Roland's White's Approach to Bluegrass Mandolin Book / 2 CD set

A 60-page spiral-bound book with complete instruction in playing bluegrass mandolin for beginning and intermediate players

Roland White at Mandolin Symposium Concert 2015

Roland White's Approach to
Bluegrass Mandolin

$29.95 + shipping

60-page spiral-bound book with 2 CDs
For beginner and intermediate levels, but with challenges for advanced players too. By Diane Bouska and Roland White.

Roland White's Approach to Bluegrass Mandolin
$29.95 + shipping
  • 30 tunes in tablature (no standard notation)
  • 2 CDs with slow and medium tempo recording of each tune
  • guitar rhythm and mandolin in separate channels
  • for rank beginners progressing through all levels
  • complete instruction in how to play bluegrass mandolin
Roland White's Approach to Bluegrass Mandolin
$29.95 + shipping

Bile 'Em Cabbage Down, Cabin Home on the Hill, Cripple Creek, Soldier's Joy, Liberty, St. Anne's Reel, Clinch Mountain Backstep, Mississippi Sawyer, Sugarfoot Rag, Salty Dog Blues, Salt Creek, Old Joe Clark, Ragtime Annie, Golden Slippers, Blue Grass Stomp, New Five Cents, Spinning Wheel, Road to Columbus, Gold Rush, Wheel Hoss, John Henry, Blackberry Blossom, East Tennessee Blues, Pike County Breakdown, Wildwood Flower, Blue Moon of Kentucky, Amazing Grace in G, Amazing Grace in E, Kentucky Waltz, Lonesome Road Blues, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Jerusalem Ridge

Roland White's Approach to Bluegrass Mandolin
$29.95 + shipping

Topics covered: Relaxing, Holding the Mandolin, The Pick, Picking,  Tuning, Fretting, Pick Direction, Practicing, Mandolin Setup, Strings, Caring for Your Mandolin, Reading Tablature, Chords, Playing Rhythm, Tremolo, Chord Reference, Coordination / Warm-up Exercises, A Note on Listening, Selected Roland White Discography, 18 photos

Review by Terry Pender in Mandolin Quarterly
reprinted with permission


          If you are interested in learning bluegrass mandolin, Diane Bouska has written a wonderful new instructional book illuminating the musical philosophy, wisdom and techniques of mandolin great Roland White.Roland has performed with the most important players and innovators of bluegrass music, including Bill Monroe (on guitar), Lester Flatt, Country Gazette (again on guitar) and the Nashville Bluegrass Band. He now leads his own group with his wife and co-author Diane Bouska. Of course most readers will be familiar with Roland from his early, ground-breaking family band that performed under various names, including The Country Boys, The Kentucky Colonels and the White Brothers.

          This is an excellent book that is designed mainly for beginners, but contains so much valuable information that even intermediate and advanced players will find many useful insights and approaches to bluegrass mandolin playing that I haven't found in other books or instructional tapes. Diane Bouska wrote the book in such a way that you almost feel that each tune is a complete private lesson with Roland, including insightful commentary and stories. In addition, Roland and Diane play through each tune at both slow and medium tempos.

          Here's how the book works: first Diane presents Roland's philosophy about learning music and his story, revealing how he learned to play at home with his parent's encouragement and his siblings' cooperation. The introduction is excellent, and they go through everything you need to know about the basics of music (from a bluegrass perspective). Topics covered include relaxing while you play, how to hold the mandolin, picking technique, tuning, fretting, pick direction, how to practice, mandolin set up and strings and general care of the mandolin. Diane presents a thorough section on reading tablature - note values, rests, repeats, pick direction indications, etc. The introduction finishes off with a section on chords, covering three basic chord sets that are used to accompany the songs in the book. A few words on playing rhythm, coverage of tremolo and a set of introductory coordination and warm-up exercises round out the first section of the book. After this introduction, thirty tunes are presented and every one is a gem.

