This workshop is an introduction to the music genre known as the murder ballad. Derived from the British/Scottish Broadside Ballad tradition as a means to spread news, the tradition was carried over to America and continued most notably in Appalachia, sometimes as a cautionary tale, and sometimes as a means to reinforce social order. Some like to think of them as an “old time true crime podcast” before we had such things. 

We will go over the history behind some of the genre’s most famous songs like Stack o’ Lee, Frankie and Johnny, Knoxville Girl, Matty Groves, their transformations over the years, and learn how to play them as a group. Time permitting, we will also take a look at how the structure of the contemporary murder ballad has changed to reflect modern societal mores.

Skill Levels

  • Novice: A student who perhaps has never picked up a ukulele before.
  • Beginner: A student at this level is brand-new to the ukulele. He/she has perhaps learned one to three chords but stops in-between chord changes to move the fingers to the next location.
  • Advanced/Confident Beginner: A student at this level knows a handful of chords and can move from one chord to another without pausing. Student may have trouble with, say, the B-flat chord shape. Student has learned a strum or two and/or a finger pattern for picking.
  • Intermediate: A student can hold a steady rhythm and is competent with a variety of basic chords. Understands simple chord progressions, can sing and strum at the same time, and learns chords to simple tunes fairly quickly.
  • Advanced: A student at this level can hear I, IV, and V chords, has mastered some chord inversions, knows there is life above the fifth fret, and has been there with barre or 4-fingered closed chords. Plays lead and backup easily with others and keeps steady rhythm.
Sun, 4/28 11:15 AM
Ballroom A
Session Type
Advanced Beginner
Session Tags