One simply cannot talk about people of importance to this genre without tipping the hat to the most masterful musician, teacher, musicologist, producer, folklorist and preservationist of the traditional blues. By now, Stefan Grossman is a venerated, iconoclastic and respected acoustic blues figure of mega-proportions. He came out of the vibrant Greenwich Village, New York, 1960s scene around Washington Square, where so many American folk and blues musicians launched their careers. His friend and occasional collaborator, Steve Katz, formerly of the Even Dozen Jug Band, the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears, once half jokingly told this writer: “There we were, all these New York Jews playing the black blues.” Indeed, the blues had a strong influence on young New Yorkers during the folk revival. These musicians, Stefan Grossman, Happy & Artie Traum, Danny Kalb, and many others, in turn had a powerful influence on the acceptance of the blues by the American baby boomer generation at large; and, they significantly helped to launch the folk, roots & blues revival, thereby reinvigorating the careers of many original blues musicians whose careers had waned.
Many people know Stefan Grossman as the paramount teacher and entrepreneur in what has become the world’s largest “blues school”, Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop. He is one of the most skilled guitarists in the genre, having been a student of Rev. Gary Davis in New York City. He also picked up lessons directly from Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and others.
Open tunings have always been an integral part of the Country Blues Guitar tradition. In this approach the guitar is tuned to a full chord. Most blues players began playing the guitar in an open tuning as it made playing much easier yet gave the guitar a much stronger and richer sound. For a minimum of effort you can produce a maximum of sound, rhythm and music.
The most popular Country Blues tunings were the Open G tuning, also called Spanish tuning and the Open D tuning, also called Vestapol tuning. Also used by a few Delta guitarists such as Skip James and Bukka White was the Crossnote tuning where your guitar is tuned to an Open Em chord. In this lesson we will explore all three tunings with seven exciting fingerstyle blues arrangements. Also discussed are Delta blues ideas in Open G tuning as well as applying bottleneck techniques in an open tuning setting.
Each tune is taught phrase by phrase and the played slowly on a split-screen.
Titles include: Open D Tuning: Vestapol, John Henry, If You Don't Want Me • Open G Tuning: Working On The New Railroad, Special Rider Blues • Crossnote Tuning: Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues and I'm So Glad
101 minutes • Level 2/3 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: Another 5 Star DVD from Grossman! This is another in his series on the Blues (see my reviews on How to Play the Blues Guitar, Volumes 1-3)
If you have experienced Grossman before, skip the review and get the DVD. If you are new to Grossman, he is, like so many others, a gift musician. But what sets him apart is that he is also a gifted guitar teacher. Able to anticipate struggles of his students, he will pause and repeat himself carefully. Another dominant theme for Grossman is to build “line upon line, precept upon precept” where he builds, one lick at a time, entire songs. This is most evident on his 3 DVD series on How to Play the Blues Guitar in which one song is carefully chosen as a stepping stone to another. “Blues Solos” which is another great DVD follows in this pathway, but is best left to those who finish the first 3 volumes. Next, for those who love the opening tune of most of his DVDs, comes Open Tunings, “Vestapol”, which is the first song he teaches!
Taking nothing for granted, he even teaches the proper method to tuning the guitar (not just relying upon an electronic tuner) and carefully shows some simple chord changes. He then builds upon this foundation which will carry you throughout the DVD. He does not rush, though a careful use of the pause button is essential for DVD lessons, and takes the student through some exciting sounds in Open Tunings.
Are you ready for this DVD?
If you are familiar with the blues and can play the alternating bass, then you are ready, though I strongly urge his series recommended above, as the three steps to this DVD. Blues Solos follows nicely in this pattern.
All in all, another 5 star DVD from Grossman. One one DVD, you are provided with weeks, or perhaps based upon your own schedule, MONTHS of professional guitar lessons by one of the world's finest blues guitarists and instructors. There are many DVDs on the market from the world's best players, but if they don't possess the gift of teaching, you will find yourself only mimicking; not learning. The ability to take the information and present it to the student in a way that not only the student grasps it, but is excited to play, is what a gifted teacher does. Stefan Grossman is a highly skilled instructor. – Peter Hyatt/Amazon Customer Review