The Sam Bush Mandolin Method
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In addition to being one of the world's greatest bluegrass musicians, Sam Bush is a clear and dynamic instructor who communicates his ideas with clarity and ease. This terrific two-part series will help aspiring mandolin players improve technical prowess, build repertoire and develop formidable musicianship.
Sam teaches traditional fiddle tunes "Ragtime Annie," "Bile Them Cabbage Down," "Blackberry Blossom" and "Sally Goodin," showing you how to create variations on the melodies, use drone strings for fiddle-like effects, employ crosspicking techniques for a smoother sound and move up the neck to play in higher positions.
A long admirer of Bill Monroe, Sam details the bluegrass masters unique approach to his instrument, teaching "Big Mon" and the ear catching cross-tuning effects in "Get Up John." He then goes into his own challenging arrangements of "Brilliancy" and "Whayasay" (from his CD "Glamour & Grits") and "Big Rabbit" (from "Howlin at the Moon"), all of which will help you develop technical proficiency and dexterity on the mandolin.
Sam is one of the instruments great rhythm players, and he shows the essentials of damping, chopping and strumming for bluegrass, reggae and other styles. Youll also get detailed instruction in pick technique, scales, speed building, warm-up exercises, tremolo, improvised soloing and much more.
As a bonus, Sam provides an up-close look at his 1937 "F5" and his new "Sam Bush Model" Gibson mandolins, explaining the differences between them. He talks about his equipment, favorite strings, fret sizes, pick gauges, electronics and the ways that his instruments have been set up to suit his exacting requirements.
This method is an invaluable and important addition to any mandolin players instructional library, and is highly recommended.
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I was able to move through some of the technique fairly quickly because of my facility with the guitar. I think that a stone-cold beginner would have a much more difficult time with this material. Sam doesn't go into detail about which fingers cover which frets, or timing. He does expect you to rely on your ear to hear the timing which, even with the accompanying standard notation and tab, can be a little tricky in a fast passage
For me, starting with a strong foundation in guitar, Sam's approach works beautifully. Still, it was useful, even necessary for me to get a few bits of information before I attempted the lessons on this video. (see below)
For a beginner, I would advise getting some basics under your belt, like knowing which fingers should cover which frets, some rudimentary chords, and how the note timings relate to each other (whole, half, quarter, eighth notes). It doesn't take that much time to get it into your fingers, if you practice. After that you'll likely be ready to work with Sam's method.
If you don't do a little foundational homework first, going straight to this DVD could be counter productive and extremely frustrating, taking you longer in the long run. Even with my background, I went straight to the "Mandolin for Dummies" book first. It will give you that simple foundation I've mentioned and then it becomes a good reference.
If you're not self motivated and keep forgetting the difference between the end pin and the tuning pegs, go to the teacher. However, if you're more of a do-it-yourselfer, are motivated and don't need or want someone looking over your shoulder, a teaching aid like this is an eye-opening (more like eye-popping) experience.
Sam Bush strikes me as a very friendly person, and it comes across on the disks. His presentation is very encouraging and makes you want to learn and work at playing the selection of songs. He plays them through full speed (you couldn't buy a front-row seat at a concert and be this close), and then breaks them down and plays them at a slower pace. He plays many difficult licks several times, and even demonstrates little variations to make them easier to play or sound slightly different.
There are also little talks about practicing to build speed, selecting equipment, etc. At first I was a little disappointed because I knew that there was going to be a segment about the Gibson Sam Bush model mandolin. Here we go, I thought, time for a commercial break. But it wasn't like that. Sam was talking about his old mandolin, held up the new mega-bucks Gibson, and basically said, "Here it is. It sounds pretty good." End of commercial, and we were back to the music and learning. Very classy.
To wrap it up, this package will be over the heads of raw beginners. Intermediate players will spend hours and hours absorbing his music and ideas, and will become better mandolin players. That's money well spent.
P.S. to Sam: Do your fans a favor and put out a DVD or video on playing slide mandolin. That would be very cool and it's never been done.