          Included in the package are two CDs that include every tune presented in the book at a slow and a medium tempo. The slow versions are written out note-for-note and performed with guitar accompaniment. The mandolin and guitar were recorded on separate stereo tracks so you can use the balance control on your stereo to hear only the guitar or mandolin (or both).

          All of the tunes (except those that are normally played slowly) are then presented in a medium tempo. The faster versions of the tunes include many variations on the themes and illustrate how to flesh out the tunes and create your own variations. Some of the more difficult pieces have a bare bones version of the tune to familiarize the player with the structure and melody and to prepare the student for the "real" version of the tune.

          Where do these tunes come from? Most are traditional fiddle tunes and bluegrass standards from the songbooks of Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, The Osborne Brothers and Reno and Smiley. In other words, they're bluegrass classics. One of the great features of the book is the presentation of vocal tunes as well as instrumentals. Roland points out that he learned many fiddle tunes and played them well, but that whenever he had to take a break on a song, he often didn't know what to play. In this volume, Roland explains how he learned to play the melodies of these tunes and shows several beautiful mandolin versions of a lot of great songs - fleshed out with harmony notes and double stops, slides and tremolo. On the vocal tunes, he shows the basic melody and then a more advanced version, always true to the melody, but with interesting twists and turns. On the CD, he often plays even more variations than are written out. This way the student learns to develop and transpose vocal melodies into meaningful mandolin breaks that genuinely embellish and enhance the melody, staying true to the song. All of the songs taught in this manner are real chestnuts: "Cabin Home On The Hill," "Salty Dog Blues," "John Henry," "Wildwood Flower," "Amazing Grace," "Kentucky Waltz," "Lonesome Road Blues" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky."

          The instrumental tunes that are taught include many well-known fiddle tunes, such as "Ragtime Annie," "Soldiers Joy," "Golden Slippers," "St. Anne's Reel" and several more. Several of Bill Monroe's instrumental tunes are also taught, such as "Gold Rush," "Jerusalem Ridge," "Pike County Breakdown," "Wheel Hoss," "Bluegrass Stomp" and "Road To Columbus."

          The real strength of this book is that Roland is really teaching you how to play bluegrass music. He teaches you what to look out for in each tune as well as what is unique about each tune or arrangement. He discusses what you should be listening for in a bluegrass recording - the instrumental interplay and the various roles that each instrument plays in a group context. The end result is that Roland teaches you how to learn bluegrass so that you can continue to grow as a player long after you have digested all of the tunes from the book and CDs. He talks about how to practice and he gives tips for effective jam sessions, learning off of records, etc. Every tune is expertly arranged to sound great on the mandolin regardless of the original source. For example, a version of the Earl Scruggs banjo classic "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" is expertly arranged for the mandolin.

          Perhaps the greatest achievement is the way that Diane Bouska presents the narrative aspect of the book. It feels as if Roland is speaking directly to you in a warm, encouraging and effective manner. Diane has distilled the essence of Roland's approach, and together they have produced a wonderful book, with insights and details that only a master teacher and player with over 50 years of professional experience could reveal,Roland White's Approach To Bluegrass Mandolin is the best introduction to bluegrass mandolin playing that I have come across. Although the book is intended for beginners, I believe that there is a wealth of information for players at all levels. I know I got a lot out of it and I've been playing for over 20 years now.

          This book is currently only available directly from Roland and Diane and can be ordered through their web site: or [Ed. Note: also it is now sold at many music stores around the country, and on]

          The book and CD set costs $29.95 and is well worth every penny.

          As an added bonus, Roland White and Diane Bouska have given us permission to re-print one of the selections from the book. Roland thought that his father's French-Canadian version of "St. Anne's Reel" would be a nice tune to share with the readers of Mandolin Quarterly, so here it is.
Thanks Roland!

