Bluegrass Jamming Class Begins This Weekend

Graham Sones will be teaching a Bluegrass Jamming Class using the Wernick Method beginning this Sunday, April 9.  The class will be held on consecutive Sundays through May 14 with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 16.  The class will be held from 1-5PM each Sunday.  Graham, as many you know, is a Scruggs-style picker with more than forty years of experience.  Full details of the Class are available at http://www.bgjam.com .  We are pleased to be hosting this event and encourage your attendance.  All instruments are invited.

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Homestead Ultimate Banjo Mutes

Banjo Mutes have always been a sought after item, and until now it has been difficult to find one that is light weight, easy to use and effective.  The Homestead Ultimate Banjo Mute solves the problem.  Made of solid brass, the Homestead Ultimate Banjo Mute is U shaped piece of brass lined with a fabric to keep it firmly in place on the bridge.  It very simply slides across the bridge under the strings and firmly stays in position to make the banjo tolerable to the lightest sleeping child and very acceptable in the politest of company.  Check one out today.  And at only $15.95, it is very affordable as well.  It can easily be adjusted to fit any bridge on the market.  The accompanying photos will give you a closer look.  homestead-capo-1homestead-capo-2

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Gypsy Swing Jam

There’s a new jam in town. Monday, November 7, 7:00 pm is the inaugural session of the new Gypsy Swing Jam. Its a jam for folks interested in the gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt and American swing and jazz standards. This jam is recommended for intermediate to advanced players with some background in the music.; All related acoustic instruments are welcome. Participants will be reading charts, so bring a music stand if you have one and copies of your favorites to pass around. Rich Smith who is not stranger to The Pickin’ Parlor will be hosting the jam. 7:00 to 9:00 pm is the intended duration. The frequency of the sessions will be a topic of discussion during this initial session. Questions or suggestions can be directed to Rich at richsmith2053@gmail;com. See you Monday.
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Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands are coming to town

Laurie Lewis is one of the most celebrated song writers and performers in the world of Bluegrass music today.  We are delighted to be able to host Laurie and her band, The Right Hands on Saturday, October 29.  The Right Hands are long time musical partner, Tom Rozum, Patrick Sauber and Max Schwartz.  This will be Laurie’s only 2016 Minnesota appearance and will likely sell out.  The concert will be held in the Armatage School Auditorium located at 2501 West 56th Street, just 11 short blocks north of the Pickin’ Parlor.  The show will begin at 8:00 pm, doors will be open at 7:15.  Tickets are $20.00 in advance, $25.00 at the door.  They are available now.  This show must be on your DO-NOT-MISS list for your Autumn bluegrass fixes.  The attached flier will let you keep it in mind.




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Upright Bass on Consignment


We recently took in a very nice upright bass on consignment. Here are the specs!

-Cremona SB – 2 3/4 (3/4 size)

-G. Edward Luthierie (Gary Bartig) set it up, put in pickup model R-10704IMG_1066
-padded TKL Gig bag with shoulder strap and D-rings for backpack-style straps

-strings: E & A look to be Innovation Honeys, and the D & G look to be either Innovation Psycho Slaps or Silver Slaps. Either way they’ve got a nice balanced pull to them and even tone across the range
-buckle rash on upper right bout where you’d expect it to be

-edges frayed as expected from wear and tear
-small dent on upper left bout

-arched front and back
-plywood top, back, and sides

-adjustable bridge


Come on in and take a look. She’s a honey of a bass with a good tone!

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Bart Reiter Banjos be Back!

