking the racist history of blackface”.  It reveals the sad and disturbing portrayal of racist stereotype in arts and music in the early 1900s.

Minstrel Show Program from the Early 1900s

I was inspired to write something further here, since I have spent many hours studying the history of music and the origins of music.  With the permission of selected public libraries, I was able to utilize a digital collection of historical sheet music  Those galleries can be viewed on my website’s classroom at www.fretmentor.com.  In addition, you can take a history tour of the origin of the banjo and guitar and some of the artists who have played these instruments.  Of course, this vast subject matter is a work in progress.

Old-Time 4 String Banjo

The history of “blackface” and the minstrel show was a disturbing and unacceptable portrayal of how blacks were perceived to live in America.  The minstrel show “blackface” actors were both white and black. The CBS program reveals that black minstrel performers dressed in “blackface” masks were given a platform to perform that was acceptable to the white audience.  Acceptable today?  absolutely not.  Yet, it was a part of our history and something that we all should learn from and maintain an open dialog about.

As a banjo player, I find it ironic that many of today’s great banjo players are white Americans and many people incorrectly believe the banjo to be a traditional American instrument .  The banjo originated in northwest Africa and through the slave trade was brought to the United States via the Caribbean trade route via the West Indies.  It transformed from a frailing or old-time style playing style to the three-finger style that Earl Scruggs and others have made popular today.  However, the banjo is a black ancestral instrument.

Old Novelty Banjo

Rhiannon Giddens, a founding member or the Carolina Chocolate Drops, provides a succinct explanation of the history of this wonderful instrument and it’s origin in a clip entitiled “On the Lost History of the Black Banjo“.

You can also learn more by watching David Holt’s interview with Ms. Giddens.

The Minstrel show era ended long ago in the 1920s and the banjo was one of those instruments used in those productions.   Today, thankfully the banjo lives on.

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Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder

Ricky Skaggs and the Kentucky Thunder

Approximately one year ago, we had a hurricane named Irma but there was no thunder in that storm, Kentucky Thunder that is.  On September 7, 2017, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder had been scheduled to perform at the intimate setting provided by the Lyric Theater in downtown Stuart, FL .  Yet, Hurricane Irma was on track to blow through a couple days later so the Kentucky Thunder was absent.  Fortunately the show was rescheduled for November 1, 2017 and the thunder roared in the Lyric that night.

Mr. Skaggs and his band, featuring Paul Brewster (rhythm guitar), Scott Mulvahill (bass), Russ Carson (banjo), Jake Workman (lead guitar), Mike Barnett (fiddle), and Dennis Parker (guitar) performed many classic bluegrass standards.

In addition to playing songs such as Heartbroke from his country music days, the set list included:

How Mountain Girls Can Love

Carolina Mountain Home

If I Lose

Bluegrass Breakdown

I Heard My Mother Call My Name In Prayer

Uncle Pen

Ricky Skaggs

Jim Mills, former banjo player in Kentucky Thunder, is reported to have said that no matter how fast the tempo was Mr. Skaggs was always pushing to pick up the pace.  That mindset was definitely evident that night at the Lyric.  The band was tight, the tempo was driving and the audience was motivational.  Besides the music, many a personal stories were told about his childhood and his performing with many bluegrass legends.

The Bluegrass community should always remain grateful that Mr. Skaggs decided to return to his roots and remain one of the living links to the Founders of the bluegrass genre.



Note:  Our guest Blog writer, Randall Cameron,  is a Research Biologist for the USDA, Agricultural Research Service. He  has been “playing” the banjo, for better or worse, a total of about three and a half years interspersed over a much longer period of time

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Es Mi Suerte – Alan Munde & Billy Bright

Since I started playing the banjo, I followed the career of Alan Munde.  I fist purchased his tabs and learned his arrangements some 45 years ago.  I also had the honor of hosting Alan at one of my fretmentor workshops here in Florida.  An interview we conducted then was published in issue #37 of the Fretboard Journal. Let’s just say I can’t get enough of Alan and his music.  His latest collaboration with mandolin player, Billy Bright, is a gem.

Es Mi Suerte By Alan Munde & Billy Bright

Recently, I acquired Alan Munde’s new CD from the master himself.  On the CD titled “Es Mi Suerte”, Alan Munde on banjo and Billy Bright on mandolin, together offer a selection of unique songs that are sure to thrill you all. Dom Fisher plays upright bass throughout and Dennis Ludiker (fiddle) and  Trevor Smith (banjo) make an appearance as well. Not only are 8 of the 10 songs originals but the listener gets a mix of tradition and progressive bluegrass, 1950s folk, Texas waltzes, a blend of Tex-Mex-Cajun and a tinge of country gospel.  One could call this album a journey into all styles of acoustic roots music.

