Learning to play is hard work, but the joy of mastering the necessary skills has been worth the effort for many of us. Homespun must be doing something right. After all, they’ve kept customers coming back for many years now.
Happy Traum’s Easy Bluegrass & Country Guitar (oddly enough, also called Easy Country & Bluegrass Guitar on the tape itself) takes the process of learning to play to a new and, I think, a better medium. Video provides capabilities we only dreamed about in the past. Snazzy techniques like picture-in-picture and slow motion make video a vast improvement over books, tablature and cassettes.
Traum starts the lesson with some simple techniques designed to teach a beginning guitar player the basic rhythm strums and bass runs commonly used in country and bluegrass guitar playing. He assumes the viewer is familiar with the basic chords on the guitar, but no one will feel swamped or lost. After all, you can just rewind the tape and try again. The picture-in-picture technique of showing the right hand strum in a small window on the screen while showing the left hand chording is especially effective. You really can see what’s happening with both hands at the same time.
The video covers the range - from straight 4/4 time (John Hardy) to waltz time (All The Good Times Are Past And Gone), from simple down stroke strums ("boom-chick") to down/up strums ("boom-chicka"). Traum shows the fingering for scales (starting with the major scale in C – I’d have expected the G scale instead) and a small collection of bass runs, pull-offs and hammer-ons, including the Lester Flatt G-run (in several keys). He winds up with a simple demonstration of playing the melody from the chord changes. Nothing fancy – just good, fundamental rhythm playing techniques.
There’s no substitute for actually playing, but sometimes it takes a little help to get started. If you’re just learning to play, Easy Bluegrass & Country Guitar should do the trick.