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Bluegrass Mandolin Jam Favorites
with Joe K. Walsh
About This Course
Learn the essential instrumental  tunes you’ll encounter at bluegrass jam sessions everywhere. Designed for intermediate level mandolinists, with tunes, techniques, and solos from mandolin greats.
Try a Sample Lesson

The bluegrass jam favorite “Dixie Hoedown” comes from mandolin great Jesse McReynolds and has been recorded by numerous people, including Jerry Douglas, David Grisman, Matt Flinner, and many others. But nobody really plays the B part the same way. The version you’ll learn here is based on the way Grisman, Jesse McReynolds, Ronnie McCoury, and others played it on Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza. Joe starts by showing you the A part, phrase by phrase. You’ll also learn the chords to the A part in this video.

Meet the Instructor
Joe K. Walsh
Hailed by Nashville’s Music Row magazine for his “lickety-split mandolin work” and by Vintage Guitar magazine as “brilliant,” Joe K. Walsh is one of the best mandolinists of his generation. Walsh is known for his exceptional tone and taste, and his collaborations with acoustic music luminaries, including legendary fiddler Darol Anger, flatpick guitar hero Scott Nygaard, folk legend Jonathan Edwards, and pop/grass darlings Joy Kills Sorrow, have taken him all over the musical and figurative map. An avid mandolin educator, Joe is a mandolin instructor at the Berklee College of Music and teaches regularly at music camps throughout North America and beyond.
Peghead Play-Along Tracks
Peghead Nation is creating a library of accompaniment videos (and downloadable MP3s) for songs and tunes that are taught on the site, classics that you'll find at many jams and picking parties. As a subscriber, you have access to this library and can use the tracks to practice playing tunes and songs at a slow or medium tempo with guitar accompaniment. New songs will be added regularly.
Bluegrass Mandolin Jam Favorites Source Material

Check out these songs featured in the Bluegrass Mandolin Jam Favorites course.

The Bluegrass Mandolin Jam Favorites Subscription Includes:
  • In-depth mandolin instruction on on fiddle tunes and popular bluegrass instrumentals
  • More than 30 instrumental favorites from mandolin greats Sam Bush, Jesse McReynolds, Bill Monroe, Chris Thile, and more
  • New lessons added every month
  • Notation/Tablature for all lessons
  • Play-along tracks so you can practice what you’re learning
  • High-quality video with multiple camera angles so you can see closeups of both hands in action
$20/Month For One Course
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Bluegrass Mandolin Jam Favorites Course Outline
Chinquapin Hunting

Learn the great old-time fiddle tune “Chinquapin Hunting,” which has become quite popular on the bluegrass jam scene in the last few years. Joe breaks it down for you phrase by phrase and shows you how to add a backbeat to the steady stream of eighth notes in fiddle tunes.

Cuckoo’s Nest

The fiddle tune “Cuckoo’s Nest” has been recorded by many people, including Nickel Creek, and though originally Irish in origin has become a bluegrass and old-time jam session favorite. Joe plays through the tune and then reminds you of his technique for playing eighth-note triplets, which occur in multiple places in the A part of “Cuckoo’s Nest.” Then he walks you through the melody phrase by phrase.

Lonesome Moonlight Waltz

Bill Monroe’s “Lonesome Moonlight Waltz” is kind of an anomaly in the bluegrass world. It has a unique chord progression and it uses some atypical triplet rhythms in the melody. You’ll learn to play it in closed position with tremolo, as well as how to play triplets with a down-up-down pattern and then starting the next phrase with a downstroke.

Road to Columbus

Bill Monroe’s “Road to Columbus” was recorded by the great bluegrass fiddler Kenny Baker on his album Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe and that’s the version you’ll learn here. Joe explains how to pick some of the syncopated lines in the A part and how to play the slides and triplets. The B part has some long held notes, which fiddlers can sustain with their bow. You’ll learn the way Kenny Baker plays the B part and the way Joe has adapted the melody to the mandolin to fill out the long melody notes. 

Dixie Hoedown

The bluegrass jam favorite “Dixie Hoedown” comes from mandolin great Jesse McReynolds and has been recorded by numerous people, including Jerry Douglas, David Grisman, Matt Flinner, and many others. But nobody really plays the B part the same way. The version you’ll learn here is based on the way Grisman, Jesse McReynolds, Ronnie McCoury, and others played it on Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza. Joe also talks about the “target” notes of the first half of the melody, and how to create variations by targeting those melody notes. For the second half of the B part, you’ll learn a cool syncopated line played on Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza as well as a variation played by mandolinist Casey Campbell.

