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Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin

By Mandolin Cafe
March 22, 2011 - 6:45 am

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Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin by John McGann and Matt Glaser

Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin by John McGann and Matt Glaser

Boston, Mass. — Berklee Press has announced the publication of Beyond Bluegrass Mandolin, Etudes and Ideas for the Modern Mandolinist by John McGann and Matt Glaser.

Improvise with more expression and freedom in bluegrass and related styles. These ideas, exercises, and etudes will help you expand your palette of improvisational techniques and sounds. Develop your versatility over the fingerboard, and master harmonic and rhythmic ideas on the mandolin. The CD has demonstration and play-along tracks, performed by an all-star band.

Suggested retail: $19.99
Softcover with CD
Width: 9"
Length: 12"
Pages: 64

Additional information:
Purchase: From Elderly Instruments
Purchase: From


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Reader Comments

March 22, 2011 10:44 AM
Sorry, but there's not enough information in this advertisement to make me think of going into google-search-mode to find out if there's more to it. (Though I certainly do like John McGann's participation on this site)
March 22, 2011 10:49 AM
Well???? whats the scoop?
John McGann
March 22, 2011 03:26 PM
Thanks for your interest! I have created a mandolin version of Matt Glaser's book "Bluegrass Fiddle and Beyond: Etudes and Ideas for the Modern Fiddler". I knew right away not to call it "Bluegrass Mandolin" at all to avoid misleading anyone (I love Blue Grass music as much as anyone, but this book is not directly dealing with the very specific genre that most of us would think of as "bluegrass mandolin", specifically Monroe style mandolin). Much of the book is true to Matt's original version with the addition of tablature to the notation; there are a few improvisations that are unique to this edition, specifically for mandolin.

From the Berklee Press website on Matt's book:


Improvise with more expression and freedom in bluegrass and related styles. These ideas, exercises, and etudes will help you expand your palette of improvisational techniques and sounds. Develop your versatility over the fingerboard, and master harmonic and rhythmic ideas on the violin. The CD has demonstration and play-along tracks, performed by an all-star bluegrass band.

You will learn to build solos using techniques such as:

* Uncovering a melody's most defining notes, and using it in a new context
* Reharmonizing chords and changing modes
* Breaking down, rearranging, and varying melodic and rhythmic cells
* Using position shifts, string crossings, and double stops
* Drawing from tetrachords, guide-tone lines, and other constructs

The book comes with a CD where you can turn off the mandolin track and play with just the rhythm section (which is myself and my pal Jim Whitney of the Andy Statman Trio on bass).
Several originals of Matt's are included, along with some standard tunes such as Blackberry Blossom and Fisher's Hornpipe. An excerpt from a reviewer on Amazon about Matt's book:

A number of studies deal specifically with improvising melodically on fiddle tunes. Glaser's take on this is a bit different from John McGann's in his series of books, "Developing Variations on Fiddle tunes". Glaser draws more explicitly upon jazz devices, demonstrating upper structure triads, substitutions, guide-tones, and reharmonization rather than simply embellishing the melody with diatonic passing tones.

I just got an email from the Berklee Press telling me that the book just arrived from the printer- I apologize for the lack of info out there, but hopefully they can now create a category for "Mandolin" on the Berklee Press website- this won't be the last book on the subject! ;)

I would suggest that the material is intermediate to advanced, ranging from quite easy to reasonably challenging at tempo (but nowadays, the slowdowner technology allows any interested person to adjust the speed to suit their current abilities, so.... ;)
Man of Wax
March 22, 2011 04:33 PM
Thanks, John, for the additional info. Is it available in brick-and-mortar stores (maybe Music Emporium, 'round these parts)? Or will a preview be available on amazon? It would be helpful to flip through it, either in digital or dead-tree formats. Try before you buy.

Very much looking forward to the next mando mashup, by the way. I went to last year's and was positively staggered by the talent and artistry on display.
March 22, 2011 04:52 PM
wow, thanks for the additional insight into the contents. It sounds great. Originally I was not planning to buy it, but now, after reading your comment, I will definitely be getting it. Thanks for working on this and making it available to us!
March 22, 2011 06:26 PM
I took a peek over at Amazon. I always wonder why some books do not have the "Look Inside" feature available. I very rarely buy a music book without a little bit of a preview.

Anyone know what's up with that?
Alan Epstein
March 22, 2011 07:10 PM sounds like you have put together some good mandolin vitamins for us to check out there....thanks
John McGann
March 23, 2011 05:43 AM
I'll ask about getting the preview thing happening on Amazon, I like that feature too; as far as bricks and mortar stores, it would depend on the store, but it is certainly available for retailers.
March 23, 2011 06:38 AM

This looks great, and thanks for the additional insight.

