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  Jim Bruce Complete Acoustic Blues Guitar Course Review


Do you want to go beyond playing just basic chords on the acoustic guitar, and learn some more advanced techniques, such as finger picking blues and slide guitar styles? Or maybe you have some experience with finger style guitar techniques, but would like to explore how to play the guitar in blues or ragtime style?

 Jim's Complete Blues & Ragtime Fingerpicking Guitar Course presents a series of comprehensive video lessons with full blues guitar tabs, which will teach you to how to play the guitar blues, ragtime and slide styles, in the style of legendary blues men such as Blind Blake, Big Bill Broonzy, and Robert Johnson.

Each video lesson in the course shows how to learn blues guitar by presenting a complete song in a particular style, taking it section by section, then showing how to put those parts together.

Course Author / Instructor

Jim Bruce is a well established and respected guitarist in the acoustic blues & ragtime genre, having recorded several albums to date. He also spends a fair amount of time playing this style of guitar music on the streets and cafes of Europe, and so has years of practical experience in performing these blues songs.

He shares this experience in the course - for example, in the video lesson for 'Key To The Highway', he presents the 'regular' and 'street' version of this tune, with the 'street' version being slanted towards a live performance.

Course Contents - What You Get

The course consists of 35 high quality WMV or MOV video files on three data-disks, along with PDF files with full tablature to go along with the videos. Each of the videos is a complete in-depth lesson on learning one particular blues/ragtime song, for example 'Key To The Highway' (Big Bill Broonzy), or 'Crossroads' (Robert Johnson).

The data-disk format is used so that over 11 hours of detailed tuition can be compressed onto 3 disks. Just pop the disk in your computer, choose a lesson and play it like a normal video.

Course Description - What's in the Lessons?

Each lesson starts with Jim playing the whole song, at full speed. This is good to watch, although it can seem a little daunting, when you realize you'll be learning to play the same tune!

Then the lesson itself begins, as Jim breaks the song right down into small, manageable sections that you can work on in a practice session. He also slows it right down, making it much easier to follow along. Here's part of one lesson, showing the opening section to 'Blue Day Blues' by Scrapper Blackwell.

In the relevant sections of the video, the guitar tab or chord/fingering charts are shown in the lower part of the screen, making it easy to follow - how sure fire way to learn how to play the guitar properly.

One thing that can seem difficult when you're learning to play finger picking blues guitar, is coordinating the picking action from your right hand, with changing chords and fretting notes with the left. In each of the lesson videos, Jim shows closeups of both the right hand picking technique and the left hand chord positions, so you can see more easily what's happening.

Each of the different song sections are then put together, so you can soon make progress towards playing more complete parts of the song.

In some of the videos (e.g. Crossroads), Jim also covers learning to play slide or bottleneck guitar, which is the basis of a classic 'blues' sound. The video sections on this are clear, with good closeups, and Jim gives some useful tips on how best to use the slide, for example, on how best to dampen the unwanted sounds with your left hand, which is an essential skill to master if you want to get the best slide guitar sound.

The slide guitar lessons use an alternative guitar tuning, and Jim explains clearly how to change the tuning of each string, before you start the lesson itself. As with the other lessons, the guitar tab is shown in the lower section of the screen, pointing out where to use the slide.

Also in the lessons, there are handy tips on singing the verses while playing. Jim takes individual lines from the verses, and shows where the words fit into the guitar part. This is very useful info, as it's one thing to know how to play the guitar part on its own, and another thing to be able to play and sing at the same time.

Just having the lyrics written out under the tab isn't always enough to figure out exactly where to come in with the vocals, so having this demonstrated clearly like this helps a lot. The video below features Jim singing and demonstrating part of 'When You're Down and Out' by Scrapper Blackwell.


Support for the lessons is by email, and I've always found Jim to be very responsive and quick to get back to me when I've had a question.

Overall - Our Verdict

I found Jim's Complete Blues & Ragtime Fingerpicking Guitar Course to be a very effective and practical way to learn how play the guitar. I liked the way that each video is completely dedicated to learning a particular song, so that after working through all of the videos, you end up with a whole set of songs for your repertoire, as well as a good range of finger picking techniques and licks that you can incorporate into other pieces.

To learn to play songs in this style of music, I think it's very important to get a sense of how the tune should sound as a whole, before learning each section, and that's just what you get with these videos, with Jim giving his rendition at the start, so you can see and hear what you need to aim for. I thought that the way the tune was divided into small sections, and slowed right down, made it easy to work on parts of the tune in a single practice session, before linking the sections together.

There are plenty of closeups of both the right and left hand positions on the videos, which will help you perfect each section. I found the left hand closeups particularly useful, as just seeing the tab or chord symbols for a section doesn't always give enough info on playing more complicated sections - watching the left hand closeup clip over a few times really helped me here.