Big Sandy River

“Big Sandy River” comes from Bill Monroe and fiddler Kenny Baker’s playing of the melody has influenced the way many people interpret the melody. “Big Sandy River” has been recorded numerous times and Joe references a few different versions in this lesson. You’ll learn the way Joe (and others) play the melody as well as how Kenny Baker played the A part.

New Camptown Races

Mandolinist Frank Wakefield’s instrumental tune “New Camptown Races” has become a contemporary bluegrass instrumental classic, but the way the melody is played these days is a bit different than the way Frank played it in the early 1960s. In this lesson you’ll learn the way Frank originally played it as well as a more contemporary version based on the way mandolinist Jesse Brock plays it.

Leather Britches

There are many versions of the fiddle tune “Leather Britches,” but the one you’ll learn here comes from Sam Bush, who recorded “Leather Britches” on Late As Usual. In addition to Sam’s version, Joe shows you how he plays the melody to the A part of “Leather Britches” in a higher octave. 

Jerusalem Ridge

Bill Monroe's “Jerusalem Ridge” is a four-part tune in the key of A minor. You’ll learn the version played by Monroe’s long-time fiddler Kenny Baker, which has become the standard reference for all the bluegrass instruments. The A and B parts are fairly straightforward but the C and D parts have some unusual timing and phrasing.

Ashland Breakdown

Bill Monroe’s tune “Ashland Breakdown” is in the key of C major and has three parts. You’ll learn the way fiddler Kenny Baker played “Ashland Breakdown” on his classic album Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe. The A part is played entirely in second position, with your index finger on the third fret, while the B part moves between second and first position, and the third part is played in first position on the bottom two strings.

Big Sciota

The old-time tune “Big Sciota” entered the bluegrass jam world through its presence on Skip, Hop, and Wobble, the great 1993 recording by Jerry Douglas, Russ Barenberg, and Edgar Meyer. Mandolinist Sam Bush guested on that recording of “Big Sciota,” and Sam’s playing as well as a version by Chris Thile are the sources for Joe’s version.

Bill Cheatham

You’ll hear the old-time fiddle tune “Bill Cheatham” at jams everywhere as well as on numerous recordings. In this lesson, you’ll learn a basic version of the tune as well as some of Joe’s favorite variations.  

Shove the Pig’s Foot a Little Further in the Fire

This old-time tune has become a favorite of bluegrass musicians lately. Joe’s version comes from a recording by Bruce Molsky and Big Hoedown, and there are lots of other old-time versions. Rock icon Mark Knopfler even recorded a version of “Shove the Pig’s Foot a Little Further in the Fire” with Bruce that they called “Oklahoma Ponies.”

Old Dangerfield

Bill Monroe recorded his instrumental tune “Old Dangerfield” in 1981, and it has been recorded numerous times since then by a variety of musicians. Joe’s version of “Old Dangerfield” reflects the melodic approaches of Stuart Duncan, Sierra Hull, and Matt Flinner. 


David Grisman’s tune “E.M.D.” was the leadoff track on the debut David Grisman Quintet recording in 1977 and it has become a bluegrass jam favorite, in part because of its repetitive syncopated melody and chord progression in the key of E minor. In addition to showing you the melody (which just has one part), Joe talks about improvising on “E.M.D.”, explaining how to modify the scale you’re using for the C7, A7, and B7 chords.

Denver Belle

Kenny Baker’s tune “Denver Belle” has had a resurgence in popularity lately, and Joe recorded it with Darol Anger on the E-And’ A album. “Denver Belle” is in the key of C, but it modulates to the key of G for the B part.

Done Gone

There are a few versions of the fiddle tune “Done Gone,” some in the key of C with three parts. But the most popular version, the one you’ll likely encounter in jams, is in the key of Bb, with a B part in the relative minor of Bb: G minor. The melody includes lots of Bb arpeggios, so it’s a good workout for your fretting hand in the key of Bb.


Mandolinist Herschel Sizemore’s “Rebecca” is one of the most popular bluegrass mandolin tunes around. It’s in the key of B and has some unusual phrasing, with an irregular number of measures. In addition to being a great tune to play, and one that gets called at a lot of bluegrass jam session, it includes a number of useful phrases you can use when playing in the key of B. Herschel recorded this a couple of times and seems to play it a little differently every time, so Joe has created a composite version that includes all of his favorite passages from Herschel’s recordings and live videos on YouTube.