Banjo Legend Alan Munde

There are certainly some wonderful compositions on this CD.

Jenny’s Desire – inspired by a line in Mother Goose’s nursery rhyme.

Wild Heron – A Billy Bright original inspired by a lake where Billy married his wife.

Mom’s Waltz – Another Billy Bright original that is a tribute to his mom and moms everywhere.

Oklahoma Bound – Alan’s musical tribute to his Norman, Oklahoma roots.

Es Mi Suerte – The title song which means “It is my fate”.  This tune is a tribute to Alan’s great friend and producer of many of Alan’s albums until his death in 2015.

Dapple Pattie – Another Munde original named after his wife’s late dachshund.

Munde’s Night Waltz – Alan’s research of fiddler’s found that they love to make up their own chord patterns, so Alan, Billy and Dennis Ludiker on fiddle, did the same.

By The Side of the Road – A cover written by Albert E. Brumley, Sr., is a gospel song about lifestyle choices.

Going Bodmin – A Munde original in which the title is also a Cornish colloquial phrase signifying someone has gone crazy.  Trevor Smith adds harmony parts and take a crazy banjo solo on this selection.

Goodnight Irene – A song credited to Huddie Ledbetter, aka Leadbelly.  Both Billy and Alan recorded it with a casual late night campfire feel and later overdubbed the  accompanying guitars.

Es Mi Suerte

Es mi Suerte is available for purchase on most digital music platforms, including AirPlay Direct, Spotify and ITunes.

I highly recommend you add this album to your collection of music.


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David Benedict’s “The Golden Angle”

Throughout my many years of studying, playing and listening to music, I always searched out new artists to add to my album or CD collection.  After listening to some of the original compositions by mandolin player, David Benedict, I was pleasantly surprised by his recent album “The Golden Angle”.  This 2018 album was produced by David Benedict and Grammy-nominated mandolinist Matt Finner.

The Golden Age

From up tempo tunes such as “Dorrigo”, “The Golden Angle”, and “Lawnmower”, to slower compositions like “Waltz for Griffen” or “Madrona”, this album offers a nice diverse blend of mandolin sounds.  However, no album is complete without a great supporting cast.  Other artists on various tracks include: David Grier and Ross Martin on guitar, Mike Barnett and Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Wes Corbett on banjo, and Missy Raines on bass.

Take a listen to Mr. Benedict’s new CD and judge for yourself.  David is sure to have a promising career as a mandolin virtuoso.

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A Musical Journey In Phoenix

Martin Guitar Display

Martin Guitar Display

A trip to Arizona for spring training baseball offered my buddy Jim and I the opportunity to visit the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix last week. It was our first visit there, but certainly not our last. Located just north of Scottsdale, the museum sits off the freeway in an otherwise isolated area. One is immediately struck by the sheer size of the building itself, much larger than one might think.

Largest Upright Bass

Largest Upright Bas


After paying the entry fee (one day for $20, two days for $30), you are given a receiver and set of headphones to access audio samples at various stations throughout the exhibits. The first room we entered on the lower floor centered around the tallest bass I’ve ever seen. My buddy Jim Delfel is not a short man, but he was dwarfed by this towering structure

Moving up to the second floor, the museum groups exhibits geographically in large rooms that flow naturally into the next.


Our time there was limited so we spent the majority of our time in the USA-Canada, Europe and Latin America rooms. If one were to see the entire museum, it is strongly recommended to get the two day pass. You will need it.

Banjo from the 1800s

Banjo from the 1800s

Being a bluegrass banjo player, I had wondered if there would be any banjos. There were many, from the early gourd banjos to the open backs to the resonator banjos commonly used today

Resonator Banjos

Resonator Banjos


There was even a electric tenor banjo, built in 1938 by Gibson. This banjo was part of a collection loaned to the museum by John Jorgenson.

Electric Banjo

Electric Banjo






A number of instruments on display were played by well known musicians crossing many genres and time periods.


John Jorgensen Collection

John Jorgensen Collection

There was Tommy Tedesco’s telecaster, lead guitarist for the Wrecking Crew. Hundreds of recordings that are a part of the music of the 1960s and 1970s came from this guitar. The very drum set that The Who’s Keith Moon detonated on national TV in 1967 on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.   I recalled watching that as a young teen and here was that drum set.

