Two new books from Mel Bay

Mel Bay Publications has a pair of book/CD combos that should be of interest to students of the bluegrass music – guitarists and mandolinists in particular.

Flatpicking Up The Neck, from Jeff Troxel, is designed to assist beginning and intermediate guitar players to find their way around in higher positions on the fingerboard. Using familiar fiddle tunes like Billy in the Low Ground, Arkansas Traveler, Flowers of Edinburgh, Bill Cheatham and The Cuckoo’s Nest, Troxel shows how chords and scales can be the foundation for improvising up the neck.

The Mel Bay site describes the book (with audio CD) as…

  • Thorough and practical approach to playing up the neck.
  • Guitarists learn how melodies and chords work together.
  • Invaluable concepts for arranging and improvisation.
  • Tunes and variations provide practical application for the material.

See the table of contents and several sample pages at

The Mandolin Picker’s Guide To Bluegrass Improvisation by Jesper Rubner-Petersen offers 200 pages of explanation, exercises, tips and tricks to help unlock the mysteries of improvising for mando students – with an accompanying audio CD. It starts with an examination of basic music theory and the chord and scale intervals that are crucial to understanding how bluegrass music is played, and then begins to show how to build on these concepts to create your own solos.

Mel Bay sees the major themes of the book as:

  • The pentatonic sound
  • Scale and major-chord based improvising
  • Double-stop improvisation
  • Minor chords and Keys
  • The blues sound
  • Melody oriented improvisation
  • Monroe Style
  • Cross picking
  • Hot licks
  • How to simplify a lick

Again, more details and sample pages 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.