2018 is here, what’s your plan?


The new year is upon us.  Do you have any goals?  I think you should.  If you don’t then you are working towards what exactly?  Why not set some goals and aim for them?  Can’t hurt and shouldn’t be too painless.  So here are my goals for 2018.

  • Banjo playing – I want to practice a lot in 2018.  4 days a week is my goal.  2017 was a bust for me in this area.  So much was happening with the move (twice), my medical situation, and more.  I’m counting playing as anytime I play (even if it’s in front of people).  Anyway 4 days/week.
  • Recording/Uploading vids – 1/week
  • Blogging/writing – 1/week
  • Health – same as most here, lose weight.  But more than that I want to actively work to improve my health.  Most of y’all know I had a positive cancer test when my appendix was removed.  So this one will encompass a LOT of stuff.
  • Farm/garden – we moved in Sept. 17.  We have 3 acres and there are some gardens already in place.  We will be expanding that in 2018 by adding chickens, more growing beds, and more fruit bearing trees/bushes/vines.
  • Homeschool – this is my first year and I’m doing ok so far.  I want to improve and one huge thing for my daughter will be chickens.  They will be a project she and I will solely handle.  She will learn so much (as will I) and I can’t wait to experience this with her.

Would you like to learn to play the banjo? Check out my lessons HERE

  • Bible Knowledge – I have been reading the Bible several times a week for several years now but I am still barely treading water.  This year I am diggin deeper!  I have my Bible Reading Plan ready.  Here it is if you are interested 2018 Bible Reading Plan.  We haven’t found a church home yet and hope to do that this coming year as well.  My faith has grown in leaps and bounds over the past several years and I praise God for that, but I have so much farther to go.
  • Finances – But Mandy you just quit working???  Yeah I know but we also downsized almost every single thing in our lives.  We are working hard to use our money wisely.  I’m cooking at home a TON, I’m shopping sales only, selling more extra things we have, and using a debt snowball (it really works).  So the goal here is to sell our camper (getting rid of another payment), refinance student loans (because I am drowning there and only paying interest), and pay down everything.  What we have left is student loans, camper, 1 vehicle, mortgage, and medical bills.  We have zero credit debt.  By the end of 2018 our goal is to have the camper gone, refinance student loans, and knock off a good chunk of the principal on our vehicle.  I already do bi-monthly mortgage payments (which automatically knock 5 years off your payments).

So there you go.  I hope this inspires you to set some goals and write them down somewhere.  I will come back the end of 2018 and see how we did! (May even make a post about it).





Sing while playing, yes you!

For some of you this is a dreaded topic.  For others it’s no biggie.  This post is for everyone, but I’m mainly aiming it at those who are hesitant (or downright scared) to sing.  You may be making a face similar to this, hahaha!


Ok so now that it’s out there let’s talk about it.

  • Does everyone have the best singing voice in the world?  Nope, me either.
  • But, but, but I can’t sing.  Sure you can sing, you just haven’t really tried.
  • I’ve tried and I hate my voice.  Get over it, everyone hates their own voice.
  • My family only wants to hear me play.  They haven’t had a sing along yet!

Would you like to learn to play the banjo?  Check out my lessons HERE.

I’m telling you that you can do it and that your family and friends will enjoy it.  Boy talk about an ice breaker at a party or bbq, pull out a banjo and sing a silly song and that party will be the best one ever.  People will sing along and laugh and trust me even if you royally screw it up (which you will at least once) they will appreciate it and have fun.  There’s something about a banjo that really draws people.  It also makes people smile.  Since it’s usually an uncommon instrument you will have everyone talking.  Ok back to the singing part.

So here is what I recommend you try.

Pick an easy song.  This seems like common sense but seriously – pick a super easy song.  Think Old Macdonald and stuff that is simple and everyone knows.

