Sierra Hull - Secrets, Songs, & Tunes

Sierra Hull - Secrets, Songs, & Tunes

AcuTab, No Number.
Two DVDs and tab booklet, $50.
AcuTab Publications, P.O. Box 21061, Roanoke, VA 24018

Since she burst onto the bluegrass scene as a child, Sierra Hull has generated the kind of buzz previously seen around mandolin players such as Chris Thile, Sam Bush, and her hero, Adam Steffey. With the release of her first instructional DVD, Secrets, Songs & Tunes, Sierra Hull now takes a big step forward in developing her reputation as one of the best mandolin players on the scene today. This excellent twoDVD set with a companion notation/TAB booklet stands firmly alongside previous AcuTab projects as the best in the industry for production values, teaching value, and pure entertainment.

Sierra demonstrates no sense of nerves as she calmly answers questions from John Lawless and thoughtfully demonstrates key elements to her solos, intros, and outros to her Secrets CD. She talks in detail about her left-hand technique on chop chords and how her diminutive right-hand size led her to begin using her ring finger to post up to keep her heel from muting the strings. Right-hand technique, stringskipping, and pick direction, including a great discussion about how she will practice using an upstroke instead of a downstroke to start key phrases and licks to give her a different tone and to improve her technique, offer lots of fascinating insight here.

The DVDs are divided into easily understood sections, with Lawless interviewing Hull first about the cut, followed by her playing through each section and explaining the fingerings and other key concepts. These sections will be especially valuable to the beginning player who needs to understand basic concepts such as hammerons, slides, and Hull’s masterful righthand techniques.

Each tune is followed by a splitview twocamera shot in standard and slow time. This is where the advanced player will grab key techniques and learn material most quickly. Finally, she follows up with a full band performance of each piece, backed by bluegrass stars Ron Block, Barry Bales, and Kenny Smith.

Given the thoroughly professional level of lighting, sound, and video, and the keen cooperation between Lawless and Hull in presenting the material clearly, there’s almost nothing here to criticize. One failure is the lack of detailed chord charts, which on tunes such as “Smashville” (when she goes through a detailed explanation of how she chose the chord voicings) pose a serious drawback to a beginning player who may have no idea how to play the chords she’s naming. But that’s a minor quibble. Secrets, Songs & Tunes will delight anyone who enjoys precise, melodic bluegrass mandolin and wants to incorporate some of her special magic into their own playing. Highly recommended. DJM