An intimate lesson with the master – if you can't manage a private session with Tony Rice, this two-disk DVD set may be the next best thing. It is all that we have come to expect from Homespun, but it also makes the case that DVD is the ideal medium for instructional materials.
The format of the lesson is an interview – Traum posing questions on a variety of topics and Rice, guitar in hand, answering and demonstrating. Rice is a thoughtful and articulate instructor. He’s assimilated the history of the guitar along with a wide range of influences, from Clarence White and Doc Watson to McCoy Tyner and John Coltrane. Interestingly, his playing isn't as instinctive as one might initially think. Rice knows exactly why he plays what he does easily relates the information to the viewer in an understandable and useful way.
Together, Rice and Traum explore a range of topics, breaking down ideas and deconstructing the licks that Tony uses in some of his best-known songs like Little Sadie (joined by brother Wyatt Rice) and his solo tour-de-force Shenandoah, mixed with discussions of rhythm and backup, speed, dexterity and pick, capo and microphone techniques.
The camera work is excellent, especially the split-screen technique showing both Rice's left and right hands, going to closeups when he's playing and only changing views when there is nothing on the neck to be missed. In addition, the camera views are rock-steady, making it easy to see exactly what's going on. And the camera work is essential because of the nature of the DVD medium. Unlike videotape, the image is perfectly clear when paused or run in slow motion, so the clarity of the video is vital. With DVD, you can quickly jump between individual tracks, you can stop the display instantly to dissect where Tony's hands are, you can slow-motion through licks and changes with a quality impossible to duplicate on tape.
This lesson does not take advantage of some of the other benefits of the DVD medium – alternate video angles, multiple audio tracks, subtitles and the like – but it's still a significant leap forward in the state-of-the-art in educational materials. Any serious student of the guitar will want to make the technology jump and spend a little time – ok, a lot of time – studying with arguably the greatest guitar player ever.