Tommy Tedesco's Telecaster

Tommy Tedesco’s Telecaster

Plenty of other celebrated instruments were on display; Hank Thompson’s and Marty Robbins’ guitars and Nudie suits and a guitar played by the great John McLaughlin

Nudie Suit

Hank Thompson’s Guitar & Nudie Suit


An area devoted to jazz had the clarinets of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, as well as the trumpets of Harry James and the great Miles Davis. Herbie Mann’s flute, along with a video of him in concert with it was a treat to both the eyes and ears.

Electronic music was represented in part by a Prophet analog synth donated by Peter Wolf, a mini Moog and a

Marty Robbins Guitar & Nudie Suit

Marty Robbins Guitar & Nudie Suit

theremin dated somewhere from 1929-31.

A fascinating display area created by Martin Guitar Company (see our cover photo), showed guitars in the various stages of construction, along with an explanation video and photos of the members of the Martin family who have overseen this company since the 1800s.

You will notice that I have not yet left the USA-Canada room. This portion of the trip took over two hours, and I have only touched on the highlights.

Benny Goodman's Clarinet

Benny Goodman’s Clarinet



Time was running short so I blasted through the rooms devoted to Europe and Latin America. I never entered the areas for Asia and Africa. But I was resolved to return next time I am in Phoenix.

Any lover of music will find a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum enjoyable. Musicians and instrument builders will find it a must-visit. And if you visit once, you will plan to return.

Herbie Mann's Flute

Herbie Mann’s Flute



Al Price contributed this article.  Al plays and teaches banjo in Auburn, Washington.  He works by day in sales and marketing for Nechville Banjos and plays banjo for the Rusty Hinges Bluegrass Band.

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To Pedal or Not to Pedal – Part II

To Pedal of Not To Pedal – Part II

A Pedal Board

A Pedal Board

This is part 2 of our article on purchasing and setting up a pedal board (See Fretmentor’s Blog entitled “To Pedal or Not To Pedal Part 1”, where we talked about putting a pedal board together and the power supply required for the board.  Next, we look at some more details when making your purchase and constructing the right Pedal Board that meets your needs.

1. Start Small

Chorus & Overdrive Pedal

Chorus & Overdrive Pedal

Don’t run out and buy $500 worth of pedals. Start with two or three pedals. One overdrive or distortion pedal, one modulation pedal (like chorus) and one ambiance (reverb or delay) is enough to get started. Get used to them, play with the settings, the tone the level and experiment with using them in combination. Once you had a taste, you can start thinking about adding more pedals to your chain.


2. There are no Rules

Finally, there are no rules. With that said, here are the rules. Certain pedals are generally considered to sound better either in front or behind other pedals. The general order is still just a consensus opinion. For every one of these rules, you will find some famous guitarist that bucks the trend and uses a particular pedal in a different order to get a different sound. So, while these are the rules, feel free to break them at any time.

Wah Pedal & A/B Switch

Wah Pedal & A/B Switch

Expression pedals usually go first. So from the guitar, usually the first pedal is an expression pedal, like a wah pedal or other pedals that amplify or add sound. These allow you to run other behind the expression pedal and control the intensity of the effects from the other pedals further back in the chain.

Next usually comes pedals that change the tone of the guitar. These are overdrive pedals, distortion pedals and compression pedals – the bread and butter of your pedal chain. The order of these pedals is your preference. The compression pedal is commonly put in front of the overdrive and distortion pedals to increase the signal to these pedals and improve their sustain. Since the drive/overdrive and distortion pedals change the tone, they are usually put in the front so that the altered tone can be modulated and altered through the pedals later in the chain. Multiple tone pedals are common. Overdrive pedals like the BOSS Blues Driver create a very different tone and sound from other types of drivers like the OCD pedal or the Tube Screamer. Also, your tone pedals can be pre-set to different tones. You can keep one overdrive pedal fairly clean, one really dirty and one in the middle, and switch between them without spending time reseting the pedal before starting a different song.

The tone pedals produce a lot of noise and can create a fair amount of feedback and hissing from the amp. Especially if more than one is running. So, a noise suppression pedal is often placed after the noise-producing tone pedals and before the next pedals in the chain. Some people put the noise suppressor at the very end of the chain. You will need to try it both ways to see what works for you.

Digital Delay Pedal

Digital Delay Pedal

After the tone pedals come the modulators. These are pedals like flangers, chorus phasers and rotary pedals. These pedals take the sound, altered by the overdrive or distortion and modifying it.

Finally, comes the ambiance pedals. These are delay and reverb pedals. These are the last things that should happen to the sound before it reaches the amp. While most people put the delay before the reverb, I’ve been experimenting at both. I’m still not sure which sounds better.

