BLUEGRASS JAMMING ON FIDDLE—BY WAYNE ERBSEN. (Native Ground Books and Music, 109 Bell Rd., Asheville, NC 28805, www.nativeground.com.)
Wayne Erbsen has taught many folks how to play a variety of instruments and additionally has written many books to teach and learn from. The true depth of his experiences can be seen in this book that takes the next step from his book Old Time Fiddle For The Complete Ignoramus. In that book, he covered the basics of fiddle playing as well as a good number of tunes. In this book, he takes it one step further to playing song leads and backup as well as jamming techniques, protocol and etiquette. The material is mostly traditional bluegrass with some real nice additions that make this book a good entryway to bluegrass. The inclusion of Ola Belle Reed’s “High On A Mountain” and Goble and Drumm’s “Colleen Malone” and Allen Mills’ “Love Of The Mountains” adds a nice contemporary touch to the music presented.
Reading music is not a must for playing fiddle, but it can really help, and the tablature presented here can go a long way to helping learn to read music. There are also discussions and sections devoted to chords, and things of a music theory nature that will not bog down the student while enlightening them to the knowledge necessary to step into a jam and be an effective player. There are plenty of charts for simple fiddle chords (doublestops) in different inversions, chord progressions for songs and tunes, and the scales of four of the most common keys. The concepts for playing back up, the where and how-to’s, are presented in easy to understand terms and he guides you to the places where each concept will work to good end.
There are lists of music camps worth looking into to gain more experience and a list of musicians that are required listening if you are going to learn to know what makes up great bluegrass fiddling. Each song has a discussion of that song’s history, how to play it, tips for backing up the song and other “need to know” information about that piece.
Erbsen has been producing learning materials for a long time and he has an approach that is highly effective. As with his other books, this volume is of high quality, with priceless photographs between the nuggets of inspiring wisdom. The accompanying CD includes all of the songs in the book. When two tracks are listed for a song, the first track includes the fiddle part with just a guitar backup. The second track has a mandolin playing the melody and the fiddle playing the backup parts with guitar accompaniment. There are tracks to demonstrate the licks for different songs. Complete lyrics for all of the songs are included in Microsoft Word format on the CD as well.
If you find yourself able to play some tunes and ready to play some backup but not sure how to go about it, this book will answer many of your questions. It will also prepare you to go into a jam and hold your own. Erbsen has done a fine job of anticipating the needs of any aspiring fiddle player as his book lays out the answers to so many questions. This book is highly recommended to those wanting to connect the dots in their fiddling.RCB