The following are some unsolicited testimonials from students who are current members of the premier online banjo community, "The Banjo Hangout":
"Al is a GREAT musician and teacher, I had the pleasure of touring the US and Canada with him in the early 80's. He is a real pro and we can all benefit from having a cat like this on the hangout."
- Mitch Manns/Manns Guitar Academy
I've been taking lessons from Al for 8 months now. I can now play over 30 songs from Cripple Creek to You Don't know My Mind, Sally Ann, Sally Goodin, Fireball Mail, Nine Pound Hammer, Ground speed, Lonesome Road Blues, Molly and Tenbrooks, Ballad of Jed Clampett. Pat McLaughlin did some work on my banjo and when I was playing he said, "Man....you know the whole Scruggs Book." Well that's what Al teaches. That and a lot more. Being the consummate musician, His ultimate goal is for you to get "IT". It being vocal and instrumental accompaniment.
I had started ordering the Janet Davis books, then the homespun video's, and I was spending 30 or 40 dollars every couple of weeks and not getting anywhere with it except frustrated. I'm loving life again now that I have guidance and direction.
There is nothing like a teacher, and Al will get you playing the banjo. Do you want to put some WOW factor in your playing? One word....Fiddlin' Al!
Oh yeah, Al's videos are great! I only had a cassette recorder back in the 90's. With Al's videos I use Windows media player to slow down Al's lesson if I need to and play trouble spots over and over.
. I've been playing banjo since 1993, but I taught myself bad habits. Al now has me playing "Scruggs"style...really. If you live anywhere near Longwood Florida, and you want to learn how to play banjo the right way I strongly suggest lessons with Al. His method is great, his teaching is great. He methodically builds lesson upon lesson. He will NOT allow you to cut corners or cheat on Scruggs style. Al's theory is once you have a strong foundation in the fundementals of Scruggs, you can do any thing you like. He gives you an audio recording of the song you are working on along with the tabs and a video of himself playing it slooooooow. You get so much more than just a thirty minute or hour lesson. It's on a "Flash" drive so it's easy to pop into your computer and review the lesson over and over."
"I was a student of Allen for about a year and a half and I will fully vouch for what he can teach. If you want to sound like the records, he can show you. He showed me great lead, improvisation, and backup. Oh, and by the way, I now live in Pittsburgh and he in Orlando so I have no reason to "advertise" for him other than to help other beginners because he is an excellent teacher. He definitely teaches excellent fundamentals in stages that logically progress the player to the level the player is willing to work toward. He has a genuine interest in your progress, and, as any good teacher, judges his success by your success! I would be more than willing to offer a reference if anyone is looking."
- Jeff T. (Tallface)
"I've known Al for longer than 2 years. He is a great teacher, and is also extremely knowledgable about bluegrass, from theory and practice, as well as historically. He is also a really good guy. He's very friendly, and you'll find it's hard not to like him. Go to his Myhangout page and check out his pictures. You'll see he has been around bluegrass music a long time. Al is making an offer of his services. If you need help learning, take him up on the offer. You'll see that he knows what he's doing. Al is not only a musician, but a TEACHER. All you have to do is take lessons at the local music store to find out that many very capable musicians have no idea how to transfer their knowledge. - Kevin C.
"I am one of those guys that do not have the benefit of having a banjo instructor close to where I live and have ran across someone that may be able help some of you that are in the same boat. If you have a computer, a banjo and a desire to learn then this may be the very thing that you’ve been hoping for! I’ve recently started taking banjo lessons from fellow HO member Fiddlin Al (aka – Allen Eisenman), who incidentally lives in Florida - I live in Texas. Now before you start adding up the mileage – there’s no need as we are doing this via the internet! Sound crazy? Not hardly!Doing this via the internet is quite logical when you stop and think about it. What better way to communicate “one on one” if you can’t actually get together with someone in a “live” situation? You guessed it: with a web cam and using email to transfer files back and forth. Actually it is a very good alternate way of taking lessons when you can’t take them from someone locally!Allen does a very good job of teaching. His experience and ability is quite evident from the very first lesson and he is extremely upbeat and encouraging about the whole learning process. You can tell immediately that he’s been doing this for a while because everything flows very smoothly.I know for a fact that there are several HO members that are taking lessons with Al and the ones that I’ve communicated with have nothing but very good things to say about him and his lessons. My experience has been nothing but positive from the get go and needless to say it is probably one of the best moves that I’ve made to take my playing to the proverbial next level! No – I’m not being compensated nor do I have any financial interest in Al’s teaching business. I am just one person that has found a very good way of receiving lessons that I’ve wanted and needed for a long time but really had no where to turn locally. I’m passing this info on so others are aware of a way to get the lessons that they’ve been wanting as well. He can answer any questions that you have and you’ll not find a more pleasant fella to talk to."
