THE BLUEGRASS VIOLIN: EL VIOLÍN en el BLUEGRASS
By Oriol Saña and Lluís Gómez
Mel Bay MB30619M. $14.99. (Mel Bay, 1734 Gilsinn Ln., Fenton, MO 63026, www.melbay.com.)
This is a very good introduction to bluegrass fiddle written by highly accomplished and renown musicians from Spain. This is not a primer on the violin, but it’s great value for anyone wanting to learn to play bluegrass fiddle. It’s geared to the player who has reading experience and a good grasp of music theory.
Written in both English and Spanish the book begins with a description of what bluegrass is, how to use the bow as applied in bluegrass and four examples of shuffles often used in bluegrass. They move on to left-hand techniques like slides, double-stops, and the idea of a violin capo, actually using the first finger to stop strings to allow for playing in keys not easily played with open strings.
They present ten fiddle tunes including “Fisher’s Hornpipe” in the original key of F and the common key of D to help get a grounding in the rhythm of the genre. They are correct in identifying that the ability to play fiddle tunes underlies the ability to play good bluegrass. Double-stops usage is demonstrated on “Bury Me Beneath The Willow” and they use “Tombigbee Waltz” to teach the skills for three-quarter time. There are downloadable sound files for all musical examples.
There are sections on improvisation, transcription, alternate tuning, fiddle and banjo duets, five-string fiddles, percussive chopping, and recommended fiddle tunes from Patrick McAvinue. They list important fiddlers by decades in history, famous recordings that are available, and there are some words on jam sessions.
The authors worked closely with well-known session players in Nashville and have had advanced training at Berklee and institutions in Europe. This slim book is chock-full of great information for the beginning bluegrass fiddler and should be an invaluable resource for players around the world.RCB