Big Mon

“Big Mon,” of course, comes from Bill Monroe, and is a must-know tune for any bluegrass mandolinist. There are a few ways to play the second part, but in this lesson you’ll learn the way fiddler Bobby Hicks plays the melody. “Big Mon” is usually played as a two-part tune, but there is a third part, that often functions as a variation on the A part. You’ll learn all three parts in this lesson.

Squirrel Hunters

The old-time tune “Squirrel Hunters” has become a bluegrass jam session favorite in the last few years. It comes from John Hartford and has an unusual relationship between the melody and the chords. 

Cherokee Shuffle

The bluegrass jam favorite “Cherokee Shuffle” comes from 1950s Nashville session fiddler Tommy Jackson, who took the old-time tune “Lost Indian,” changed the key from D to A, and essentially came up with a brand new B part, which includes an extra two bars.

Eighth of January

The old-time fiddle tune “Eighth of January” is a favorite of bluegrass players. Tony Rice recorded a great version on his first Rounder album in the 1970s with David Grisman playing mandolin and Darol Anger playing fiddle harmony. It’s a great tune to play harmony to, so you’ll learn the melody and a high harmony in this lesson. 

Kitchen Girl

The old-time fiddle tune “Kitchen Girl” comes from West Virginia fiddler Henry Reed, and guitarist Bryan Sutton recently recorded a version that has made the tune popular in bluegrass jam circles. The first part is in A Mixolydian and the second part is in A Dorian, so they’re good examples of the differences between those modes. 

Lonesome Fiddle Blues

Vassar Clements’s “Lonesome Fiddle Blues” is probably his most famous instrumental, and there have been numerous great recordings of it. Instead of the usual fiddle AABB form, it has an AABA form, and the B part is more of a set of chord changes than a melody. Vassar also plays the melody differently every time he plays it, so there are many ways to interpret the melody. Joe shows you his version of the A part, along with some variations, and two different ways to play the B part.

Temperance Reel

The Irish tune “Temperance Reel” is also a popular tune in bluegrass jams. It’s in the key of G, with a second part mostly in E minor, the relative minor. In addition to showing you his version of the tune, Joe shows you some ways to improvise on the melody.

Boston Boy

The old-time fiddle tune “Boston Boy” has been recorded by Bill Monroe, David Grisman, and others. It’s in the key of C and, like a lot of old tunes, the melody has been played in many different ways. Joe shows you a couple of different ways to play it, the first based on the way Grisman plays it.

Brown County Breakdown

There are many versions of Bill Monroe’s E-major, three-part fiddle tune “Brown County Breakdown,” but Kenny Baker’s is probably the clearest iteration of the melody, so that’s the one you’ll learn in this lesson.

Fisher’s Hornpipe

The traditional fiddle tune “Fisher’s Hornpipe” has been played and recorded by countless people, including, perhaps most notably for mandolin players, Chris Thile and Mike Marshall on their Into the Cauldron album. In addition to teaching you Chris and Mike’s version of the melody of “Fisher’s Hornpipe” in this lesson, Joe also shows you how to come up with a harmony part for “Fisher’s Hornpipe” and tunes like it.

Watson’s Blues

Bill Monroe’s tune was written for guitarist Doc Watson, and usually starts with a guitar lick, while the mandolin melody is played with tremolo for most of the tune. It’s in the key of E major, but mostly uses the E minor pentatonic scale. Joe’s version is influenced both by Monroe’s version and David Grisman’s.

Daley’s Reel

“Daley’s Reel” is a fiddle tune likely of Canadian origin in the key of Bb. It’s great for getting familiar with the key of Bb, and is a good bootcamp for your pinky, as the pinky is used a lot in both parts to play the Eb note on the A string.

Gold Rush

The bluegrass jam favorite “Gold Rush” was written by Bill Monroe and fiddler Byron Berline, and has been recorded by numerous people. Joe walks you through his version, which is influenced by the way Berline plays it, especially the A part. You’ll also learn the B part in two octaves.

Cattle in the Cane

The fiddle tune “Cattle in the Cane” is one of the few fiddle tunes that changes keys, in this case from A Mixolydian to A minor. It’s been recorded a number of times, perhaps most notably by Tony Rice on Church Street Blues and Sam Bush on Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza. Joe walks you through his version of “Cattle in the Cane” in this lesson, giving you a couple variations on the melody as well.

