Jack writes:

I’m a rank beginner and i’m trying to decide between bluegrass banjo, the book and cd, and beginning bluegrass banjo, the video. are many of the songs the same? I think that might help me. I guess I was suprized to see that the video does not include a book. should I get both?

In general I recommend the video over the book, though the book is valuable in a lot of compatible ways (almost no duplicate songs). The video concentrates completely on the needs of a beginner, which the book does in only a few sections (then it teaches intermediate and advanced technique). Also, video in general is a great teaching medium — split screen closeups, you see everything. There is indeed a booklet packaged with the video, with tablature for everything I play on the video.

The book has its own value, especially with an extensive section on records, and various other valuable appendices. There are three full-band play-along tracks on the CD, which should be helpful, with breaks based on tab in the book at different levels of difficulty, that can be dialed in or out with your stereo balance control. I think both items are an exceptional value, with a great deal of teaching that’s in the ball park of a single lesson or two. So I’d recommend the video first, and possibly both.

Good luck with your picking!