  1. Learn every verse of that song (if you don’t already know it).  For a BONUS write a couple verses yourself that are totally silly!
  2. Play it very slowly on your banjo and sing along.  If this is a problem for you then practice.  A lot.
  3. Once you can play it very slow, just start to speed it up.  Oh and you don’t have to be speedy gonzalez here!  People want something they can sing along to, so it needs to be easy.
  4. Practice it fully all the way through the song.  If you only practice a few verses, then when the bbq happens you might have a hard time playing completely through the song.  Jitters do happen and it’s ok but be as prepared as possible.
  5. Practice it with your family beforehand.  If there’s not a party or a bbq happening or you are just too nervous yet, don’t worry about it.  Just play and sing and have fun with your family.
  6. If you just will not sing no matter what I say – go to plan B.  Plan B is get one of your kids to do the singing.  Kids enjoy it anyway and at least someone will be singing.  Don’t worry no one is asking you to go on America’s Got Talent or anything.  LOL

Well I hope that I’ve inspired you to at least attempt singing.  No one cares if every note is perfect.  It’s just for fun and it will make everyone around you laugh and have a great time.  If you sing just a little off-key you could even make a joke out of the whole thing and exaggerate it some.  That’s funny too.

Singing while playing will bring a whole new challenge as well.  I think of it as a switch.  At first you won’t be able to do both at the same time.  After practice, some more than others, you will flip that switch.  Then BAM!  You will suddenly just be able to sing while playing.  Once you flip that switch it’s on, meaning each time you pick up your banjo and play and sing you will be able to now.  Whereas before you just couldn’t (because the switch wasn’t flipped yet).

Singing will improve your playing also.  Wait what Mandy????  Yes, it’s true.  That switch will free up other things in your brain as well.  Like you could make a list in your head of what you need to do this weekend (while playing).  That example is an advanced one, but yes it frees up your mind.  How can this make me a better player you ask…  Well you will be able to improvise more.  WHAT?  Singing a silly little song while playing my banjo can do all this?  Yes I’m here to tell you that it will.

*Below is a devotional that I recommend.  Everyday is filled with getting closer with Jesus.  It’s quite inspirational and thought provoking as well.
Your mind will be able to process things differently and while you are playing you can sort of just do it naturally.  Improvising will get much easier and just happen.

If singing is something you haven’t tried yet or you haven’t tried it in a long time please give it another go.  If you just do 5 minutes on to your regular practicing you will get better at it and flip that switch.  Trust me here.

Have you ever tried to talk while you are playing?  If you ever have you know it’s difficult if you haven’t flipped the switch.  Want to experience this yourself?? Well get started now……….   go………. what are you still doing here? LOL



Some of my banjo favorites

I’ve been asked previously to talk about some of my favorite banjo music.  Well here you go.  I’ll give you a few examples of my favs.  Oh and please note that these are in no particular order.  Oh my I couldn’t pick just one all time favorite so please don’t ask.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops – this is my favorite album of theirs (the group won a Grammy and then split up unfortunately).

Rhiannon, Dom, and Justin created MAGIC in my opinion with this album.  WOW, just WOW y’all.  I was lucky enough to see them in concert together prior to the split and Grammy win.  They were touring this album and were playing at a famous (dive) in Athens, Georgia.  I studied Rhiannon and her playing like a hawk during that concert.  If you don’t already know I liked one song from this album so much that I did a lesson vid on it.  Check out my YouTube Channel here.  I also waited and got all 3 of them to sign my banjo head.  Wow what a treasure right?  Yeah, I wish I had it.  We’ve had hard times (who hasn’t right) and I sold it.  I would love to find it and have it back.  Anyway water, bridge, you know.

Ok so from here I take you to a very talented man named Willie Watson.

For those of you who don’t know, Willie was formerly in the band Old Crow Medicine Show.  *side note – Wagon Wheel is OCMS’s song originally.  They added on to lyrics from a Bob Dylan poem and BAM, one of my all time favs.  And I have several videos on WW if you are interested – click my youtube link above.  Ok so back to good ole Willie.  He’s a good musician!  He plays multiple instruments and I love his style.  This album is a must in my opinion.  You will not be disappointed if you purchase this!  And yep I’ve seen him in concert too.  🙂 Willie is my husbands favorite BTW.

Up next is Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.  They have so many great albums I’m just putting a recent one up. Check out all of their stuff.

