(Native Ground Books & Music, 109 Bell Rd., Asheville, NC 28805,

If anyone knows how to teach banjo, it’s Wayne Erbsen. His list of books and teaching accomplishments is lengthy. His understanding of how to take a complex subject and break it down into easily understood pieces is one of his strengths. He also understands the intimidation that many feel at opening a book full of tabs. Too many books don’t give advice, but simply present an arrangement that may or may not make sense when you play it. This book is different. It dissects the songs by starting with only the chords and melodies and builds from there.

The book is chock-full of suggestions and ideas on scales, lead rolls and backup rolls, when to play, and when not to play. It presents plenty of tunes in a variety of timings and keys with that Erbsen approach of ice-cold to red-hot licks for playing each piece. There are 197 sound files included on the CD so you can hear an aural target for your picking. The goal is clearly defined and there is plenty of help given to achieve it. This book is also about jamming. It informs the reader as to what a jam is, the protocol for jamming and addresses how to play along even with songs you don’t really know. There is advice for playing by ear, how to lead a song and take a break. There is enough basic information here that someone who lacks much experience can get a foothold, and the information is so expansive, those who are feeling pretty comfortable about getting out into the wider world will find much information to help them achieve success early in their jamming career.

This whole book is about getting you to the next level. The songs taught are songs you will hear often in jams. The encouraging tone will help keep your spirits up as you challenge yourself onward. As with all of his books, this one is full of neat old pictures and offhand advice that is bound to charm as much as it informs.RCB

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