My name is Erik, and I am a musician.
I’m not a particularly good musician, but I have played in a band, on stage, in front of people, at a bluegrass festival, and been paid for it.
If you had told me in 2005 that this was possible, I would not have believed you. And if you had told me that the genre would be bluegrass, I would have laughed out loud.
I was in my mid-30s, and knew nothing more than the few chords that everyone picks up in school from friends who actually know how to play. Sure, I could bang out “Mr. Jones” around the campfire, but I had never used a guitar pick. I didn’t even know flatpicking was a thing. All I knew about bluegrass was that banjos and fiddles were involved. That had been enough to keep me away.
But a bunch of things happened around that time. My first kid was born. I retired from competitive sports. I needed a new hobby. And I happened upon a feature in the local newspaper about a group of people who got together every Monday night across town to pick bluegrass. Simple songs. Basic chords. They welcomed all. No experience required.
I hadn’t picked up a guitar in years, because playing alone wasn’t motivating for me. I had always preferred playing in the company of others, passing the guitar around, singing along to each other’s songs. This bluegrass thing—it sounded a bit like that.
The club had designated the first Monday of every month as their sort of beginners’ night, when they slowed down the tempo to accommodate newcomers. I don’t usually do these things, but the next Monday I pulled my guitar out of the garage—a dusty, nylon-string classical was all I had— and just showed up.
I think it’s fair to say I was hooked from Day 1.
It’s really weird, learning to play a genre of music you have never listened to in your life except by accident. The songs were all new. The style was all new. I had a lot to learn. Fortunately, this was in the waning days of free online file sharing, and I was able to download a good library of bluegrass standards and immerse myself in the music.
That’s how it all started. For the next three years I attended weekly jams and practiced almost every night out in the garage. I went from a hack who couldn’t pick and sing at the same time, to a regular who could lead a song at the jam, to guitarist in a five-piece bluegrass band that played Legion halls and minor festivals. It wasn’t much, but playing in a band was a lifelong dream come true.
I started Rosewood & Hog to help others do the same thing.
You can find better guitar instructors out there, and you can certainly find better pickers. But after the countless hours I spent scouring the internet and online forums for any bit of guitar-playing advice that might help, then putting it all into practice, I feel like I learned a few things. I’d like to pass them on. Hopefully they’ll help you, too.
A word of warning: You can’t love bluegrass guitar without loving bluegrass guitars. It’s not all about picking here at Rosewood & Hog. We’ll also be talking about instruments. You might learn a few things about tonewoods and lutherie. You’ll probably learn about some accessories and become convinced that they’re all you need to become a better player. They aren’t, but by all means click through and make the purchase. I might get a small commission.
And finally, we have a great respect for the traditions of bluegrass. We will cover its history, its culture, and the great pickers who taught the pickers who taught the pickers who headline the biggest bluegrass festivals today.
As the site grows we will welcome new writers, and better pickers than me who can show you their tricks on video. If you’re a bluegrass picker who has a way with words, or a good lighting-and-camera setup in your woodshed, feel free to reach out and we’ll see if we can find a way for you to contribute. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rosewood & Hog FAQ
Why aren’t there any videos of you playing guitar?
Honestly, I’m not that great a picker. I’ve never pretended to be anything more than an intermediate player, which is why most of the material here is for beginner and intermediate players. I do worry that posting videos of myself playing might harm the credibility of the website! Hopefully I’ll get over that soon and start posting videos regularly.
Until then, I’d love to hear from any flatpickers who have a decent home video setup and would be interested in contributing two-minute instructional videos for the site. Helpful drills, tips, whatever. I can pay a little bit. Get in touch.
Why the orange trim?
I launched this site the week that Tony Rice died. As a tribute to Tony, I found a nice image of him picking his old Martin D-28 (No. 58957) and used a special tool to select a color pixel from the top of that beautifully aged guitar. That’s the colour you see on the trim of this website.