A big package arrived recently from Mel Bay Publications, chock full of new instructional books that may hold some interest for pickers who read Bluegrass Today. Some are aimed at new players, or those with modest skills, while others will be quite demanding indeed.
Serious students of old time banjo will surely want to check out Wade Ward, Clawhammer Banjo Master. This 60 page book (with audio CD) from Bob Carlin and Dan Levenson includes multiple transcriptions for 30 tunes that are representative of Ward’s music. Wade worked as a member of the Bog Trotters string band in the first half of the 20th century, and was “discovered” anew in the 1960s by a new generation of banjo players who were seeking out the music of the old masters.
Like they did for their earlier Mel Bay project on Kyle Creed, Bob and Dan offer exact transcriptions of Ward’s playing on iconic recordings, displayed in tandem with a more modern claw hammer interpretation of the some tune. All examples are played on the accompanying CD.
Mandolin for Violinists from Andrew Driscoll is not targeted specifically at bluegrass pickers, but as a transition method to the mando for folks already proficient on the violin. The first dozen or so pages are purely instructional material and exercises, followed by another 60 pages of examples and tunes. The material presented includes bluegrass, old time, classical, chore and Celtic music.
An audio CD is included here as well.
Not at all bluegrass oriented – but surely valuable to many a jammer – is Mel Bay’s new vocal primer.
First Lessons: Voice contains exercises and practice drills designed to start you out thinking about your voice as an instrument. Tips are included from author Michaela Neller on breathing, vocal health and what she describes as “the physical act of singing.” The drills are designed to both help you control your voice and to recognize and smoothly move to different intervals.
The accompanying CD includes instrumental versions of several songs for you to sing along, Gold Watch And Chain, Angel Band, Wayfaring Stranger and Wildwood Flower among them.
For bluegrass guitarists, Mel Bay has a new entry in their School of Bluegrass Guitar series. This new book from Joe Carr looks at Bluegrass Ballads and Waltzes, offering a simplified “Carter style” arrangement with a basic melody played in the bass, and a more contemporary bluegrass version in a flatpicking style. All are played in the first position and should be accessible for beginning pickers, as they are songs most commonly played at a slower tempo.
Again, a CD with audio for all the solos is included with the 30 page book.
And for fans of Celtic music, there’s a new book by Rob Mackillop for banjos players of every sort. Early Irish-American Banjo provides transcriptions for 27 pieces in the style played by Irish immigrants in America during the 19th century.
Mackillop arranges these pieces for 5 string banjo, but also includes tab for the tune in two common tenor banjo tunings. A Cd with performances of the tunes is packaged with the book.
All of these titles are available wherever Mel Bay instructional materials are sold, or as downloadable ebooks from their web site.