MODES ON MANDOLIN: IMPROVING YOUR IMPROVISATION BY TODD COLLINS. Mel Bay 9780786685158. 140 pp., $24.99. (Mel Bay, #4 Industrial Dr., Pacific, MO 63069,

This book fills a gap in improvisation tutorials in that it serves as an introduction to something that many bluegrass pickers might be intimidated by—the theory and practice of scales and modes. Where most tutorials often leave out this discussion entirely or go too far by presenting scales and modes in encyclopedic format, this book should be of value to anyone interested in taking the next step from playing by ear to incorporating a theoretical knowledge of keys, scales, and modes into their improvisation.

The tablature and standard notation is in the form of exercises built around arpeggios, patterns, rhythm, intervals, and progressions and takes into account the physicality of the mandolin fretboard as well as music theory. I like the author’s idea of not going through the book sequentially, but dipping into it at different places, as well as choosing a different key each week to work on.

Recommended for advanced-beginning or intermediate mandolin players who want to get a start on using music theory to improve their solos.CVS

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