Book Review – Mandolin Blues by Rich Delgrosso

Mandolin Blues from Memphis to Maxwell Street

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. If you are completely new to blues music it is good to start with this. There are exercises you can play along to. The version of the book I have has an accompanying CD. The latest version of the book includes a unique code that provides access to audio tracks online, for download or streaming. The tracks include PLAYBACK+, a multi-functional audio player that allows you to slow down audio without changing pitch, set loop points, change keys, and pan left or right.

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. Again you can use the online PLAYBACK+ or CD (if you have the older version of the book). Also note 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.

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.

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