Trial Balloon: Re-Posting Mickey Cochran’s Free 5-String Lessons

Mickey Cochran holding one of his favorite banjos, from the back cover of one of his DVD lesson packages.Mitchell “Mickey” Cochran loved traditional acoustic music. So much so that when he left a successful career as a graphic artist and web programmer, he started his own online music store, complete with free online lessons for many instruments, including 5-string banjo, mandolin, and Appalachian dulcimer.

Years ago, I archived some of Mickey’s various free online musical instrument lessons for my own use. Sadly, Mickey died in 2011, but his free online lessons had been taken down years before that. Mickey’s lessons weren’t even on my radar until I came across several folks saying that his mandolin lessons were some of the most useful they’d ever come across. I’ve attempted to contact his survivors for permission to re-post his free lessons, so far with no results.

So I figured I’d start posting some of his free lessons from 2004 and see what people think. I’m starting with 5-string Banjo, though, since that’s the instrument I know best, and I can tell when something needs tweaked or updated. (Some things have changed since 2004. Plus Mickey used an obsolete HTML generator for many of his pages, and I’m taking this opportunity to strip out huge amounts of unnecessary code and to reformat illustrations, videos, and sound files that are in obsolete – or in some cases unsupported – formats.)

Mickey was a huge fan of “double-thumbing,” something I don’t do that much of. He was also a huge fan of learning most of the rolls (picking patterns) you’ll ever need before you start playing songs. So you’ll get all the way to Lesson 6 before you start playing simple melodies. And so far I’ve only converted, reformatted, and published up through lesson 3, so it’s “roll city” so far.

Finally, Mickey lays a lot of groundwork for Bluegrass banjo playing, something that I address, but don’t focus on in my “Folk Banjo” lessons. That said, I think it’s useful to learn several styles, so I see Mickey’s material as supplementing mine, and vice versa.

The lessons I have converted, edited, and reformatted so far start on this page:

If you want to check out the “Folk Banjo” lessons I put out a few years ago, they are here:


About Paul

Paul Race has been writing and playing all kinds of music since the 1960s, though he tends to favor acoustic and traditional songs. He has created resources like,, and to help other musicians get a good start on their own journeys.

One Comment

  1. Okay, I’ve gotten up to Lesson 8. Hope to get more done next month. Comments, criticisms, etc. welcome. – Paul

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