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.
In these last few years I have been spending a lot of time exploring and wandering in the Open D tuning (D A D F# A D). Henry Worrall composed and arranged
Sebastopol, a solo parlor guitar piece, in an Open D tuning and published it in 1860 with A.C. Peters & J.L. Peters, music publishers, Cincinnati,
Ohio. The piece was very popular throughout the nineteenth century. Worrall intended the piece to be an imitation of a military bugle and band. Somehow,
Worrall's Sebastopol entered in to the folk music tradition of the 1800s and both Black and White rural musicians played versions of this tune. Over
the years the title changed from Sebastopol to Sevastopol and then to Vestapol or Vastapol. Today's guitarist generally refer to an Open D Tuning as
In my lesson Fingerpicking Blues Guitar Arrangements in Vestapol Tuning (GW1011) I explored various blues ideas, arrangements and techniques in the Open
D Tuning. In this new lesson we go beyond the blues with five arrangements that span a Country song (Tennessee Waltz), Pop (Bob Dylan's Buckets of
Rain and the Beatles' In My Life), an Old-Time banjo tune (Waterbound) and a funky downhome Delta blues (Como Blues).
In this lesson you'll enjoy the many tonal possibilities that this tuning offers in a variety of diverse music. Hopefully these arrangements will open
up your guitar playing to encompass new and evocative sounds and textures. Each tune is taught phrase by phrase and played slowly on a split-screen.
A detailed tab/music booklet is included as a PDF file on the DVD.
Titles include: Buckets of Rain, Tennessee Waltz, Waterbound, Como Blues and In My Life
109 minutes - Level 2/3 - Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: BUCKETS OF RAIN Fingerpicking Possibilities in Open D Tuning & BEYOND FINGERPICKING BLUES GUITAR in the key of E I have lumped these two DVDS together in one review because they are two of the latest offerings from the prolific Guitar Workshops who would seem to be not letting a single Chord Scale or Note get away from an in-depth analysis. As we have come to expect from this series, production values are top notch with crystal clear up close filming and impeccable sound, and Stefan himself has to be one of the best tutors out there, he is certainly one of the most productive. These two are aimed squarely at the finger picker who wants a little bit more meat on the bones and in combination with the superb filming, you have their excellent 25 pages and more PDF files that give you everything that you need to put lessons into practice. The first DVD (Key of D) has just five numbers for you to work on covering Country (Tennessee Waltz) Beatles and Dylan (In My Life & Buckets of Rain) an old Banjo tune (Waterbound) and finally blues (Como Blues). The second offering gives you 5 more in the key of E including a wonderful version of Summertime that I shall be definitely giving a try as this is probably my all-time favourite to play and sing. I am sure if someone were to come up with the scale of H, it wouldn't be too long before the Guitar Workshops had a tutorial out to cover it. Put a couple of these in your collection and you'll not have any excuse of nothing to practice. I think it was Segovia who said that he never stopped learning, so look out for these or order on line. – Blues Matters
Review: By no means is this a roundup of the usual suspects. Bob Dylan, for starters, lends the how-to lesson its pick-and-roll marquee song: "Buckets of Rain". But that isn't the only easy going mega-masterpiece attending this soiree in Open D. Melodies as drop-dead gorgeous as the Beatles "In My Life" or as cottony-soft as "Tennessee Waltz" are full of introspective calm, textured subtly and a wonderful division of labor between right and left hands. None, however, come as dangerously infectious as "Waterbound," whose old-timey charm hasn't stopped luring generations of guitars, banjos, fiddles, and sing-alongers to ride its irresistible waves. Although "Como Blues" openly transcribes north Mississippi kudzu into snaking Fred McDowell-inspired riffing, blues is not this lesson's emphasis. (For that, seek out "Fingerpicking Blues Guitar Arrangements in Vestapol Tuning".)
For five disparate pieces, the lot nicely interlocks to form a stand-alone setlist ready for action - equipped to be sung or equally fit as instrumentals. And with Stefan Grossman teaching, never are the songs presented as one-and-done. Each is flush with alternate variations and assorted ornamentations to keep them fresh and personalized. You can't miss - since Grossman doubles as both a living library as well as a natural-born teacher endowed with the goods to advance skill sets, fatten repertoires and even convert air guitarists into real string-and-fret ones. Yeah, his approach is that genuine and encouraging. - Dennis Rozanski/Blues Rag
Review: "Buckets Of Rain" is the promised follow up project to the initial instructional DVD by Stefan Grossman. The first DVD was an introductory exploration of playing blues guitar in open D tuning. Right out of the gate, I enjoyed his soft spoken, relaxed approach delving into the history of this style as well as teaching the techniques. In the first song "Buckets of Rain," he demonstrates a basic method of alternating thumb bass, hammer ons, pull offs, slides and harmonies. The video displays whole guitar shots as well as close up finger and fret views which facilitates ease in learning his ideas with no ambiguity of what to do. He also makes good use of split screen examples which are very effective and keeps the video from becoming one dimensional. I like the way he gives the student variations on each musical phrase showing that there's more than one way to do perform the song. He also demonstrates in slow motion for ease of watching intently, unlike others who would prefer to demonstrate their prowess with the lesson whizzing by followed by lengthy discussion of what just happened. The pieces progress in difficulty, teaching new subtle concepts and exploring the range of tones available and nuances that can be added to one's guitar pallet. The diversity of the other works lends toward a wide spectrum of styles that are contrasting and very pleasant versions of these songs which include "Tennessee Waltz," "Waterbound," "Como Blues" and the Beatles' "In My Life." I anticipate that this will be a continuing series of videos and I'm certain that we've not heard the last note yet. Stefan Grossman's work reflects a sincerity in his wish to help others succeed in playing well in an nontraditional tuning. He does a great job! – Minor 7th