I recommend starting with these rules, and then experiment moving your pedals around in the chain – especially the noise suppressor pedals and the reverb/delay pedals. The variations are endless depending on your taste and the type of music you want to play. Your pedal board should alway be a work in progress. That’s what makes it fun. So, good luck!

Andrew Baumann, a fretmentor student and attorney by trade, contributed this article.

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Are Community School Music Classes For Me?

Fretmentor Group Classes

Class Instruction for students.

Class Instruction for students.

Its that time of year again.  A new year, new year resolutions, and proud new owners of musical instruments acquired from the holiday.  Now the hard part.  How do you learn to play guitar, banjo or mandolin or another instrument?  Where do you go for instruction?

There are many means of instruction.  Some are free; such as free online tutorials.  Others are an investment; such as private instruction.  A good bargain that fits somewhere in between is your local community education programs, which are taught at a neighborhood high school.  For instance, starting January 22nd, I will be offering many cost effective music classes at the local high school here in Jupiter, Florida.  If you are in the area, I would encourage you to sign up for these classes.

Palm Beach County Community Education brochure

Palm Beach County Community Education brochure

Here is the itinerary for this term:

Fretmentor.com Presents:

The following fretmentor music classes are being offered through the Palm Beach County Community Education. Classes will be held at Jupiter Community High School on Monday and Tuesday nights. Registration can be done in person at the school or online at www.pbclearn.org.

Jupiter Community High School:
Register online (at pbclearn.org or in person) starting January8th Classes are for 8 weeks 1/22 – 3/13 2018

  • Playing Bluegrass & Acoustic Music – Mon 7:00-8:00pm
  • Learning 5 String Banjo & Mandolin (combined class) – Monday 5:30-7:00PM
  • Children’s Guitar – Tuesday 4:35-5:35
  • Adult Beginner’s Guitar – Tuesday 5:45-6:45
  • Music Theory & Appreciation for all instruments – Tuesday at 7 PM
  • Blues & Rock Music for Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin & Fiddle – Tuesday at 8PM

There are many benefits for the student and the instructor when teaching in a classroom setting.  The students get to meet others, learn an instrument in a cost effective manner and get valuable playing experience.  The teacher, on the other hand, has the opportunity to develop a network of music students upon which to grow a business.

More detail can be provided in a later Fretmentor’s Blog, to further explain the pros and cons of classroom teaching.  Until then, have a wonderful new year.

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The Avett Brothers at the Paramount Theatre

Avett Brothers

Avett Brothers


Best time of my life!  The Avett Brothers show at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids was like a dream come true.  With seats in the middle orchestra section Row C – yes, Row C! – it was a very personal experience with an up-close view of the energy and soul Scott and Seth bring to the stage.


Paramount Theatre

The Paramount Theatre is not too shabby either.  We were told it had recently been restored after flooding destroyed much of it and wow, what a beautiful place!  With seating for just under 1700 people, this was the type of intimate setting I’d been dying to see the Avetts perform in.  And they did not let us down!

The fantastic set list (see below) included several of the True Sadness singles but also included a healthy number of old classics including “Slight Figure of Speech” and “February 7” which I was thrilled to see for the first time live.  Other special performances included Seth singing “In the Curve” (beaming in the spotlight in what felt like was inches from us!) as well as a visit from sister Bonnie performing “Swept Away” during the encore.  And speaking of the encore, how great of the guys to kick it off with a tribute to Tom Petty singing “You Don’t Know How It Feels”.  Awesome.

Avett Brothers

Overall a fantastic, unforgettable show that I’m so thankful to have attended.  A big thank you to Angela in Minnesota who was gracious enough to sell us her tickets without some ungodly fees like the brokers were going to charge.  Thank you, Avett Brothers for a great show!  Keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll see you in St. Augustine!

Avett 10/6/17
Satan pulls the strings
Live and die
Morning song
Distraction #74
Go to sleep
Le Reel Du Pendu/Les Bars De La Prison
Die die die
True sadness
Ain’t no man
February 7
I Wish I was
In the curve
Laundry room
The Prettiest thing
Head full of doubt/Road full of promise
Living of Love
Murder in the city
When I paint my Masterpiece
Slight Figure of Speech
No Hard Feelings


You don’t know how it feels
Swept away
You are mine
I shall be released



Note:  Kristi Johnson, from Tequesta, Florida, contributed this review for the Fretmentor Blog.  Kristi is a student of the guitar and an accomplished singer.

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