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.
I don't believe in doing dry and boring guitar exercises. I like to practice different techniques and styles within the scope of a song arrangement. Fingerstyle blues and ragtime guitar offers the student many interesting and challenging ideas that can help build up your fretboard knowledge, control of your left and right hands as well as learning some hot licks and grooves. In this double DVD lesson we will study and explore:
• The Alternating Bass
• The Monotonic Bass
• Hammer-Ons & Pull-Offs
• The Cocaine Blues Exercise
• The Soldier's Drill Exercise
• Single String Runs
• Chord Fingerings
• The Syncopated Bass
• Stumble Bass Endings
• Rhythmic Licks
• Combining the Rhythmic Lick with Chordal Runs
• Counterpoint Lines and Melodies
• The Blues Vibrato in the Key of C
• Lonnie Johnson's Blues in the Key of D
• Mississippi John Hurt's Blues in the Key of E
• Delta Blues in the Key of E
• Lightnin' Hopkins' Blues in the Key of E
• Blues in the Key of A
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 each DVD. The Bonus Audio sections include original recordings relating to the exercises.
225 minutes - Level 2/3 - Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: These "Guitar Exercises & Hot Licks" go well beyond their 225 minutes of how-to education and you've-got-this motivation. For blues and ragtime guitarists, they'll last a lifetime of fingerpicking. Because Stefan Grossman is a one-man think tank diligently working to empower you as a better guitarist. His sworn goal here is to develop "your" sound. And he's entertainingly congenial doing so. (Hey, did he tell you the one about his one-hit wonder months rocking out with Chicago Loop, or how hanging with pre-Blind Faith Clapton reshaped his approach to vibrato?)
Old masters – Davis, Fuller, Hurt, Johnson – are the ones who most often come up in conversation, though. And even more so in practice. Their trademark moves, along with a slew of Grossman's personal own, continually inform the tremendous ground that's covered. There are lessons on blues in the key of your choice (A, C, D and E). The section on bass styles, for instance, runs the gambit from monotonic and alternating to Depression-era funk (namely, syncopation and that cool way Blind Blake would stumble on the strings). Then there are sections on counterpoint, end tags, that aforesaid vibrato, and more. Rather than teaching songs for the sake of fattening up repertoires, pertinent portions of songs are spotlit as workouts for building a specific technique: "Cocaine Blues" practices the nuanced art of pull-offs and hammer-ons. The Piedmont-via-Bronx tour de force "Twelve Sticks" sheds enlightenment on single-string runs. Plus, you'll also walk away from here with more hot licks than from a basket of puppies. – Dennis Rozanski/Blues Rag
Review: I am not going to go through the quality of these productions again in any detail, just read any of my previous reviews. But here we have a double DVD from the man himself, which does just what it says on the sleeve. Total playing time of 225 minutes, but you simply cannot just sit down in front of a TV screen (Or I suppose a computer screen too) and run it straight through as you will constantly be pausing and rewinding to go back over a devilishly tricky piece (Of which there are many) Although there are exercises here that are open to all levels of ability, it does assume a certain proficiency in fingerpicking, but the joy of it is that there are sections that you could use as your own backing tracks and just improvise to your hearts content over the top. As always, the very comprehensive PDF file that comes with the package is top quality and easy to follow. In order to get full value from these DVDs you have got to be ready to set yourself at least ten minutes at a time practicing any of the exercises, but, in reality, F guess that ten minutes files by and you could be stuck behind a guitar for hours. Oh well, what a hell of a way to go! – Dave Stone/Blues Matters!