Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Norman Blake

I’ve always listened to Blake from time to time, but I’ve been mostly a Tony Rice, Steve Kaufman, and Clarence White “fan boy”. I’ve recently been burning up 4 Norman Blake albums and truthfully can’t get enough of his playing.

I’d be interested if any of you have found any lessons on his playing that you have links to? I’m really interested into diving into and breaking down his style/sound for learning purposes.

Any links or resources that you found useful on Norman Blake would truly be appreciated.

Big Norman Blake fan here also. Not saying he’s the best but he’s always been my favorite picker. I’ve got an instuctional DVD for mandolin by him but nothing for guitar. If I did I’d sure share it with you.


Did you think the mando dvd was worth it? Reason I ask is that I see that Norman put out 2 instructional vids for guitar and I may just purchase them.

I have two of Norman’s lessons from Homespun. The more recent is Mandolin on DVD, the other is about 15 years old on Guitar. I’ll have to go dig it up, but I’m pretty sure it was on VHS tape, it’s that old. I liked them both, but of course as I’m wont to do, I learned 1 song from each and never went back for more. That’s more on me.

If I can find the Guitar tab I can try scanning and PM-ing it to you.

I can’t tell if this is an updated version of what I have, but those are definitely the songs on my tape copy: … ues-dvd-1/

Oh yeah it was definitely worth it to me but like I said, I’m one of his biggest fans so even if his instructing stunk (which it didn’t) I’d have still enjoyed it just to watch him play. Not sure why I never bought one of his guitar DVD’s, I may just get one of those myself.
I can’t help but post one of my favorite clips of him picking with his wife Nancy who plays some mean rhythm guitar herself. You’ve probably seen it but just in case you haven’t, hold on to your chair!


I couldn’t find my old tape, don’t have anything to play it on anyway. But I did find the 8 page tab booklet. Phew, I thought it was 15 years old, but it’s more like 27. I tried to PM, but it didn’t work, you have it blocked. Send me one and we can go from there if you’re interested in looking at it before you buy the DVD.

Jim G

thanks for the private message, I sent you an email. As mentioned, I truly am appreciative of you effort you put fort in the above posts and sending a pdf. I’ll probably purchase the Homespun stuff of Blake’s in the next day or so.


That’s pretty special there (video). That 1934 D18 is also pretty special. It takes a lot for me to get worked up over a guitar but that D18 is about as good as it gets. I was at Gruhn guitars a week or so back and banged on just about all their “old” guitars. There was a 1964 D28 in there that made my heart flutter and had “that sound”…wife didn’t care too much for the price tag though! She’ll be hard pressed to keep me from buying a 30’s D18 if I ever run into one. I might end up with a black eye but from my perspective the pain will be worth the pleasure.

On Norman Blake:

As mentioned, I’m just now starting to become a “fanboy”. Norman has always existed in my head ever since I ventured into bluegrass, but I’ll admit that I was not as appreciative of him as I am now. There is just something about Norman that is 100% authentic to me.

A mandolin friend I play with from time to time insisted on giving me 3 or 4 Norman cd’s . About a week after that I found myself driving on a long 10 hour journey. I decided to really take the time to listen to those cd’s…been burning them up ever since and that was nearly a year ago. You can bet that if I am in the car driving that Blake is coming through the speakers. It’s not only the picking, but it’s the singing and songwriting that are likewise pretty amazing to me. His original instrumentals kind of knock it out of the park also.

I was raised a redneck in the Hills of Southern Ohio just off the river on the southern tip. That area might as well be KY or WVa. Norman definitely takes me back to a time that my grandfather told me stories about.

Email sent Jesse.

As for Norman, I first encountered him in the mid 70’s on that seminal ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’ triple album by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Over a decade later I stumbled on to his ‘Whiskey Before Breakfast’ album which I still love. Great woody, front porch sound on that one. And a decade after that had another accidental encounter when I picked up John Hartfords ‘Aero-Plain’ CD. I don’t have a ton of bluegrass music in my collection, but Norman Blake seems to show up an awful lot on what I do have.

I did see him in concert once. He and Nancy opened for Doc Watson over at Harvard’s Sanders Theater. The theater is an old round church, with the old, uncomfortable wooden pews. I guess it’s as close to Ryman’s as we have up here now that I think about it.

Thanks for the Email Jim.

Hartford and “Aereo-Plain” is classic. I am a Gen-Xer, born in 1970. My father was an X-infantryman in Vietnam. He was a bit to old to do the “hippie thing” but he sure loved to play bluegrass and drag the family to bluegrass festivals in KY, Wva, and S.Ohio. He played guitar and banjo and I got to see all the folks who I somewhat idolize now “back then”. I didn’t know them then and dad passed a few years back. My mother however will say “That song you’er playing is by “So-and-So” and your father and I drug you kids to see him/her at a fest back in 1975”…lot of good memories there…Big 25 gallon cast iron pot of brown beans cooking up by the stage and cornbread for all.

I’m a Hartford fan also. I tend to lean towards “hippie grass” more so than bluegrass standards.