Back in New England; Here's My Contact Information
Street Address: 68 Windsor St., Arlington MA 02474
Home Phone: 781 646-3242
Cell Phone: 781 316-5564)
New Collaborations. Since my move back to New England I have started working with guitarist Jim Prendergast. Jim now lives in the Portsmouth, NH area and plays mostly Celtic-style guitar in
DADGAD tuning, but he lived in Nashville for years and had a long career there as a prominent guitarist on the session and club-date
I also work from time to time with Janine Randall, who plays Cape Breton style piano. Janine learned backup piano directly from her mother
mother, a close relative of Cape Breton fiddle great Angus Chisholm. When Chisholm and many other great Cape Breton players were in town,
they often attended musical gatherings at Janine's home.
My long-term collaboration with fiddler Alan Jabbour continues.
New Book on Prince Edward Island Fiddling
My recently completed book on the folklore of Prince Edward Island fiddling has been approved for publication by the Tennessee
University Press as the inaugural volume in its Charles Wolfe Series (Wolfe was a noted and much beloved folklorist who wrote about
fiddling in the mid- and upper-South). The book's title is, Couldn't Have a Wedding Without the Fiddler: Traditional Fiddling & Community
Life on Canada's Prince Edward Island. If all goes well this could be available within a year. As soon as there's more news on this to report
I will post it.
Update on the PEI Traditional Music Website.
Sorry to report that plans for launching the PEI Fiddling Website -- based on my
field recordings, and entitled Bowing Down Home: Traditional Fiddling on Prince Edward Island -- has been put on indefinite hold.
Due to developments in Canadian politics, the website's sponsor, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, has been renamed and no longer has
the same kind of folkloric mission. All the development work on the website has been done, and I'm hoping to eventually find a new home for
it (any suggestions along these lines will be much appreciated). The website is designed as a multi-media presentation featuring audio, video,
photographs and text, and it was to have included hundreds of selections featuring both music and oral histories.
One of the World's 50 Great Books
Ken's book, Advanced Fingerstyle Guitar was included recently in a book by Shawn Persinger called The 50 Greatest Guitar Books
(Quixotic Music Co.). Thanks Shawn! It's always cool to be part of the 50 best anything!!
Ken Is Now Available for Lessons and Workshops via the Internet/Skype
Southern Summits is Ken's Latest Recording Project, a Joint CD with Fiddler Alan Jabbour
Southern Summits: 21 Duets for Fiddle & Banjo is a joint project with fiddler Alan Jabbour. Alan and I started playing together while both were on staff at the Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp in Colorado, and that eventually led to a quite a number of joint concerts, tours and this recording project. This CD accentuates the lyrical and whimsical nature of Southern fiddle tunes through the elaboration of the fiddle-banjo duet. The repertoire is drawn primarily from Alan's collecting work with West Virginia fiddler Henry Reed and Reed's contemporaries. Along with the usual complement of hoedowns and fiddle-rags, it also includes waltzes, marches, schottisches and quicksteps.
I see my own role in the recording as the culmination of a lifetime of playing with fiddlers from a variety of traditions. Sometimes the banjo plays "traditional" back-up, sometimes full or partial melody, sometimes close harmony, sometimes counter melody, sometimes piano-style bass lines, and on and on. We hope you enjoy listening to these arrangements as much as we enjoyed putting them together.
Ken's crystal clear clawhammer ably supported by some great "north country" musicians
on guitar, bass, fiddle, viola, mandolin, uillean pipes, flute, whistle,
bazooki and percussion. PLUS, three of Ken's patented fingerstyle guitar solos. For description, contents and to hear some sample excerpts click the CD cover or title above.
