Blues Mandolin Instructional Materials... Comments

  1. bmac
    Like most of us I am self-taught and have sought out learning materials from whatever source I could find. I thought it might be interesting to discuss our experience with the learning aids we have used. I am fortunate to have had a few years of piano lessons as a youth... plus long forgotten rudimentary guitar skills from the seventies.

    I bought Steve James' blues mandolin insructional video "Learn to play Blues Mandolin" accompanied by John Sebastian on guitar, and later his revised video of the same title with Del Ray assisting on guitar. My comments apply to both videos.

    My response to both videos was "Wow! There is a lot of good stuff here...". But I also came away from them both feeling that they are way over the beginners' head and I felt sorry for the true beginner with no musical background or skills trying to struggle through these lessons. I thought that above all Steve was interested in showcasing his own skills as a performer rather than catering to the needs of the beginner. I feel they are a perscription for disappointment if the user is a true beginner and this is all he has to learn from. That said... I would recommend them to anyone as as important videos in your archive. But for true beginners... I would not recommend them as his only learning tool. They are both much too advanced in my opinion.

    Another minor criticism I have, particularly in the most recent video with Del Ray, is that the instruments shown and played are for the most part top of the line instruments and in Del Ray's case, a custom built instrument. These are not instruments that a beginner is likely to have or could afford.

    I guess my last comment is that having Del Ray or John Sebastian as an accompaniest is not something I can easily afford and gives Steve an advantage soundwise that few of us will ever have. I think it would have been more realistic for Steve to demonstrate the whole lesson unaccompanied.

    I, and I am sure others, would appreciate your experiences with these and other instructional materials. My comments are not presented as gospel but to stimulate comments from your experiences.
  2. bluesmandolinman
    basically I agree on your "not for real beginners" argument,

    but this would actually mean that in every Blues method in the whole world at first a 12 Bar Blues would be explained.... lord have mercy , that would be too boring... still I understand your point.

    For me the Steve James Videos turned out perfect, only little theorie and instead some really cool - not too difficult - tunes to play along

    Cheers, René
  3. bmac
    Mel Bay's "School of Mandolin... BLUES"

    In thinking about this I took a look through my mando stuff and found "School of Mandonlin...Blues" by Joe carr. A Mel Bay publication.. audio disk included.
    I had used this when I first took up mandolin. Went through it fairly rapidly and then went on to the Steve James videos. But I had some background in music so I had an advantage over the beginning mandolin player. This is a nuts and bolts approach to blues mandolin lacking the color of some other learning aids. No history... no interesting trivia, no comments on mandolin options. Just very basic stuff on playing (blues) mandolin. I would say that it is a valuable learning aid... especially for those with no, or very little music background. But I would not recommend it as your only learning aid because if you are dedicated and willing to practice you will soon need something with broader information and more advanced technique. It can offer a good start though.
  4. bluesmandolinman
    Joe Carr has writen a lot of methods and I highly respect him for his knowledge about the mandolin and his contribution for the learning students.

    That said I have to admit that when I first read about this book my very first thought was " Hmmm, Joe Carr is not a Bluesman". Actually the book proofs this pretty well. Sure the theory part is very helpful for the beginner , and talking about theory in general I canīt be the judge for someone like him. But in every soundclip on the CD you can hear that he is not a Bluesman. The sound is not very bluesy and his music examples and notations are " very clean" . Not the type of blues I have in mind.

    Still I would recommend this book for any beginner.
  5. bmac
    by Rich DelGrosso - Hal Leonard Publication - approx. $20.00
    Mandolin lessons, technique and history

    I was going to wait and see if someone else wanted to mention on this one as I understand it is a popular publication. Of printed material I have found, this publication is the most interesting and most informative for the beginner and already knowledgable blues mandolin enthusiast. In addition to presenting the fundamentals of blues mandolin he spices it with interesting historical information which will serve as a stimulous for further exploration on your part. In fact I think it is a must have for anyone interested in blues mandolin even if you are not a player.

