Brenda reviews Mel Bay new instructional books

Written by:

Brenda Hough

As many music fans know, Mel Bay has been a long time publisher of music books and instructional materials.  Their “You Can Teach Yourself” series has included books on mandolin, guitar, banjo and bass, and the popular Parking Lot Series of jam tunes for bluegrass instruments.  Here are some of their latest publications, and many more can be found at

Nate Sabat: Dirt Simple Upright Bass
ISBN 978-151-346-689-7

Bass playing is the bedrock sound for any bluegrass band, and Nate’s book provides a sound introduction to bass notation, chord triads and finding patterns for playing that will give a beginner a strong foundation.  Musical notation is clarified and the notes of the most popular musical bluegrass keys are shown in notation and placement on the fingerboard.  Nate also explains the proper hand and body positioning to playing the instrument and takes care to explain muscle positioning to avoid injury.

The second portion of the book takes the popular songs Rabbit in the Log, Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky, Long Journey Home, Going Down The Road Feeling Bad, I Am a Pilgrim and  Angel Band as a basis for constructing four different bass line accompaniments.  Since the song patterns are in different musical keys, the patterns can be used for other songs following the same chord structures.  The accompanying online recordings are paced for practice, and an additional 50 companion songs are also available.


William Bay: Guitar Picking Tunes – Old Time Music Gems
ISBN 978-173-371-699-4

William Bay has selected 19 songs and charted out the melody line in standard notation, with a parallel set of guitar tablature.  The book also has online audio links, so the learner can hear the song performed as well.  Some of the featured songs are Bring Back to Me My Wandering Boy, Cumberland Gap, Down in the Willow Garden, Fair and Tender Ladies, I Never Will Marry, Roll on Buddy, Short Life of Trouble, Storms Are on the Ocean, and Sweet Sunny South.


Craig Duncan: Great Fiddling Tunes – Celtic Gems
ISBN 978-151-346-738-2

Craig Duncan is a renowned multi-instrumentalist who has been a performer on many stages and recordings in the Nashville area.  With interests in Celtic music, Cajun, classical and popular music, he has been on over 90 recordings and is also an author and teacher.

This book features 103 songs written in standard notation with guitar chords.  The songs are grouped by category and include 40 reels, 40 jigs, 10 slip jigs, 3 strathspeys, hornpipes, airs, and waltzes. Unlike other song collections that only show musical notation, the learner can hear the songs online.   The songs are all played online so the learner will have access to practice the songs.  The opportunity to hear and play along with the songs will be of great value to learning the songs to play at an Irish ceilidhs.