Music Instruction   

Updated  Monday, December 10, 2018 07:24 AM est                                          Your online source for old time music news

Why Should I Learn to Play Music?

If you knew tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers, you could become rich! But none of us can predict the future,… right? Well, not exactly. There are some things we can predict because they are bound to be that way, for example:

  1. All learning takes time

  2. Everyone gets older

Prediction: if you want to become skillful at something, you will be older by the time you attain that goal. Another way to think of this is, you could already be enjoying doing something well today if you started learning yesterday.

It’s unfortunate that so many people live out their lives without fully realizing their potential talents. Ask yourself how many different things you can do with your hands? Most people know how to do a variety of manual chores, but are they very interesting? Do your hands work well together? Do you just push, pull and hold things (or drop them as the case may be), or do you use your fingers independently, performing tasks that challenge your limits? Do the results satisfy you, and are you proud to show off to others?

Good moves aren’t all about accurate location, but they must happen at the right time. Learning to play music is a great way to develop your hands by practicing finger positioning and timing, as well as expressive feeling. Hearing is exercised as well, and who doesn’t benefit from becoming a better listener? Finally learning music gives your short term memory a workout. It seems too good to be true, but all of these things will improve from playing music, and you’ll have fun at the same time!

Remember, all learning takes time. Don’t be put off if you can’t become a superstar in one afternoon. Musical ability, like any other skill exists as a continuous spectrum – you’ll proceed gradually as you build advanced knowledge on top of basic techniques. The key is repetitive practice, with patience and sensibility. It’s true that children have an easier time learning than adults, but don’t make the mistake of saying it’s too late in life to start something new. If you do, you’ll be saying the same thing five years later, instead of gaining five years of experience. So, why should I learn to play music?

“Why not?”

For more information about learning to play Old Time Music, write to or see our contact page.


Calliope School Has Classes In Old Time Music

If you like folk music and think you might want to learn to play an instrument, the Calliope School offers group classes for many instruments in many styles, at many levels. Calliope has been a leader in providing quality instruction in the folk arts to the Pittsburgh region for over a decade. Classes run three times a year. Visit the Calliope School Schedule webpage for the current listings of registration deadlines and course dates. Register early and get a discount. Online registration available!

The following classes in Old Time music are regularly offered, other courses are listed on the Calliope website as well. Contact the school for information on what skill levels are available and for times and dates:

Old Time String Band Ensemble with Mike Reing. This ensemble class is for fiddlers, banjo players, guitarists, mandolinists and string bass players who want to learn the basics of string band performance and have structured practice time with other musicians. Students should be proficient on their instruments and be able to learn tunes by ear. The course will focus on both contra dance repertoire and old-time tunes. If your instrument is not on the list above, please check with the instructors.

Rhythm Guitar with Charlie Anderson. For guitarists who have mastered the skills taught in the Guitar I level. Students will concentrate on more left-hand/right-hand techniques, rhythms, and starting to explore the guitar.

Clawhammer Banjo with Janet Reing. Clawhammer style of banjo is a traditional Appalachian mountain style sometimes called frailing or rapping. Learn the basic right hand technique while chording songs and playing tunes by ear. Some tablature will also be available. Students will begin to learn tunes from listening to tapes as well.

Old Time Fiddle with Mark Tamsula. Learn to play the fiddle in the Old Time Appalachian style. Novice courses start from scratch, and the tunes are learned by ear. Beginning to intermediate levels develop left hand and bowing techniques and build a repertoire of fun tunes.  Fiddle Tunes of SW Pennsylvania. As you learn more about this music you may become aware of differences that exist within the Appalachian style, many of which have come about as regional variations that developed with centuries of immigration, migration, and local isolation. This course will present a selection that represents some of the traditional tunes from our region and hopefully suggest what the "Pennsylvania sound" is like.  

Mandolin I with Carol Palmer. This class is for both the rank beginner and those who have been playing for a while but are not yet ready for the Mandolin II course. We will cover the basics of tuning and caring for your mandolin, left and right hand technique and learn a few simple tunes to play. We will spend some time on exercises and technique, providing you with the skills needed to play the instrument. We will also learn to play scales and exercises, basic chords and several tunes. We will play slowly, focusing on producing good musical tone and developing muscle memory in your fingers, rather than speed. All music will be provided in both standard notation and tablature. The only prerequisite is that you have (or rent) a mandolin, though having an electronic tuner is also suggested.

