Book Reviews

Beginning Mandolin
Greg Horne

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Mandolin Blues
Rich Delgrosso

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Mandolin Chord Book
James Major

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Beginning Mandolin by Greg Horne

This is the first book I used when learning mandolin. It is an excellent book and comes with an audio CD. It covers the following topics:-

  • How to choose,tune, hold and pick your mandolin
  • Strumming basic open chords to accompany
  • Reading standard music notation and tablature (TAB)
  • Playing several traditional fiddle tunes such as Soldier's Joy and Old Joe Clark
  • Improvising and soloing over blues and bluegrass songs
  • Strumming the famous bluegrass "chop" rhythm
  • The structure of major scales, keys and chords
  • Moveable chord shapes that allow you to play every major, minor and dominant-7 chord
  • Specialised techniques that apply to old-time, bluegrass, blue and rock

Since the book is written by an American author the tunes used are mainly old-time bluegrass. However the techniques taught are equally applicable to Scottish/Irish tunes.

Each chapter contains a number of lessons on a specific theme (e.g Blues Mandolin). Each lesson usually contains a tune or exercise to demonstrate what is being taught. These tunes/exercises can be heard on the accompanying audio CD. I found the lessons easy to follow and the audio tracks were very helpful to get the timing correct.

Once you have mastered the basics of the mandolin you can work on several chapters at once or jump around. You do not need to work through the chapters from start to finish.

Overall I would recommend this book to those beginning the mandolin. It gives you good a grounding in the basic elements of mandolin playing.

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Mandolin Blues by Rich Delgrasso

I had been playing the mandolin for about 3 years and bought this book as I fancied having a go at some blues mandolin. It is written by Rich Delgrosso. an expert on mandolin blues. He has performed at clubs and festivals with the likes of blues and string -band legends James "Yank" Rachell and Howard " Louie Bluie" Armstrong.

The book starts with an interesting history of the mandolin in America. It then introduces the blues scales and structure. There are exercises you can play along to on the accompanying CD. If you are completely new to blues music it is good to start with this.

The main part of the book has chapters on different blues styles and players. Each chapter starts with introduction on the player and style. This is interesting background reading. There are then tunes you can play along to. Both musical notation and tab are provided. If there are any tricky parts of the tune these are covered in the "Performance Notes Section". This allows you to practice these parts separately.

At the back of the book there is a Discography of notable recordings of mandolin blues.

Overall I found this a great book. Some of the tunes are more tricky than others. One warning I would give is that the book starts with the Dallas rag. This is quite a complicated tune. I started with Will Weldon's blues which I found a bit simpler. Some of the tunes are quite fast however if you 'ripped' the CD to create mp3's of the files you could use a slow downer app to slow the tune down without changing the pitch.

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Mandolin Chord Book by James Major

This book has a slim shape and is designed to fit in most mandolin cases. The chords are group according to keys. For example all the chords in the key of C are grouped together. I found this a very useful and easy way of arranging chords.Sometimes a different chord shape would be  shown for the same chord in different keys. This could be a bit confusing however it is always good to know different chord shapes! Overall I would say that is an excellent reference book for chords. It is handy that it fits in your mandolin case. It can always be used as a quick reference in sessions.

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