Billy in the Lowground

The old-time fiddle tune “Billy in the Lowground” has long been a staple of bluegrass jams. It’s in the key of C with a distinctive A part but a somewhat nebulous B part that Joe plays in second position.

Red Prairie Dawn

The old-time fiddle tune “Red Prairie Dawn” comes from Indiana fiddler Gary Harrison, and has become popular in bluegrass jam circles lately. It has an infectious melody with a lot of space and a chord progression that has evolved over time.

Red Wing

“Red Wing” is a Western swing tune that has become popular in the bluegrass world, and its melody originally comes from the 19th century German classical composer Robert Schuman. Woody Guthrie also used the melody for his song “Union Maid.” It can be heard in a few different keys, but fiddlers usually play it in the key of G, so that’s where you’ll learn it. It’s a simple melody and can be played in a number of different ways, so, in this lesson, Joe shows you how he would “mandolinify” it.

Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom

The old-time tune “Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom” has become popular with bluegrass musicians lately. There are a number of old-time fiddle versions of the tune, which bears little resemblance to the fiddle standard “Blackberry Blossom,” but most bluegrass versions use what’s called a Lydian dominant scale, which has a flatted seventh and a raised fourth.

Blackberry Blossom

“Blackberry Blossom” is one of the iconic bluegrass jam tunes. Joe’s version was influenced by the way Tony Rice and David Grisman played the tune on Tony Rice’s Manzanita recording. The tune starts with a simple pattern that is repeated and Joe uses “Blackberry Blossom” to talk about playing variations on the pattern. The B part of “Blackberry Blossom” is unique, with a chord progression mostly consisting of Em and B7 before moving back to G at the end of the part. In addition to showing you the melody, Joe shows you how to improvise over the Em and B7 chords.

Ragtime Annie

The fiddle tune “Ragtime Annie” is common in bluegrass and old-time jam sessions everywhere. It’s a two-part tune in the key of D, and is occasionally played with an additional third part, but in this lesson you’ll learn the more common two-part version.“Ragtime Annie” has the standard AABB fiddle-tune form, but the second B is different from the first B, so you can also think of it has having one long B part.

Stony Point

The old-time fiddle tune “Stony Point” goes by a few different names, but the most common is “Stony Point.” Joe learned it from Tony Rice’s Manzanita album, and that’s what this version is based on. It’s in the key of G, with the first part primarily in E minor, although many people start with the G major part. It’s also sometimes played with a third part, but in this lesson you’ll learn the two-part version that starts on E minor.

East Tennessee Blues

“East Tennessee Blues” is played everywhere, and there are lots of versions of it, with many variations of the melody. Joe shows you the basic version he plays in bluegrass jams, as well as some of his favorite variations.

Maiden’s Prayer

Bob Wills’s tune “Maiden’s Prayer” is a staple of the western swing repertoire but it’s also popular at bluegrass jams. It’s a beautiful melody played at a medium tempo, so it’s a great song for working on improvising. In this lesson, Joe shows you his version of the melody and gives you ideas on improvising on the melody.

Over the Waterfall

The old-time fiddle tune “Over the Waterfall” is in the key of D and is notable for its nice C–G chord change in the first part. It has a somewhat simple melody that can be easily filled in with eighth notes to make it more complex. Joe shows you the basic melody as well as a more complex, embellished version of “Over the Waterfall.”


Red-Haired Boy

The fiddle tune “Red-Haired Boy” is popular in bluegrass, old-time, and Celtic circles. You’ll learn the standard melody as well as a version that comes from guitarist David Grier in which he adds two bars of empty space at the end of each two-bar phrase.

Liza Jane

There are a few old-time fiddle tunes with Liza Jane in the title, but this one originally comes from Kentucky old-time fiddler J.P. Fraley, who recorded it on his album Wild Rose of the Mountain in the key of A, but it is often played in D as well, and that’s where you’ll learn it here.  Joe learned it from Todd Phillips’s record In the Pines, which features mandolinist John Reischman, as well as Tony Trischka, Scott Nygaard, Stuart Duncan, and others.

I Am a Pilgrim - New Lesson

“I Am a Pilgrim” is an old gospel song that has become a popular instrumental jam tune. In this lesson, Joe shows you three different ways to play the melody in the key of G in different parts of the neck. The first version is in the lower octave in open position, the second is in the lower octave in closed position, and the third is in the upper octave.

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