LEARNING TO FIDDLE, BLUEGRASS STYLE
BY NEIL ROSSI—KdV Music kdvb-0001. Two CDs included, 225 pp., spiral-bound, $32.95. (KdV Music, 143 Huntley Rd., Westford, VT 05494, www.kdvmusic.com.)
This thorough volume is a wonderful resource for the serious student of bluegrass fiddle. Not a long listing of hot licks or a series of tunes, it is a thoughtful approach to the art of bluegrass fiddling. While aimed at the beginner to intermediate player who can read music, this book presents concepts that the more advanced fiddler may want to spend more time with.
Two CDs are included that contain a sound file for every sample presented. In the introduction, the author defines the audience for this book as the student who can hold the bow and play two octave scales in the keys of C, G, D, and A. Having a command of a few tunes would be a plus. Closed position scales are of importance here. This book teaches patterns and a lexicon of riffs and fills. Rossi also says, “I do expect you to practice these exercises religiously until they become second nature.” This authoritative voice guides the reader through the copious exercises contained in this fine volume. There are sidebars containing anecdotes about learning music, words of encouragement, and the author’s own experiences in learning the fiddler’s ways.
The books starts with an overview of the “basics,” those nuts and bolts that make up music and provide the building blocks for learning and playing music. This includes advice on practicing and bowing, among many other things. The next section concentrates on bowing, followed by a section on building riffs and fills. The section on constructing breaks is as much about how to listen to music as it is about how to play it. Many concepts are covered that make fiddling work, like slides, double stops, passing tones. And then in a section called “Leaving Home: Getting Out Of First Position,” Rossi delves into moving out of first position and learning to move up and down the neck with position shifts. This is all done with a conversational style that makes learning fun and easier than just a long series of licks. Rossi goes on to teach how to put the blues in bluegrass, harmony playing, and how to improvise. There is an appendix with lots of great information on the fiddlers to pay attention to and exercises with scales, intervals, and riffs.
Rossi was a member of David Bromberg’s band back in the ’70s and also won Fiddlers Grove in 1970 as the fiddler with the Spark Gap Wonder Boys. He is one of the leading bluegrass fiddlers in New England where his work is held in high regard—not only his fiddling, but also his teaching. This is the best book on bluegrass fiddle written so far in this century. Miss it at your own peril. (KdV Music, 143 Huntley Rd., Westford, VT 05494, www.kdvmusic.com.)RCB