Intro to Harmony Singing with Charlie Anderson. This is a class for those who want to raise their voices in harmony and learn to sing with others by ear. Basic harmony concepts of chord-building, chord progressions and part-singing will be introduced and practiced. All teaching will be done by ear without printed music. Students should know how to sing with proper technique.

Calliope School Schedule


Folk College at Juniata
with Simple Gifts

Folk College is a fun weekend of playing and hearing folk music. Pack up your instrument (or voice) and head for Juniata College for a weekend full of workshops, jam sessions, concerts, and group playing. The event is designed for musicians with eclectic tastes. Within one weekend, you'll have a choice of workshops ranging from old-timey to celtic to international, and you'll get to sing, dance, play, and listen. Musicians of all instruments and levels are welcome, and there are also choices for non-musicians who want to listen, learn, and experiment with folk music. Plus, school teachers in Pennsylvania will receive Act 48 credit.

This will be a real college experience. All events are held in college classrooms, and you'll have the option of staying in a dorm room and eating in the university's dining hall. We hope you'll join us for a weekend of good times and great music!

Among the many varieties of folk music there you will find a number of workshops featuring Pennsylvania fiddle tunes.

Juniata College is a beautiful setting in Huntingdon PA, nestled in the Allegheny Mountains of Central Pennsylvania..

Juniata Folk College
Huntingdon, PA

Sponsored by the Huntingdon County Arts Council. 
For registration information,
contact: e-mail:
Phone: (814) 643-6220

Simple Gifts   Three women plus twelve instruments equals one good time with Simple Gifts. This award-winning trio plays everything from lively Irish jigs and down-home American reels to hard-driving Klezmer frailachs and haunting Gypsy melodies, spicing the mix with the distinctive rhythms of Balkan dance music, the lush sounds of Scandinavian twin fiddling, and original compositions written in a traditional style. The group is comprised of Rachel Hall (concertina and piano), Linda Littleton (fiddle, hammered dulcimer, recorders, bowed psaltery), and Karen Hirshon (fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and more). Band member Linda Littleton is also the founder and Artistic Director of Folk College.

N.A. Fiddlers Workshop Held in June

Since 2002 The North Allegheny Fiddlers have held their Summer workshops in June. Students’ grades 6-12 fiddle together for a week to learn traditional fiddle tunes.

The workshop is under the direction of Dennis Morton, a string teacher at North Allegheny for ten years.  He is presently teaching at Ingomar and McKnight Elementary Schools.  He also plays with the North Pittsburgh Philharmonic and the Butler Symphony.

Guest clinician: Mark Tamsula began fiddling and performing over 23 years ago.  He now plays the old time fiddle, banjo, guitar and mandolin. For more information about fiddling and his involvement with groups in the local area check his web site at

For many years the old style of fiddling, has been passed down from generations aurally, or without the use of written music.  Since most music rehearsed will be played by ear during this workshop students will work on their memorization skills, but are also encouraged to bring a tape recorder or video camera to the workshop.  These taped lessons may be beneficial when students are reviewing their daily lessons at home.  Students should be sure to attend all lessons because of the large amount of music that will be introduced. The workshop will cover a diverse range of fiddling styles including Scottish, Irish, Cajun, Old Timey and more.  Students work on improvising simple melodies, bowing techniques, harmonies and ear training.

On the Saturday following the week long workshop the students will participate in an old time jam session.  Students will perform traditional music for parents and friends at an outside picnic/performance.  Additional summer performances may include Sherwood Oaks and performances with the North Pittsburgh Philharmonic during their summer concert series.

For more information on registering for the workshop please visit the North Allegheny website  at:

Greenwood Furnace
with Simple Gifts

The Greenwood Furnace Folk Gathering is a weekend of music with plenty of opportunities to share, jam, dance and learn. Musicians of all levels as well as non-musicians who wish to listen or experiment, or pick up a dance step or two, are invited to participate in workshops designed and led by professional instuctors. Saturday evening’s highlight will be a concert with Simple Gifts followed by a contradance. View the detailed schedule for more information

Greenwood Furnace State Park is a beautiful state park located in central PA, between State College and Huntingdon, on the Mifflin County border.

Sponsored by the Huntingdon County Arts Council and Simple Gifts
For registration information,
contact: e-mail:
Phone: (814) 643-6220