A handy tip guide to inexpensive learning resources for the bluegrass player. This article was published in the July 2018 issue of the Bluegrass Canada magazine, and is recreated here with permission. Tha author of the article was Gord DeVries.
This article is intended to give learning musicians some helpful tools for becoming better players.
It is neither exhaustive nor intended to replace traditional music teachers in the learning process. There's a myriad of new methods, both in your own community and available on the internet. The ones presented here are designed to support your other, more traditional means for learning.
Price: 5.00 USD /Month or 49.00 USD/Year
This may be the most important tool I've found! The absolute best way to learn to play by ear, is to play with others. Timing, rhythm and speed are crucial and those are skills best learned with accompaniment. The Strum Machine gives you a guitar player who never sleeps, can play every song in any key and at any speed you ask for. He doesn't care how good (or bad) you are, doesn't mind if you play guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, dobro or whatever.
He'll do the rhythm for you perfectly every time.
Since i wrote this article in 2018, Strum Machine has been improved with the addition of a mandolin chop track, and bass!
As of this writing, the standard library of pre-created bluegrass songs stands ar 1301. My own personal library is 58 (many Mike Auldridge tunes.)
A simple search by song title and artist will usually bring up a video giving you what you need. Download it to your own computer. (See the next item.)
Just paste the youtube url link into Ummy and download! The tool has a selector which permits the download of an MP4 (full Video and Audio) or MP3 (Audio only). Your selection will be determined by how you want to use the download once its on your own computer.
Source: is part of Microsoft Windows.
Load your MP4 video and play. To alter the speed, right click on the screen and select Enhancements>Play Speed Settings. You should now see a screen pop-up with a control which permits you to alter the playback speed. You'll notice the selected speed maintains the pitch of source video, so you can play along at the slower (or faster) speed until you have mastered the piece.
Price: $49.95 USD
Once you load an MP3 into this app, you have a very powerful tool at your fingertips. It will play the source at any speed you wish, while maintaining the pitch. Use it to play along with the artist at a slow speed until you feel you have it, then speed it up, until you can play along at 100%. You can set up loops in the playback to autorepeat sections you're having difficulty with.