IMG_0558Bart Reiter makes a fine, fine banjo. When I started working here a little over a year ago we had two Bart Reiter banjos in stock. They sold pretty quickly, and no more came in. Then we got one in about a month ago, and that sold in a matter of days. We’ve just received two more, and, as a banjo player, you owe it to yourself to come and try them out. The models are the “Buckbee” and the “Round Peak,” and they rule!IMG_0568

Both the “Buckbee” and the “Round Peak” feature:
-2-ply, laminated Maple rim, with a walnut cap
-Maple dowel stick
-Elite Amber head
-Rolled Brass tone-ring
-Notched tension hoop
-No-Knot tailpiece
-24 brackets
-17 fret, 3-piece Mahogany neck with frailing scoop
-Ebony fretboard and peg-head overlay
-Mother of Pearl inlays
-Bone nut
-5-star, geared tuning machines
-Satin lacquer finishIMG_0560

Where they differ is in the details: The “Buckbee” has an 11″ pot, and the “Round Peak” has a 12″ pot with a rolled Brass arm rest. The “Buckbee” has a simple, unadorned rectangular peg-head, while the “Round Peak” has a fancy-shaped peg-head with a tasteful star inlay.


The biggest difference in these banjos, though, is in their tone. The 11″ “Buckbee” has a rich, mellow tone, with a nice, short sustain. The “Round Peak” has a brighter, slightly louder tone, with much more sustain. But really, that doesn’t tell you a lot; it’s hard to put it into words: the best way to experience it is to come on in to the shop and play them back to back.



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Graham McDonald, Australian author/luthier

IMG_0532Graham McDonald with one of his Kickstarter mandolins and his own, personal player, and Marv with his autographed copy of Graham’s book


Monday, May 16, we had a special guest here at the Pickin’ Parlor. Graham McDonald, a luthier from Canberra, Australia, dropped in to buy some cases for several of his mandolins, and ended up staying for several hours, talking with us here and packaging his mandolins for mailing.

Graham is a 5th generation Australian; his family moved to the island from Scotland in the 1840s. He has been building bouzoukis, mandolas, mandolins, ukuleles, and hardanger fiddles for over 35 years.

The official reason for Graham’s visit to the United States is a lecture he is giving to the American Musical Instrument Society at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD, on Wednesday, May 18. He will be talking about mandolin acoustics and the difference between classical (European) mandolins and American mandolins.

Like the best of 21st century multi-taskers, Graham is taking advantage of his visit to the States and using it as an opportunity to deliver several Kickstarter rewards to his backers. The Kickstarter was for the publication of his third book, The Mandolin, A History. The rewards are his gorgeous, hand-carved mandolins. Graham came to the Pickin’ Parlor on the recommendation of members of the Mandolin Café website: he posted on the board asking, “I’m flying into the Twin Cities: where can I get cases for my mandolins?” The very first answer he received was, “The Homestead Pickin’ Parlor!” Thank you so much to the users at the Café for the recommendation!
Graham had three mandolins with him when he stopped in. All of them were beautiful examples of his skill and artistry. Two were Kickstarter rewards and the third was his personal player.

HPP - 051616 - McDonald -DSCN0183 (CER-)Photo by Ron Miles


The first was based on an Italian, deep-bodied mandolin, with an arched and canted top of simple spruce, and back, sides, and neck of Tulip satinwood. The headstock was slotted and topped with an exquisitely carved finial that hooked forward like a letter “J” and terminated in a flat-heeled, ebony faceplate.

HPP - 051616 - McDonald - DSCN0178 (CER-)Photo by Ron Miles


The second was a copy of an early-Twentieth century, deep-bodied Lyon & Healy mandolin. It was again made with Tulip satinwood for the back, sides, and neck, and spruce for the hand carved top. The body style was a two-point A-style body. The inlays on the fingerboard were in the shape of clouds, which echoed the hand-carved, art-deco-style cloud motif on the top of the headstock.

HPP - 051616 - McDonald - DSCN0181 (CER-)Photo by Ron Miles


The third was Graham’s gorgeous personal player, built in 2014. The body was a simple Gibson-based A-style, built with woods native to Australia: a King William Pine top, Huon Pine body, and Australian Red Cedar neck (Graham explained that Australian Red Cedar is similar to mahogany, and used as a premiere cabinet-making wood in Australia). This mandolin smelled INCREDIBLE. Since none of the woods used are readily available here in the United States, there are no good words to describe the smell, only that it was very strong in a pleasant way, and smelled almost minty, like menthol, and sweet, and piney.

