Bluegrass Books Online
A review in Northern California Bluegrass Society "Bluegrass By the Bay" by Mary Munro Kennedy
I am finally ready to let you all in on a wonderful little secret I have been keeping to myself: the Bluegrass Jam Tunes instructional books and CDs written by Rick Williams published on his label Running Dog Publishing LLC. These books are available through his website at http://www.bluegrassbooksonline.com.
I enjoyed learning jam tunes from Rick’s mandolin book which I purchased on my own a couple years ago. Recently Rick sent me his guitar book to be reviewed,so now I have to ‘fess up and tell you all about him and his fine bluegrass instructional books/CDs and website.
Rick’s Bluegrass Jam Tunes for Mandolin and Bluegrass Jam Tunes for Guitar are elegant, well-laid out, and easy to use instructional books. In both books he supplies both musical notation and tab for 25 popular bluegrass jam tunes: Old Joe Clark, Arkansas Traveler, Turkey in the Straw, Redwing, Wildwood Flower, Blackberry Blossom,8th of January, Bill Cheatham, Billy in the Low Ground, Cattle in the Cane, Fire on the Mountain, Fisher’s Hornpipe, Liberty, Lost Indian, Red Haired Boy, Sailor’s Hornpipe, Salt Creek, St. Anne’s Reel, Stoney Point, Temperance Reel, Whisky Before Breakfast, Little Maggie, Bury Me Beneath the Willow, Banks of the Ohio, and Will the Circle Be Unbroken.
Although these jam tunes are well known, Rick’s versions are refreshing and enjoyable. On the two CDs provided with each book, he records each tune 3 times with guitar, mandolin and bass section for each track. The first track is not too slow and has the melody and backup.The second track is the same as the first, but is just back-up. The third track is how it would be played in a real jam with other people at an a speed of 170 beats per minute. The tune on the third track is played 3 times through with you providing back up for the first 2 times.The third time through the tune you play the melody.
The books have information on jamming rules, ending tags, scale exercises, chord charts for chords used in the books, information on bluegrass band rhythm, understanding musical notation and directional signals, reading tablature, understanding chord diagrams, as well as hints and suggestions how to play the tunes. For the first five tunes in each book, both the original melody and a different version of the tune are provided. He provides several versions of Blackberry Blossom to illustrate how toimprovise around the melody in both the guitar and mandolin book.
Rick has different sections to introduce mandolin double stops, tremolo, and cross-picking in his mandolin book. I especially enjoyed learning his cross-picking version of the Banks of the Ohio on mandolin. The chord charts he provides for mandolin are very nice. Rick’s guitar book includes a section on cross-picking guitar and an additional section on how to play different rhythm styles on the guitar.
Rick’s books are not inexpensive. You will pay $39.95 per book, or $75 for both. I have to say that I feel his prices are very reasonable given the high quality of his books. I find them comprehensible, easy to read, and easy to learn from. The CDs included with the books make it easy to memorize and play the tunes at a respectable speed quickly. I pop the CDs into my laptop and use various software programs I’ve installed there to adjust the speed higher and learn to play them even faster.
Visit Rick’s website to get free samples of the tunes in his books and to purchase his instructional materials. Mary Munro Kennedy
Other comments from satisfied customers:
Hi Rick, I'm finally getting around to let you know what a great learning website you have put together concerning the free lessons and free samples. I also have your great Bluegrass Jam tunes for guitar. I love the way you did the cd's with the slower speeds, rhythm only and complete jam at faster speeds. Although I can't keep up with the faster versions yet, I'm slowly getting there. I have your videos and all of the tunes loaded on my computer readily available. Of all the instruction books that I have bought over the years this is without a doubt the best thing to come along since the doorknob. When viewing your videos it would be interesting to know what guitar your playing with that great sound. It looks like an older D28 Martin but I can't be sure. When I listen to the rhythm only parts I try to concentrate on the guitar part only but my old ears can't quite make out what your doing. It doesn't sound like a typical bass note/strum/bass note/strum type of rhythm. At any rate the lessons, samples, and Jam Book are excellent. I play these tunes on an old 1963 Eiphone flat top that really has a nice sound because of its age but can't compare to the sound of yours. Sincerely, Darryl
Hello Rick, Just wanted to let you know that my Mando Jam Tunes have arrived in Germany. The book and the CDs are great, and as others have already remarked in the Mandolin Cafe Forum, your method with the two different speeds is ideal for me, too. I also want to compliment you on the clarity of your tone at any speed, which is quite in contrast to another (intermediate) mandolin book with CD from the US that I have also bought (mentioning no names). Regards, Manfred
Happy New Year, Rick! I received the package fine, and look forward to learning, courtesy of you! I have a lot of work to do, learning this instrument,....but my wife says it sounds like a happy instrument, and music. Humble thanks to you, my friend! Bless you and yours. Have a great New Year! Rick
Hi Rick, I bought your books a couple of months back. I have to tell you that the faster jam tracks made me fall apart technically. Funny how playing tunes at a comfortable speed are just that: comfortable.I now am striving to reach your recorded jam track speed. I even made an appointment to have a lesson on the fly with my original mando instructor to see where I was having the biggest problem.. left or right hand. Well he told me it was my right hand for now... the way I'm holding the pick... gave me some tips and talked me into the Tascam guitar trainer to allow me the chance to play in between speeds. It is on my Christmas list. Keep up the work you are doing. It has been such an inspiration for me. And thanks for the videos. I like to see the playing of the instrument also. One of your cyber students, Lori
Hello Rick, I just got your guitar book and 2 CDs today. I
love them. They are great and will keep me busy for a long
time. The timing is perfect on the songs and I like the way
that the song book is put together where the pages lay flat.