Ken's newest book, entitled Everything You Wanted to Know About Clawhammer Banjo is hot off the presses!! This represents Ken's first new banjo "tutor" since Clawhammer Style Banjo was first released in 1983. "Everything You Wanted to Know" is based on over twenty years of his columns in Banjo Newsletter and includes -- along with a considerable amount of instruction and observations about the style -- about 120 tunes, along with numerous exercises and musical examples. The chapters are organized as follows: basic techniques; advanced and experimental techniques; how to approach various kinds of fiddle tunes; how to approach various other musical genres; how to deal with accompaniment and backup; tunings; setup; banjo and old time music history; etc. All tunes are illustrated on two companion CDs. The price is $29.95, plus shipping. To order, click here
Celtic & New England Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo is the new name for one of Ken's Early Instruction Books
This book of 30+ tunes was first published in 1979 under the title "New England & Irish Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo." It was distributed by Mel Bay for many years as "Basic Clawhammer Banjo." Includes CD that illustrates all the tunes. For ordering info, click here.
This book features about 55 tunes in clear tablature, all illustrated on a new companion CD. Also includes instruction, exercises, musical examples, historical notes, technical illustrations and period photos. Price: $19.95
Ken is now director of several banjo camps and music camps, all characterized by great musicians on staff and well thought-out, well balanced schedules. They are listed below; click on each to go directly to the respective websites.
Northeast Heritage Music Camp is coming back for 2013 in a new location and under new auspices. I'm still director, but it's now a non-profit and I'll
be working for a board of directors made up of former NHMC students who couldn't bear to see the event fade away. The new site is Common Ground Center
in Starksboro, Vermont. The website is unchanged: www.northeastheritagemusiccamp.com
News About Some of Ken's Other Instruction Books & Recordings
Ken's Audio and Video Instruction Projects Re-issued in Modernized Formats
The companion video for Fingerstyle Guitar is now available in DVD format.
The new edition of Ken's award winning fiddle-tune collection has a CD insert included in the package (previously the CD had to be purchased separately). To order, click on the title, above.
Workshops and Classes Offered, Fall 2012 Thru 2013
Ken will offer numerous classes and workshops in banjo and guitar in the next year. For details, see Itinerary. So far, these include:
Sun, Jan 20. Montpelier Vermont. Workshop sponsored by Festival sponsored by Summit School (name for festival has NOT yet been
selected). Concert appearance on Sat. Eve, Jan.19, plus a banjo workshop Sunday aft. Jan. 20. For Details http://www.summit-school.org or 802-917-1186.
Suwannee Banjo Camp. O'Leno State Park, High Springs, Florida, March 15-17, 2013. Info: www.suwanneebanjocamp.com (Note: our Extra Day program takes place on the Evening of March 15 and the morning of the 16th).
Midwest Banjo Camp. Olivet College,Olivet, Michigan, June 7-9, 2013 www.midwestbanjocamp.com. (Note: our Pre-Camp program takes place on the Evening of June 7 and the morning of the 8th).
Aug 4-11. Augusta Heritage Old-time Week. Davis & Elkins College, Elkins WV.
"the Heifetz of the Banjo" The Chronicle Herald (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Superb instrumentalist, acclaimed teacher of instrumental skills, gifted performer,
award-winning folklorist, Ken Perlman is surely a welcome addition to any
festival or concert-series lineup. Ken is both a pioneer of the 5-string banjo style known as "melodic clawhammer," and a master of fingerstyle guitar. He is considered one of the top clawhammer players in the world, known in particular for his skillful adaptations of Celtic tunes to the style. On guitar, Ken's sparkling finger-picked renditions of traditional Celtic and Southern fiddle tunes are simply not to be missed.
He draws his material from traditional sources -- the music of Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island and the American South. His approach to the music, however, is highly innovative. He has developed many new instrumental techniques, and much of his repertoire has never before been played on 5-string banjo or guitar.
Around the folk scene, Ken is often referred to as a musician's musician -- a player whose style is so accomplished and unique that other musicians go out of their way just to hear him.
Ken is an acclaimed teacher of folk-music instrumental skills. He has written some of the most widely respected banjo and guitar instruction books of modern times, and he has been on staff at prestigious teaching festivals around the world. He has also served as director, or co-director for several banjo and music-instructional camps, including American Banjo Camp, Banjo Camp North. Bath Banjo Festival, Maryland Banjo Academy, Midwest Banjo Camp, Northeast Heritage Music Camp, and Suwannee Banjo Camp.