I also liked seeing the 'street' version on the 'Key To The Highway' video, where Jim shares his experience of playing this tune in a live setting. It's one thing to learn how to play the guitar in performing the 'regular' version, but very useful to see how to tweak this into the 'street' version to give your playing some more 'oomph' when performing for an audience.

If you can play the basic open chords, and you're looking to get into learning some more finger style/finger picking or slide acoustic guitar, then I would definitely recommend taking a closer look at this course. You'll get to learn some classic blues & ragtime tunes which will help you learn how to play the guitar in the old authentic style, and these can also be very impressive sounding things to be able to play for people when they ask you to play them a tune.

Price and Guarantees

Jim's Complete Blues & Ragtime Finger Picking Guitar Course is currently priced at $49 for all of the 39 video lessons, with a full, unconditional refund if you're not happy with it for any reason.


Jim Speaks About Three Of His Favorite Blues Men From Carolina

My favorite old blues men are mostly unsung heroes  Funnily enough, these three artists came from Carolina . Floyd Council, Pink Anderson ( Pink Floyd borrowed their names ) and Scrapper Blackwell - these guys really knew how to play the guitar!

Floyd Council wasn't very well recorded as a performer in his own right, but sometimes played in studio recording sessions playing behind 'stars' such as Blind Boy Fuller, another South Carolina artists . His guitar was syncopated and could be described as a combination of ragtime and  a Texas blues style.

Pink Anderson (I don't believe that they ever collaborated or even crossed each others path !) played ragtime guitar and performed in traveling medicine shows.

Scrapper Blackwell was an extremely varied guitar player who wrote many memorable songs, such as Blues Before Sunrise and Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out.

His creation 'Kokomo Blues' was made famous by Robert Johnson by the name 'Sweet Home Chicago'. Scrapper provided classics which were to provide inspiration for later masters of blues music. Although Scrapper didn't teach Johnson how to play the guitar, he still owed him a great deal.

Floyd Council (Born September 2, 1911 and died May 9th , 1976)  was a well-known performer of the Piedmont ragtime blues sound, which was well liked all through the southeastern region of America during the nineteen thirties .

He started his career in the 1920s, performing with two brothers, Leo and Thomas Strowd calling themselves "The Chapel Hillbillies". He also played on some sessions with Blind Fuller during the thirties . His muscles were partially paralyzed after suffering a stroke in the nineteen sixties , but it seemed that his mind was still sharp. However , he was never able to recover his playing ability, although still finding time to show others how to play the guitar.

Council died in 1976 after a heart attack,  just after going to live  in Sanford, North Carolina.

Scrapper Blackwell

Born in Syracuse, Carolina, Scrapper Blackwell was one of sixteen children. Part Cherokee, he was raised up and spent most of his life in Indianapolis. He was given the familiar name , "Scrapper", by his grandma , because of his prickly nature. His father played the fiddle, but Scrapper taught himself how to play the guitar .

Even when he was a teenager , Blackwell worked as a part-time musician, wandering as far away as Chicago. He was a sullen man, generally keeping to himself and difficult to get along with. In spite of this , Blackwell established a duo with piano player Leroy Carr, whom he ran across in Indiana in the 1920s, which was a productive working relationship.

Blackwell also made recordings on his own , including "Kokomo Blues" which became "Old Kokomo Blues" (Kokomo Arnold) before it was transformed again into "Sweet Home Chicago" by Robert Johnson. Blackwell and Carr traveled extensively throughout the mid-west states and through the South from 1928 to 1935 - stars of the blues scene, recording over 100 tracks.

After Carr died, Scrapper returned to performing in the late 1950s and was recorded again in June 1958 by Colin C. Pomroy.

He was going to resume his blues career when he was shot and killed during a robbery in an Indianapolis alley. He was fifty nine years old . Although the crime remains unsolved, police took into custody his neighbor for the murder. Scrapper Blackwell is buried in New Crown Cemetery, Indianapolis.

Pink Anderson

Pink's birth place was in Greenville South Carolina. Having trained himself in several instruments, he started to play for Dr. Frank Kerr, who ran a business which was known as the Indian Remedy Company in nineteen fourteen to sing for the audiences while the doctor sold his special ' elixir '.

In the town of Spartanburg, Anderson Simeon "Blind Simmie" Dooley in 1916, who taught him how to play the guitar - Pink previously had some experience of performing in string bands. When he was not traveling in Dr Kerr's medicine show , he and Dooley would entertain at small parties . 

Heart problems eventually forced Anderson to retire from the road in nineteen fifty seven .

Suffering a stroke in 1954, which forced him to virtually stop playing guitar, and he would never again play with his old flair. He died in October 1974,  after a heart attack at the age of 74. He is interred in Spartanburg, where from where he originated . Anderson's son, who became known as Little Pink Anderson , is a blues guitarist living in Vermillion, South Dakota.


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