--Terry Pender, writing for Mandolin Quarterly

What our students say:

Dear Roland & Diane, 
I received your book yesterday and couldn't wait to open the package. I put the C.D.'s on and listened to the entire set. I could not believe somebody finally put out a piece of educational material that actually is in my opinion, great!! I was suppose to be doing a million and one things last night, but found myself picking up my F5L Gibson instead. Wow!! I can't wait to get back to practicing again. I really like your approach to the mandolin. You make it just the way I've been trying to learn from recordings, but it seems to be difficult because of the speed most bluegrass tunes are done. I thought I'd never get it or it would just be a very painstakingly slow process. With this book and C.D.'s I have all the confidence in the world that I will become a confident bluegrass mandolin picker. Thank you very much for putting together an absolutely fabulous book and C.D.'s and thank you Roland for signing my book. I will be sending a link of your site to many of my friends. 
Thanks again, Sincerely,
Roman Stauber
Marshfield, Wi

Hi Diane, 
I got my Mando book WOW... is it NICE.... -)I was sure surprised that Roland made the time to sign it -)   PLEASE THANK HIM for me... -)  I can't believe what a quality product it is.. I get a lot of guitar and mando books and I REALLY like this one especially since it has a lot of GOOD tunes and it's not dry.. like a lot of books.  Seriously, it's the best book I've seen in a long time and I own about  everything ********* has made....A few minutes with this book and I was like.. ohhhhh yehhh this is a keeper... -) that's the reason I had to write you back... and I WILL buy anything else you two "kick out" -)When I was at the Station Inn last year I saw a little piece of paper there..saying Roland was giving lessons.  I saw that and said to myself... damn! I wish I lived in guitar town... Anyway if you folks make any other instructional material please let me know and I'll certainly buy it...THANK YOU AGAIN for being so nice -)
Fred Niehaus
Technical Marketing Engineer
Cisco Systems, Akron Ohio 

Thank You very much..........I do enjoy that book so very much and am looking forward to the next book with great anticipation. I love the simplicity of your song transcribement, yet the songs sound so full. Especially with accompaniment.  I am not just saying this but that book opened up my mandolin playing extensively. It is a great teacher. Thanks again, 
Tom Kolan

Hi Diane and Roland,
I just learned the first tune in the book, "Bile Em Cabbage Down"; in about 10 minutes, and I'm very excited. As a graphic designer I think you did a tremendous job, the book is perfectly clear and legible, the tunes on the CD sound very clean as well. Thanks for holding off sending everything, so I could get the free strings, I really appreciate it. The Clarence White CD is even more stellar than I could have imagined. You can quote me if you need a testimonial. Thanks for putting together a terrific package!!
C. Sheusi / NYC
p.s. The song list is Class A all the way!!    

Diane and Roland,
I am now the proud owner of your book and CD's. And am very pleased with the content, presentation and your choice of tunes. I am fairly new to this grand instrument but am moving along pretty fast. My teacher and others seem to stress speed and there are many fast monster mando players out there to emulate but many sound the same and as you say have lost touch with the inherent beauty of these American classics. I am so glad to see your emphasis on melody, and feeling in playing. I can only hope to capture these values in my playing. I will pass on the recommendation of your book to my picking friends and will await any other offerings. Thanks again.
Gregory Janos
Carmichael, CA

I saw your ad on the Mandolin Cafe board. Nice!I can't tell you how much I am appreciating your Roland White's Approach to Bluegrass Mandolin Method book and CD's. I needed them. It was time to go back to the basics, even though my picking is getting to a point that I can take the fast breaks, fill and chop reliably. I was getting sloppy. Your book is well written and answers many of my questions. I enjoy the layout and find the "asides" wonderful.The organization of this material is  tremendous. It is easy to verify your pick direction just from the sound. I still would not be able to tell if it were you or  Roland's picking.. give me a little time.  Also your dead-on rhythm makes following you a joy. It's like I have a metronome and a practice tape all in one. I appreciate the ability to slip from track to track. It's easy to back track. Your package has given me plenty of quality material to work with. It just makes me want to improve. I promise, I will remember that it is my responsibility to practice!  The two of you have certainly done your work. THANKS...
Patsy Kline, honest! 
from Lawn, PA ..