Also an active folklorist, Ken has spent over a decade collecting tunes and oral histories from traditional fiddle players on Prince Edward Island in eastern Canada. Two outgrowths of his research are a tune book called The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island and a two-CD anthology of field recordings called The Prince Edward Island Style of Fiddling (Rounder Recordings). In 1997 and '98, each of these works received
awards from the Prince Edward Island Heritage Foundation for helping to "preserve, interpret, and disseminate our province's fiddling heritage."
He has several recordings to his credit, including:
Ken has been performing on the acoustic music circuit since the late 1970s. He has played countless folk
clubs and coffee houses, dozens of festivals, and scores of other venues such as schools and
colleges, pubs, libraries, historical societies, and cafe's. He has toured across North America, Great
Britain, Ireland, Western Europe and Australia.
Ken's performances focus on his instrumental wizardry. Most of his material consists of
traditional Celtic and Southern U.S. dance tunes (often known as fiddle tunes), which he has arranged
for his own instruments: 5-string banjo and guitar. Of special interest: the tunes he has collected himself
from traditional fiddle players on Prince Edward Island.
Within a few minutes it was obvious we were being entertained by a remarkably skilled musician. The
richness and delicacy of his playing complimented by his interesting selections of tunes, made it a wonderful
evening of music. (Australian Folk Reviews Internet Site)
Perlman made the difficult look simple for an audience of about 100 people that sat transfixed at his
concert... He alternated on the banjo and guitar, performing new songs along with ones that were old
before Cleveland got its name. He communicated the feelings [of the music]... with nothing more than his
fingers dancing on the strings. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Although Ken's focus is on instrumentals, he does not ignore the vocal element. In a typical
show, he sings a variety of numbers drawn from such traditions as acoustic blues, ragtime, ballads,
minstrel show music, and Southern string band music. He also tells stories, offers accounts
of his music-collecting experiences, and makes wry comments on our lives and times.
As noted by the Plain Dealer, "his songs were witty, amiable and
Ken is internationally known as a pioneer of a banjo style known as melodic clawhammer.
This new approach has transformed clawhammer (also known as "frailing") from an
accompaniment to a solo style of banjo playing. Frets magazine calls him a
"clawhammer master," Banjo Newsletter notes, "Ken is the
undisputed king of the melodic clawhammer banjo style," while Fiddler Magazine calls him
"one of America's great melodic clawhammer banjo players." Of Ken's banjo picking,
The Glasgow (UK) Herald notes, "he can make his instrument do
more or less anything he wants it to."
Some other comments:
His...recordings...solidify his role as one of the most creative practitioners of this
art. He has stretched the boundaries of what can be done on the clawhammer banjo... His...
techniques open up a new world to the clawhammer banjoist. (Bluegrass
"[His Island Boy CD] is full of the most intricate and deftly played
arrangements... Ken takes the banjo far beyond the role of the thinking man's rhythm instrument... and
explores the furthest reaches of melodic clawhammer playing." (Old Time News)
Ken's significant contribution to acoustic guitar styles should not be overlooked. He is adept
at old-time blues, ragtime and just plain folk. His specialty is Celtic and Southern U.S.
fiddle tunes arranged for fingerpicking. These tunes are played with a sparkling attack and active
bass line, which gives them a sound that has been described as being reminiscent of Renaissance-
and Baroque-era lute music.
We are treated to first class finger-picking of a highly complex and expressive nature. His stately technique
on a steel string guitar possesses a strong drive and full delivery. (Bluegrass
The high quality of his books, articles, taped series and other instructional materials has
brought Ken an international reputation as a gifted teacher of folk instrumental styles. This reputation
has been reinforced by his many instructional columns and articles that have appeared over the years in
such major acoustic-music periodicals as Banjo Newsletter, Sing Out!, Acoustic Guitar
and Acoustic Musician.
Ken's instructional books for banjo include:
Everything You Wanted to Know About Clawhammer Banjo (Mel Bay)
Ken has made a number of banjo instructional videos, all of which are now available from
Centerstream Music/Hal Leonard. He has also made a guitar-instruction video for Centerstream and a series of banjo-instruction audio cassettes for Homespun Tapes.
