Contemporary Bluegrass Backup Guitar from Mel Bay

If you’ve been thinking of learning to play bluegrass rhythm on the guitar, or spice up your backup picking if you’re already a guitarist, Mel Bay Publications has a new book that may be just the ticket.

Entitled Contemporary Bluegrass Backup Guitar, by Jeff Troxel, this 123 page book contains seven chapters worth of instruction to help you learn rhythm guitar the way it is heard and played today. It isn’t meant for a beginning guitarist, though anyone new to the instrument but familiar with bluegrass should have no trouble starting off here.

Someone with some experience in bluegrass rhythm may find the first chapter or so covering things you already know, but you will quickly see new information presented, whether it is novel ways of looking at G runs, arpeggiated strumming patterns, or bass runs. Troxell includes sections on simple “boom chuck” patterns, as well as ones that examine the ways that players like Charlie Waller and Tony Rice have expanded this technique.

Throughout, familiar songs are used to demonstrate how to use these different patterns and runs, like John Hardy, Sitting on Top of the World, Little Sadie, Footprints in the Snow, and several others. These examples are shown in both tablature and standard notation, and like all Mel Bay books, audio files are available online that correspond to each song and exercise shown.

In the final chapter the author packs in a great deal of useful information, like rhythm patterns to use for intros and endings, and how to structure your guitar backup on chordier tunes like Blackberry Blossom, Forked Deer, and Red Haired Boy. Basic flatpick-style melodies for all the tunes and songs he teaches are included in an appendix, along with a good thumbnail overview of basic chord theory, and transposition using capos.

Jeff Troxel is the perfect instructor to present all this information. He holds degrees from prestigious institutions like Berklee College of Music and the University of Southern California, and is currently a music professor at the University of Montana. Troxel is also the 2003 Winfield guitar champion, and holds multiple state flatpicking titles.

All the audio files, cross referenced to the various songs and exercises in the book, can be accessed online following a link provided on the title page.

The book is offered in  a print edition on oversized pages for $24.99, or as an ebook for $19.99.

More details on Contemporary Bluegrass Backup Guitar can be found online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.