    Being legally blind it is a real chore for me to read music so I will comment on my general observations mainly from his text and the demonstration record included. I have only begun to focus dilligntly on the mandolin playing content in written form. Here, of course, the record is valuable to practice the techniques offered and to capture the flavor of the indivual artists he discusses. I think for the beginner as well as the experienced mandolinist this publication offers an excellent start on blues concepts and techniques. For the beginner it will not be easy but the rewards I think will be well worth the effort. I have noticed in some of DelGrosso's Youtube videos he is a person who enjoys teaching and knows (from his years of teaching) how to get accross information without overwhelming his students. I would highly recommend this publication to blues mandolin enthusiasts of all skill levels and all blues interest areas. DelGrosso also has quite a few Youtube videos of his work which can serve to reinforce the content of this book.

  6. Ron McMillan
    Ron McMillan
    Like Bart I have the two Steve James DVDs (that almost certainly started out as VHS releases). I personally think they are good tools, well suited to the beginner who wants to spend time getting up to speed. I much prefer the first of the two, which has several good tunes well demonstrated as well as some good solid basics on two-finger comps, boogie-woogie progressions and simple turnarounds. Yes, he does throw us in at the deep end, but I suspect that is the publisher's doing; a book/video that started out at the simplest of a-b-cs would have a very short shelf life, and most of us are capable of grasping some of the most elementary basics before starting out with such a DVD. It is also almost a given that people coming to mandolin have already some experience with other instruments (especially guitar); those who did not play another instrument at all simply have a bigger hill to climb, but not one that is too difficult, since we have all done it.

    I recently bought Steve James's Roots and Blues Mandolin book/CD, and so far I am very pleased with it. The instructions are based on just over a dozen songs, many of them easily-recognised 'traditional' tunes (that are probably cheap to use because they are out of copyright, but that's almost irrelevant). The tunes are written out in standard notation and also in TAB with the chords noted above. Recordings break the songs into sections at slower speeds, then play the whole songs at the standard tempo, giving you a chance to learn them slowly, then speed up to full tempo when you are ready.

    He starts out in the key of G, and progresses to other keys including C, A, E, D and Am. He shows us how we can take fingerings from one key and move them up the neck or over the strings to change keys.

    I am only in the early stages of working with this book/CD, but so far I am impressed and looking forward to working through the rest of it. I recommend it.

  7. bluesmandolinman
    I agree with Ronīs statement about the Roots and Blues book in general..... nevertheless I was hoping for more !
    If you hear Steve play mandolin on his CDīs he is pulling out the real stuff. His method instead is like his videos directed towards newbies either mandolin or guitar players trying out new paths. After 2 DVDs for beginners I really hoped the book would be more challenging. Donīt get me wrong all 3 are good !

    For me Richīs method is still the best one.
  8. Gwernen
    With me, heavy rock blues are the thing, and anything too obviously ragtime or old time country just won't do. My tastes run from Lightnin' Hopkins to say the blues of Robin Trower, Jimmy Page or Stevie Ray Vaughn, and not the rhythm playing, the bluesy lead solos that carry or echo the melody lines. (Although Stevie Ray does incorporate a lot of jazz stylings in his instrumental numbers). I can pull a few measures here and there from the Mel Bay book that have applicability, and whilst I appreciate that particular style of 'blues', it seems Mr. Carr is relying on the fact that the blues scales are used in the pieces he's put in the book to qualify them. I can take the intro lead from a song like "Since I've Been Loving You" and work it out on the mando, since I've got it down on guitar, and I'm thinking maybe I'll just have to work this out myself. Carr's is the only book I have so far that is specifically blues/mando, so I'm taking your suggestions on my next purchase. Thanks everyone for posting these discussions, they are quite enlightening.
Results 1 to 8 of 8