The set is well worth the money. Many hours of practically
Thanks Rick. I really appreciate your help with this. And at the risk of sounding like a groupie I am really motivated by your website and your teaching style. The material you present is just right for me, I can handle most of it and the rest is just out of reach enough to challenge me to work hard at getting it. Thanks again and I'll see you around the net! Dan
Hello Rick! At first, many thanks for your really excellent
good work done for
Rick, Wanted you to know that I am really enjoying the guitar book & CD's. Any chance of another volume in the future? Regards, Bob
Got the book. Your description of it is too modest, in my opinion. It's really fantastic. I started playing the mandolin not quite a year ago. Took private lessons for a while and bought all of those other books ranging from Sam Bush to Mel Bay to Joe Carr and all the rest. I have nothing but good things to say about those resources, as they were all helpful. But it was your book and CDs that FINALLY put in front of me what I really need in order to play better. It's obvious that you put quite a bit of effort into it to make sure that it addresses exactly what I and others like me need in order to play better. It seems that you somehow were able to go back in your own mind to that time when you faced the same hurdles, and you never lost sight of that during the completion of the book. On your website you said you were a teacher first and foremost. Well, I think you have done whatever that thing is that good teachers do that makes them good teachers. Thanks, Hector
Rick- I want to thank-you so much. I received my books this week. You have this really right. The music and notation are very clear. I can see by the Arkansas Traveler that your going to force me into other positions in playing a tune. I especially like that each on is on one page. I have been very annoyed with other books in trying to learn the song and turn the page-impossible. You just have to try and memorize the end of the song and hope it is short. I wish you all the best and hope that this is a huge success for you. I would expect very good buzz after people see this. Ken
I recently purchased both your mando and guitar jamming books/cds. I want to send my kudos for a job well done. These books are well worth the money and I have been enjoying them immensely. I have been playing guitar for some years and have recently picked up the mandolin. Adam
Just a short email to say how much Flora and I are enjoying
Thanks...I am looking forward to Jam Tunes for the
Guitar.... the samples
Thanks Rick,I received the books and Cds on the 16th. I have already checked it out and started. I just learned Old Joe Clark. I believe this is going to be better than lessons. Thanks again. Don
I doubt if you remember my first email to you, but I wrote to let you know that your book (mandolin) gave me the confidence to actually attend a jam session. I found your book to be a great help. The different speeds were just right, and your arrangements were also right on the money. Steve
Just wanted to let you all know that I got the book in the mail today and have been "Jammin" for a couple of hours. :-) Thanks again for the work you put into the book and CD's. I can play the slow versions and it's wonderful to have "others" (you, you and you) playing along with me when I practice. I'm just not fast enough for the faster versions which is exactly why I needed the book so I'm taking the challenge and plan to reach that speed in due time. Also, thanks for checking up on the order. I really do appreciate your concern for the delay even though I hadn't contacted you on it. You all are great to do business with. Darlene
These free lessons are great!! My trio does Blackberry
Blossom as a solo
Great job and a great sounding mandolin. Have gone through many cds and books. I have found yours the best. I downloaded your lessons. You make it so plain and easier. Great teacher. Bill
Rick, I received the Bluegrass mandolin Jam tunes book last
week and I must say it's just wonderful. After playing some
of the tunes with the CD I realize my rhythm playing is
pretty solid by my lead playing has serious time issues that
I look forward to fixing. This is one of the best learning
tools for someone like me without a local mandolin
instructor to talk with. If I am ever in Tulsa, Oklahoma I
hope we can sit for a lesson.
As a beg/int mandolin player I absolutely loved everything about your book. Is there another one in the works? Thanks again for your great product. Dennis
Rick: You did an excellent job on your Jam Tunes. Also you did an excellent job composing your tabs. Thanks for your help. Wayne
Hey Rick: Been learning Dixie Hoedown off your web page and enjoying it a lot. Really like your versions and style and of course your nice clean tasty pickin. Also find your tab lessons great and easy to read. I have lots of mando lessons by all the greats but may learn more on the guitar since I've stumbled onto your site. Your teaching style is the very best I have seen. Particularly enjoy the accompanying videos. You have given me a lot to have fun with. Wanted to say thanks for your generosity in putting this all together and offering such great music. Congratulations on a great job. Also your instruments sound great too but I see you bring out the best in them. Thanks again and oh yes the x-mas material is really nice too. Great selection of songs. Take care and have a nice x-mas ...............Tom