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KEN PERLMAN - Appalachian Fiddle Tunes For Clawhammer Banjo 

KEN PERLMAN - Appalachian Fiddle Tunes For Clawhammer Banjo 
MelBay Publications ISBN: 9781513465425 

Ken Perlman wrote Couldn’t Have A Wedding Without A Fiddler: The Story Of Traditional Fiddling On Prince Edward Island – ­perhaps the most impressive and detailed study of a local tradition that has ever come my way. But Ken is not a fiddler.

No, Ken is a very impressive banjo player with a remarkable depth of knowledge about the instrument, as anyone who has heard him or has spoken to him can testify. This book tells of his commitment to it.

At first glance, the 108 tunes that it prints look like music score; five lines drawn out with a rhythm symbol at the beginning. But no, this is 5-string banjo tablature. At the top of each tune there is the tuning for that one. For just over half, the banjo is tuned gCGCD, with most of the others being gDGBD, but there is a minority where the banjo uses three other modal tunings. Each tune is introduced by a note giving its source/origin and its distinguishing features, and it is followed by advice on how to approach it.

The book starts with 25 pages of an introduction covering the range of subjects from the background and history of these tunes, the way banjo tablature should be used, as well as guidance on style, fingering technique and the use of syncopation in the music. It would seem to be as comprehensive as it could possibly be.

Vic Smith


This review appeared in Issue 136 of The Living Tradition magazine