Picks and Pans Main: Video

updated 10/15/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/15/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT


If you've ever thought of expanding your singing horizons beyond the confines of the shower to the concert stage, this 90-minute videotape by pop singer Maria Muldaur might help you get there.

Muldaur delivers much of the tape seated in a wicker chair, exuding an earthy yet explicit know-how that includes tips on creating a style, diet, exercise, stage presence and even what to wear to a performance (something simple and easy to clean).

A versatile jazz-blues singer (her "Midnight at the Oasis" was a 1974 hit), Muldaur shows how to improve vocal strength and agility by going over a phrase from "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

Accompanying the video is an audiotape containing exercises designed to improve your voice from an amateur wobble to a professional, or at least not performance-shy, warble. (Homespun, $49.95; 800-338-2737)


In his white-banded hat and summer tweed jacket, Dr. John cuts a colorful figure at the baby grand, singing, playing and dispensing musical wisdom. Geared toward the intermediate to advanced-intermediate player, the tapes feature Dr. John discussing the tunes and techniques of such Louisiana keymen as Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino and James Booker.

Using a split screen that gives both overhead and side views of Dr. John's magic fingers, the tapes emphasize his anecdotal teaching style over anything like a progressive lesson plan. Instead, Dr. John performs, say, Pine Top Smith's "Pine Top's Boogie," then breaks it down into left hand-right hand fingering and chord changes, goes over the introductions and turnarounds, does slowed-down playing and gives tips on improvising. He also discusses the origins of such New Orleans stylings as the second-line, or parade beat, which has its roots in Afro-Caribbean drumming.

Accompanying himself with his gravelly singing, the Doc goes through barrelhouse blues, boogie-woogie and such other good-time music as Professor Longhair's "Frankie & Johnny," Leadbelly's "Goodnight, Irene," and his own "Big Mac," written for his dad (Mac Rebennack Sr.).

While these videos and the companion Dr. John's New Orleans Piano and the Roots of Rock audiotape are no pushover course, Dr. John offers a rollicking two hours of fun licks, patterns and patter even stone beginners can happily learn from. (Homespun. $49.95 each, $79.95 per set)


Yabbadabbadoo! These instruments, made out of recycled household stuff, look like something Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm would play in their garage in Bedrock.

Oatmeal-box congas, yardstick mouth-bow, bleach-bottle banjos, tin can maracas, washtub bass and bottle cap castanets are all demonstrated by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, who since 1974 have been helping kids turn junk into fun. Helped by a few children and a hammer, drill, nails, sandpaper, fishing line and you name it, they craft instruments to play such tunes as "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Mama Don't Allow No Music Playin' 'Round Here."

Looking like camp counselors who know how to keep the kids busy, Fink and Marxer here provide 60 minutes of nice diversion. (Homespun. $29.95)


The amount of information on this 90-min-ute tape is astonishing. Though aimed at the 6-to 12-year-old set, these 10 lessons by the amiable Ms. Marxer introduce such essentials as transposing (playing songs in different keys), time signatures and chord charts.

For starters Marxer identifies the eight parts of a guitar and gives tips on buying the right size instrument: then it's lesson time. Each session opens with a sing-along favorite such as "Skip to My Lou" or "Polly Wolly Doodle," after which Marxer talks viewers through fingerings and strumming styles. Kids should enjoy her engaging manner even while obeying her funny admonitions on fingering: "Pick 'em up, wiggle 'em around, and put 'em back down." (Homespun. $39.95)


A rock band with no drummer is like a body without a pulse, and it might as well be you as some guy with yard-long bleached hair.

That's the idea behind this 52-minute video by a veteran of both Jefferson Airplane and John Cougar Mellencamp tours. Stressing a simple four-part approach, Aronoff is a pragmatic teacher: "If you just try to do fancy Hicks and frills," he warns, "that won't get you a job."

His advice to drummers is to identify a song's characteristic beat, keep that beat steady and fun to hear, and only then unleash those creative flourishes.

Aronoff doesn't always take his own advice. At times his demonstrations—many on Mellencamp tunes (played along with records)—seem like intense minisolos. contradicting his own conservative advice.

His definitions lack precision and often sound simplistic. Not until he suggests some hand and foot exercises does he offer much in the way of practical advice.

Some students of percussion may opt for a different drummer. But seeing Aronoff's athleticism does show how physically arduous rock drumming is. and his proficiency may spur all those future Don Henleys and Phil Collinses on to greater effort. (DCI. $39.95: 800-342-4500)

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