Where do I start with these two?  Hmmmm in a nutshell I love them!  Before you ask, yes I’ve seen them in concert.  Haha.  The banjo is played by both of them in their albums but one of my favs is when David plays Six White Horses.  You guessed it, there’s a vid on me showing you how to play a piece of this song on my channel too.  There’s just not enough I can say about these 2.

I don’t give you these recommendations as just someone typing something and not having experience with it.  I have seen all three of these acts in concert, owned multiple albums by them, and poured over their music for years.  These are my top 3 by leaps and bounds.  I’ll give you others below who I also enjoy, but in my opinion they just don’t rise to the level of these 3.

-The Avett Brothers.  They are really hit or miss with me. When they hit I absolutely love them.  I even have a lesson vid on Swept Away!  Imagine that….  Again many good albums here is just one.

These brothers and their long time friend Bob I believe is his name (sorry if I screwed that up) are wonderful musicians.  This is one group I haven’t seen in concert.  Now that’s not to say I didn’t try.  I went to get tickets and they were over $50 a ticket, so ah nope not doin it.  I have mixed feelings about this but that’s for another day.  Anywho they are probably the most “mainstream” of anyone I’ve mentioned.  The Carpenter is what I consider their first album after hitting it big.  I didn’t like it.  Anyway I love most all of their older stuff and you’ll catch us singing and playing their stuff too.

Gonna show you one more.  This one has a special place in my heart because she’s what got me started with clawhammer banjo.  In her own right she’s a wonderful musician, songwriter, and singer as well.  This is not an Amazon link and I get no commission whatsoever.  Visit her store here at Atwater Donnelly .  I’ve seen her in concert multiple times, taken a claw class from her (where I got my start), and I enjoy her dancing also.  My mother and I took a clogging class from her several years ago when she was down this way.

Ok so I’ve given you a bunch of great Christmas gift ideas here too folks.  Don’t be afraid to share this page with your family members to nudge them in the right direction, LOL.

Be Blessed!

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Christmas Banjo Bundle

Ok folks it’s that time again.  Here’s my 2017 Christmas Banjo Bundle.  Available for purchase from today until December 31st at 12:00PM Eastern Standard Time.

Here’s what ya get –

  • My Video Lessons Pack – (Regular Price $29.99) – includes 1 to 2 years of lessons.   Depending upon how fast you are.  You’ll get access to my private lesson videos (in order), lots of printable materials including tips and tablatures.  And you can watch the videos as many times as you’d like.  You will have unlimited access to all the videos (so there is no time limit).
  • My eBook and audio exercises – (Regular Price $14.99) – includes my 62 page book and over 30 audio exercises.  You’ll learn 5 songs and multiple versions.
  • My CD in MP3 format.

You get all this for only $39.99 

If you are ready to learn banjo just CLICK HERE

You can securely purchase through PayPal.  You do not need a PayPal account.

Merry Christmas and let’s learn to play the banjo and have fun!



No More Rosewood, oh my…

In case you didn’t know, 300 types of rosewood (and some other wood) has recently become very regulated.  If you would like to read more 2017 Regulations

What does this mean Mandy?  This means that any new instrument you purchase will not be made of rosewood (or these other woods).  Does it mean that my rosewood instrument that I already have is illegal, oh no??  No it does not.  It just means that you cannot take that instrument out of your country.

Why are you telling me this Mandy? Well, I’m telling you because any new instrument you purchase through me (as a dealer for Gold Tone and it’s partners) will not have a rosewood fretboard.

-Would you like to learn banjo?  Check out my eBook or video lessons pack HERE

This leads me to happily say I’m getting a NEW BANJO!!!  YIPPIE, that’s always a good thing am I right?  Do the happy dance –


I’m getting a new banjo so that I can show you the new wood used in Gold Tone fretboards and review it for you, wink wink!

The new wood used will be Australian or New Zealand Blackwood.  Here are some interesting facts about this Australian Blackwood

Gold Tone will be getting the banjo I’m purchasing back in stock in early January.  I’ll have a full review once I get it and I’ll be playing it a LOT (reasons why will be in another post).