- Ken W. (Banjomon)
"I picked up a banjo for the first time thirty-two years ago and played for just a short time. Personal circumstances happened, and the banjo got sold. In February of 2008, I came across a fantastic deal on a Deering Sierra banjo, and after all those years, the bug was still there. I bought the banjo and the Earl Scruggs book and tried to take off. But seriously, learning to play the banjo by merely reading a book, as good as the book may be, is like trying to learn how to ride a bicycle by reading a book on bicycle riding. While I was getting the basic role patterns down, and understanding some of the basic banjo lick moves, each step forward created questions. Well I went onto the Banjo Hangout website and had many questions answered but I still had things popping up that I just couldn’t make sense from. I am a visual learner, and I needed to see the things people were suggesting I do. Somewhere in the mix of posts, I came across one from a student who was taking lessons online through a web cam. Being a techno lover, I was intrigued. I contacted the student’s teacher, Allen Eisenman, back in April of 2008. From the moment he answered the phone, I knew this was going to be a good match. Allen is the quintessential people person. I don’t believe he’s ever met a stranger. We talked about my age (58), my previous banjo experience, and what I was trying to do. From our conversation it seemed that a "distance learning" situation would be perfect. I could take banjo lessons and not have to leave the comfort of my home. As of this writing, I have been meeting with Al online every other week via web cam. Each lesson he transfers files with tab, a sample of the song being learned by the original artist, and a video of himself playing the piece. These resources alone are worth the cost of the lessons. By my third lesson, I was playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Now I must say, Al is no slouch. He’s as tough a teacher over the internet as if he were in the same room. He also has an ear that drives me crazy. If my 3-2 push offs are sloppy, he lets me know it quickly. He guides me through each lesson as a good coach. Playing, showing, cajoling, encouraging me all the way. I live in Lexington, Kentucky. The home of J. D. Crowe. I live in the heart of the bluegrass where banjos and banjo teachers are plentiful. But I believe I could not be learning any faster, better, or more effectively than with Al. I highly recommend that if you’re interested in a banjo teacher–and if you’re serious about the banjo you should be serious about a teacher–you’ll find no one better than Allen Eisenman."
- Craig L, Ph.D. - Lexington, Kentucky
"If you want lick for lick, note for note scruggs bluegrass, fiddlin' Al is the man. Al offers lessons over Skype (just like being in the same room). He pushes you to your max and has very positive high energy lessons with excellent critiquing and positive feedback".
"I'm both from Lexington, Kentucky, and live in Okinawa, Japan, and I am a Fiddlin Al online student. I can vouch for his method completely! It's fantastic, and he will work with you dependent upon your individual needs.
I have looked here in Japan for an instructor for the past couple of years to no avail. After reading some other reviews of Fiddlin Al I decided to give him a try, and online instruction has surpassed my every expectation. It's as if he's right in the room with you! He can see every finger, every fret and every string, as can you with him. He pushes you to the edge of your capability and then beyond.
He is a great instructor, a heck of a nice guy, and he manages the time difference between his location and mine in Japan very well. I can't tell you all enough how much of a difference he's making in my meager abilities, and how much more enjoyable my banjo journey has become. Give him a try, you won't regret it!"
"I'm in Las Vegas and have been working at learning to play the banjo for 2 1/2 years. The first year I took lessons locally, learned some music theory and some basics from a person who had no interest in bluegrass. The second year I decided to simply work with self-teaching books. I felt I was making minimal progress but becoming more and more frustrated. I began taking on line lessons from Al since the end of February this year. My progress has been amazing. First, I've been building my repertoire rapidly. I'm playing tunes that I always figured were way beyond my capabilities. There have been a lot of bad habits to shed but learning to do it right has opened a lot of doors. I was skeptical as to how well online lessons could work but it has been amazing.
There truly is no substitute for one on one lessons. Unlike my original lessons, I've never felt rushed. Al takes time to go over any concerns. He has my total support.