mountain music

Music is the at the heart and soul of the Appalachians. The mountains of southwestern Virginia are home to an impressive variety of traditional musical styles - from bluegrass to string bands, a capella gospel and blues, to haunting ballads more than three hundred years old.

Looking out over these mountains, it's easy to understand how so many talented musicians became inspired here. The very idea of the Appalachians brings to mind melodies as beautiful as the many natural wonders of our landscape. 

Appalachian Music, Stanley Style

Ralph Stanley created his own style of banjo playing, which fans fondly refer to as "Stanley Style."  This distinctive style is recognizable by quick, continuous forward rolls of the banjo and clear, crisp pickings of the strings - a result of picking close to the bridge of the instrument.

Stanley Style evolved from a mix of Wade Mainer's two-finger, thumb-led technique, and the common bluegrass three-finger technique known as Scruggs style, named after the musician Earl Scruggs. In contrast, Ralph Stanley leads with his index finger, which allows for faster forward rolls, and often uses a capo in higher octaves, creating a sound that is truly his own.

It's a sound that has led Rolling Stone magazine to call Ralph Stanley "A master performer without an expiration date..." who "continues to rule American mountain music," and the Chicago Sun Times attests that "Ralph Stanley is undeniably the most important figure in bluegrass music today."


The Ralph Stanley Museum is dedicated to keeping the cultural treasure of mountain music alive in our visitors' hearts and minds. We hope our museum will inspire you, just as the music of our mountains has inspired generations before us.