I feel weird not putting a photo into my blog post so here is a random photo for your viewing pleasure.  This is a coat rack my husband made for us out of CEDAR.  I am talking about wood so yeah.  We got the board from a man who sells them at the flea market, and some nice cast iron hooks from another vendor there.  Hubby sanded the board and installed the hooks and there we go.




Do new techniques scare you?

Does the thought of learning new techniques intimidate you?  Are you comfortable in your banjo playing?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, then I challenge you to learn something new.  Wether you are a confident banjo virtuoso or mere beginner, there is always more to learn.

Here’s a short video on slides, hammers, and pull-offs.

Do you already know these and add them into your songs regularly?  If so that’s great.  You know how wonderful they sound and how much they add to your playing.  If not, then get to work!  Practice them and think about how you can add them into your playing.  Does this slide sound good or bad here?  Am I doing too many hammers in this song?  Thinking about these things and having variations will lead you to new things.

I aim to help newer players because I feel that is the crucial time!  I don’t want anyone to give up or think they can’t do something.

If you are interested in learning to play the banjo in the clawhammer style, then I have a few offerings for you.  I have an eBook and video lessons pack available HERE.

I also have more FREE videos on YouTube available for you to learn from.  Please subscribe, like, and share the videos.

Now go learn something new!


My #1 video for a reason

This is my #1 video of all time for a reason.  Well several reasons actually.

  1. It’s short
  2. It’s fun
  3. Breaks the technique down into 3 easy steps

If you simply follow these 3 steps you will be playing banjo in no time.  Do heed what I say about repetition though.  If you take your time with this and do it right you will have all the tools necessary to play any song easily.

From here you add on to make a song more “yours” or more “challenging”.  The best part about this method is that it’s so versatile.  You can switch it up using simple techniques and sound really good.

If you would like my lessons I have both an eBook with audio exercises, and a video lessons pack.  Both have wonderful information and both come with printable/saveable materials.  To learn more or to purchase visit Banjo Lemonade Lessons



Watch the guitar banjo lesson

Playing at a jam session is often a scary and daunting thing to most newer banjo players.  This video will make you a better banjo player!  Here I show you the 3 common guitar chord shapes of G, C, and D.

If you can watch the guitar at a jam you can play along with almost any song.  Learn the most popular chords “shapes” and unknown songs become easy to play.  This technique is used by MANY people.

A guitar (usually many guitars) are always a mainstay at jams or play alongs.  One thing that can happen if you see multiple guitars is one of the guitars will play alternate chords that sound good together.  If you can recognize any of these chords you can play along with the lead or rhythm.

If you need help learning to play the banjo here are my lessons.  You can choose the eBook and audio exercises, or the video lessons pack.  Both have plenty of great material to learn from.  My goal was to provide multiple methods for those who prefer “books” to “videos” and so forth.  The vid lesson pack also has printable/saveable written materials.  Banjo Lemonade Lessons

I’m here for you if you have questions.  I get many questions but will do my very best to answer them all.  Another of my goals is to get as many people playing banjo as possible.  Banjo playing, especially the old-time styles are becoming lost in the world.



How clawhammer was born for me…

When you want genuine music – music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey, go right through you like Brandreth’s pills, ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pinfeather pimples on a picked goose – when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo! – Mark Twain

That’s how I feel when I play the banjo.  You can’t help but smile when you hear someone playing the banjo.  At least I can’t….

When I began my banjo journey back at Christmas 2003 I had no idea where it would take me.  I’m so happy to stay I still play today.  So many get an instrument and mess with it for a few minutes then off to the pile of forgotten things forever.

So I asked for a banjo for Christmas.  My husband got me one and off I went.  Little did I know the impact it would have on my life.  The banjo gets in you.  If you don’t know what I mean by that reread the quote above.

So I tinkered with Scruggs style for a year and a half.  Teaching myself and taking 3 lessons with a teacher.  The internet was a big help to me.  In a year and a half of playing I learned quite a bit.  I don’t want to take away from Scruggs style in any way, but it’s not for me.  Scruggs style is something that takes daily practice, if you get away from it for any number of days your playing will indeed suffer.  If any Scruggs folks want to chime in on this please feel free to do so.  It takes a tremendous amount of practice and the banjo must go with you on vacation so to speak.  I doubt there will be disagreement there.  Anyway I got decent at it.  And oh how I love listening to it being played.