And....that is the first photo I have seen of you without a hat or cap on!!

Jim D
John McGann
March 23, 2011 07:24 AM
and i still managed to hide the big spider tattoo at the top of my skull (keeps the flies off at festivals, y'know?)
March 23, 2011 08:36 AM
Darn! I thought this was the announcement of a movement embracing non-traditional uses for the mandolin. This is something I have been involved in for the longest time, and am now playing in three bands far beyond bluegrass - Cajun, reggae, and rock/folk-rock. Then I see it's just about a book and CD!

OK, I kid, I kid! Sounds like a great and valuable resource. Thanks for adding a more detailed description that the rather dry announcement. And thanks for all you do to demonstrate the wide-ranging possibilities of our beloved instrument.
Bill Foss
March 23, 2011 02:06 PM
Would this book be helpful in learning jazz/swing music? Or is it more to expand one's ability to improvise on fiddle tune/bluegrass material?
John McGann
March 23, 2011 03:07 PM
yes, it would be helpful in developing some ideas for jazz improvisation in seeing some actual improvised phrases that incorporate the important elements of the jazz line such as rhythmic phrasing, melodic development, and the horizontal expression of the vertical chord tones...but it is not a 'jazz improvisation primer', if you want something along those lines, I'd suggest Bert Ligon's books Jazz Theory Resources, Connecting Chords with Linear Harmony, and Comprehensive Technique for Jazz Musicians- all excellent books for the standard notation-enabled (and if you are serious about jazz improvisation, tab alone is not really adequate for complete understanding of what's going on 'under the hood').
Bill Foss
March 23, 2011 03:22 PM
Thanks for you thorough answer. I'll check out those books you mention after I finish working through Standard Notation for the Tab Addicted Mandolin Player!
John McGann
March 23, 2011 04:28 PM
You can also try my free Tab Reader's Guide To Standard Notation.
March 23, 2011 04:41 PM
Just a suggestion, but you could use the Café's attachment feature to upload a few pages: table of contents and some sample pages. You know, to whet our appetites.
John McGann
March 23, 2011 06:46 PM
Thanks, i have to get a copy first! ;)
John McGann
March 24, 2011 06:20 AM
"Hats off to Matt Glaser and John McGann for effectively tackling a subject that has been near and dear to me for nearly half a century!" - David Grisman.

The CD has demonstration and play-along tracks accompanied by a full band. 53 pp.


* Lamb Chops (Skeletal Melody And The Five Levels Of Improvisation)
* The Girl I Left Behind Me (Reharmonization)
* The Infinite Blackberry Blossom (Melodic Cells And Progressive Rhythmic Variation)
* The Ark And The Saw (Changing The Mode)
* Act Natural (Mutually Exclusive Triads)
* High Windy (Developing Motifs And Upper-Structure Triads)
* IHOP (Mixolydian String Crossing)
* Hot Lick Fiddle Chick (Shifting Positions While Playing Constantly Flowing Eighth Notes)
* Gunshot Wound In The E.R. (Dominant Seventh Chords Around The Cycle)
* Fishy Hornpipe (Tetrachords)
* Ponzi Scheme (Increasing Rhythmic Density)
* That Tumble-Down Shack In Athlone (Guide-Tone Lines In Double Stops)
March 24, 2011 08:09 AM
Now there is an endorsement! A tip of the hat from the best - and someone who doesn't even wear one.

I daresay you have earned the right to feel proud.
Chip Booth
March 30, 2011 11:31 AM
John, I am looking forward to checking out this book.

Now, how do I convince you to put together a method for the 10 stringed fanned fret!
May 02, 2011 10:52 PM
I actually got the book! Pretty exciting format - really requires ya to engage your brain - definitely can't do this stuff in front of the tv. My one critique would be that it was hard to figure out how to use the book at first - i guess you have to engage your brain for that too...
May 04, 2011 06:15 PM
Just got the book and looks like a lot of useful info and a lot to work through.Having a hard time figuring out exactly what to in the first exercise. I don't understand what to do with steps and leaps. Is it 1/2 steps leading into the embedded skeleton notes? I feel a little foolish asking this question.
John McGann
May 10, 2011 05:59 AM
mo' discussion here:
July 21, 2011 11:23 AM
Question -- I attended Matt Glaser's improvisation workshop at Grey Fox last week and was both educated and entertained. He went through a five step process of breaking down the melody to its bare bones and building off of that and mentioned that he had books on the process; however, I was unable to get to speak with him afterwards.

Can you tell me whether this is the book he was referring to?

John McGann
July 21, 2011 05:39 PM
Matt's version is for fiddle and he had me re-write it for mandolin; it's the same material.

There is a new Q and A thread here.
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