Workshops and Music Camps
Ken is often called upon to give workshops in banjo or guitar playing. He has served as assistant director or music director of a number of banjo teaching festivals, including:
American Banjo Camp (Port Hadlock, Washington)
Banjo Camp North (Groton, Mass.)
The Bath Banjo Festival (Bath, England)
The Maryland Banjo Academy (Frederick, MD)
The Midwest Banjo Camp (Olivet, Michigan)
The Northeast Heritage Music Camp (Johnson, Vermont)
The Suwannee Banjo Camp (High Springs, Florida).
He has also served on staff at such other music camps and teaching festivals as:
The American Festival of Fiddle Tunes (Port Townsend, Washington)
The Campbell Folk School (Brasstown, NC)
The Celtic College (Goderich, Ontario)
Clarion Folk College (Huntingdon, PA)
Common Ground on the Hill (Westminster, Maryland)
The Harrietville Folk Festival (Victoria, Australia).
Lark in the Morning Music Camp (Mendocino, CA)
The North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (Aberdeen, Scotland)
The North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada)
The Northern Lights Festal (Ballycastle, Northern Ireland)
The Puget Sound (Washington) Guitar Workshop
The Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp (Estes Park, CO)
Smokey Mountain Banjo Academy (Gatlinburg, Tennessee)
The Tennessee Banjo Institute (Lebanon, Tennessee)
World Voices, World Visions (Kingston, Rhode Island)
In 2006, Ken received a grant from the Canadian Museum of Civlization in Ottawa to do a follow up project on P.E.I. Fiddling. He spent His two more months doing field work,interviewed and recording about 60 different fiddlers and other informants.
Recently a grant has come through to make a lot of these materials available to the public via an internet website. Details are still being worked out but will be announced when available.
Ken's playing is without peer. The smoothness and clarity of attack with which he presents these highly complex and ornamented tunes is simply magnificent. The arrangements, featuring expert backing while always placing the banjo out front, are wonderful.
On first listening to Ken Perlman's exquisite new recording, Northern Banjo,
I was struck by the fact that no one on the earth could have created this recording except him. It is a tour de force bringing together Ken's exquisite melodic technique on the banjo, along with his tireless decade-long research into the music of Prince Edward Island.
Old Time Herald
Northern Banjo is a richly woven tapestry... Perlman showers the tunes with notes that are thrown off his banjo as brilliantly as sparks from a fire-works sparkler. Northern Banjo is an album that anyone who loves old fiddle tunes, fine banjo playing, or just good music should thoroughly enjoy.
Impeccable clarity. Every note is brilliant... these tunes, executed in meticulous manner, will captivate and demand your utmost respect for the skill level required. Most Excellent.
Mr. Perlman has done an exquisite job of laking the banjo where no one has gone before.
Canadian Folk Music Bulletin
Here is a recording that has full marks for presentation of instrumental ensemble music. .. this 53- minute CD is a masterpiece... Perlman's respect for the fiddle traditions of Atlantic Canada should not go unnoticed, nor should his particular field work in PEI. All of this shines through on the recording... this work has delightful power!
Ken's individual, powerful and greatly musical playing is distinguished by gently crafted, expertly moulded and naturally flowing melodic lines rather than being a mere showcase for breakneck showy picking. Every track's a delight... it all adds up to a joyous and refreshingly different instrumental release that's highly recommendable
Ken has room in his schedule to teach a limited number of private clawhammer banjo or fingerstyle guitar students. Lessons take place
in his new home in Arlington, Mass. Contact Ken by phone or email about scheduling and other arrangements. Arlington is in eastern
Massachusetts near between Cambridge and Lexington, and not far from Boston. For the dedicated student, it's also within practical
driving range of much of southern and eastern New England.
Internet Lessons Now Available. Ken now teaches frequently via the internet, usually through the Skype program. To set up a lesson, simply contact him via phone or email (see below).