Playing morningsong at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC.

I was working at a Folk School in the office and I kept hearing clawhammer banjo.  I actually didn’t like it at first believe it or not and shhhhh don’t tell anyone!  LOL.  Seriously though I kept hearing it and I was intrigued by it.  I would see the “claw” hand and think now how the heck are so many beautiful notes coming out of that one shape.  Little did I know what was about to happen.

So as a perk to working there I was able to take a class for free.  I had to take off from my work but took the class anyway.  It was a beginning clawhammer class.  I’ve posted this part before but for those who haven’t seen this I’ll add it here.  Aubrey Atwater was the instructor.  This was 2005.  I took the weeklong class and fell in LOVE.  Literally in love with the technique and sound.  Aubrey is an amazing teacher, performer, and person so anyone who has the chance to see her or learn from her should do so.  Check her out here – Atwater-Donnelly

That week I absorbed everything so fast and it felt great.  That’s not to say that the clawhammer stroke, as I call it, is quick to absorb.  But if you get bit by the clawhammer bug as hard as I did you can master it in just a few days.  Aubrey even commented to me that I was a natural at it.  She may not have known I was going home and doing it for hours!  Haha.  That week began a new fire, spark, whatever you want to call it.


To take a look at my instruction materials visit here – Video lessons and eBook


So I claw’ed away.  I smiled a lot!  I began purchasing cd’s of bands that played clawhammer (Aubrey’s of course) and so on.  Jon, my husband for those who don’t know, liked it too.

This brings me to another thing I’d like to talk about.  Your family.  Anyone who knows me knows I can be blunt – If your family hates the banjo then a banjo player you will not be.  This is true.  Unless you are one of those loners who escape their family for hours at a time every day (and there are people like that).  If you are one of those then maybe you can be a banjo player.  Otherwise if you are surrounded by your family most all the time aside from work, then they better like it too or you will have an extremely difficult time.  Like anything in life, if you don’t have support then it will be more difficult.  If you are single or no one else lives with you then this won’t be an issue obviously.  I give you tools to deal with this in my eBook actually because it is a “thing”.

My husband plays guitar.  He really began playing when I was getting into the banjo so much.  We enjoy playing together, though we don’t do it nearly as much as we should.  We began playing and singing some.  It was (and is) fun.  Our daughter will sing along as we play.

As the next chapter in my banjo journey continued I met some folks on the internet who play.  Kelly Griner is one of them.  He talked to me several times and encouraged me.  Kelly is a good guy.  He’s got an Irish Folk Band called Another Pint. He also has a good YouTube channel.  Check it out here – Another Pint

So that’s basically how my clawhammer journey began.

I hope you are enjoying the blog and getting to know me a little more.  -Mandy

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Learn to play the banjo now.

Do you want to learn to play the banjo? Have you always wanted to learn to play an instrument but have always put it off or been afraid?  Do you love the sound of the banjo?  Would you love to sit around a campfire and play and sing?  If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then I have something for you.

Here’s a sampling of what you can learn.  Mandy playin’ Cripple Creek

I have an eBook that I am exited about.  I wrote it and it takes you from the very beginning of learning the banjo.  From how to hold it, begin to play it, practice, and learn songs.  There are 5 songs in the book and 32 audio exercises.  I teach you how to read tablature (it’s really easy the way I teach it).  The eBook is loaded with pictures and closeups.  If you’ve been hesitant to learn before, here’s the best part.

I offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee.  With no questions or strings attached.  If you want your $$ back just ask and I will give it.  I’m happy to say in a couple years of selling this eBook I’ve never once had someone ask for their money back.  If you do though, it’s ok, LOL.


Buy Now – Easy Clawhammer Banjo $14.99

Purchase through PayPal and buy with confidence.  You do not need to have a PayPal account.  I will then send you your link to download your eBook within 24 hours of purchase.

Easy Clawhammer Banjo eBook

If you already know how to play but would like to support my efforts on my free YouTube channel you can donate below.  Thank you!
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