All three mandolins used Rubner tuning machines, with contrasting bright, polished brass backing plates and black buttons and tuning gears. Rubner is a German machining company started in 1843. They are still today based in Markneukirchen, the birthplace of C.F. Martin.

IMG_0536Packing up the Kickstarter mandolins for shipping to NJ & TX


And all three sounded amazing! The tone on these mandolins was well balanced, with clear high notes and a pleasant mid and low range. Bruce Johnson played Graham’s personal player and said, “Wow. That’s really nice. That’s really well done. It comes across in all the ranges and plays really well.”

The book—Graham’s third—has taken 6 years to finish. Along the way he got to travel all over Australia, the United States, and Europe, researching, taking pictures, meeting folks, and talking to experts about the history of the mandolin. He said that sometimes you meet a person who is the absolute expert on ONE particular aspect or piece of history, and their knowledge is deep and fascinating. He also got to take a lot of the photos himself, while others were provided by various collectors and collections. With either source he had to take the backgrounds of the photos out himself, and said, “I now know more about Photoshop than I ever thought I’d need to know!” He also said that one of the most fascinating things he discovered while writing his book is that, for the most part, Americans are ignorant of the existence of European mandolins, and Europeans are ignorant of the existence of American mandolins.

Before going to Vermillion, SD, and the conference, Graham is heading to Mason City, IA, to pursue another interest of his: the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. We told him about the Frank Lloyd Wright gas station in Cloquet, MN; he was very interested but didn’t have time on this visit to go and see it.

After the conference, Graham will head to Seattle to meet with a film-maker/mandolin player about the possibility of doing a documentary based on Graham’s book. Graham said that he is excited about the possibility, but mentioned that documentaries can be hard to get finished because the licensing of the music for them can be very expensive and difficult to navigate.

You can learn more about Graham, his book, and his instruments at McDonald Strings.

Marv is talking to Graham’s American distributor in the hopes of getting copies of the book here at the Pickin’ Parlor. I’m personally hoping we can figure out a way to carry a few of Graham’s mandolins here at the shop, too.

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Breedlove Mandolins: We’ve Got Them, We Love Them!

A few months ago we had a visit from the new Breedlove Mandolin dealer in our area. We played the mandolins he brought in and fell in love!

They have a natural, bright, woody tone that is associated with the best of mandolins. Think Bill Monroe’s classic Llloyd Loar with modern body details and hardware.

All of their models feature solid Sitka Spruce tops and solid maple back, sides, and necks; arched top; radiused Rosewood fingerboard and a wider neck profile; and a bone nut.

We currently have in stock the FF NT, FF SB (pictured F-style), OO Natural, and OO VS (pictured A-style) models. Come get them while we’ve got them: the last shipment we got in sold out in two weeks, with two going in the first week!

P3860244 P3860243

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Dakota Dave Hull at HPP May 7, 2016, 12:30 PM


Our friend and music legend Dakota Dave Hull will be here live and in-person at the Homestead Pickin’ Parlor signing copies of his new CDs, “Heavenly Hope,” and, “This Earthly Life,” on Saturday, May 7, 2016   at 12:30 PM.

All are invited! Folks who participated in Dave’s Kickstarter are encouraged to drop by and pick up their goodies: help save a tree!

Come June, Dakota Dave will be celebrating the release of these two CDs at the Celtic Junction. For more information go to http://www.thecelticjunction.com/home/dakota-dave-hull-june-4/

We hope to see you Saturday, May 4, 2016, at 12:30 PM, for this LIVE in-store appearance by the man Dave Van Ronk described as, ““One of the best guitarists in the world.”


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Deering Banjo Ukuleles arrive

Just received our first shipment of two Deering Goodtime banjo ukuleles.  There has been lots of buzz about these instruments and our first examination tells us they are everything they were promised to be.  The attached photo replaces the 1,000 words we were going to put in this space.  We have more on order, but you should check these out before they disappear image

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