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**Background info (mine and the market's!)**
Don't worry - I am not going to give you my life history, but there is a bit of background noise which will help you decide if my opinion is informed and why this book is different from many others:
I am a guitar teacher. The guitar is not my first instrument - in fact it's my 3rd but it is an instrument I really enjoy the challenge of teaching. It is such a versatile beast which can be played in many styles and in many methods to many levels and each pupil brings their own varied expectations and preferences.
This celebrated diversity, though, brings with it certain challenges, the main one being finding a tutor or song book to work from. Like any good teacher (self praise- no recommendation!) I spend several weeks with a pupil working to my own material whilst I fathom their learning style and tailor a course to their needs. Then comes the challenge - finding a book that will build on this information.
To make this a bit clearer, some people want to play the guitar by plucking out the melody line; some want to whizz the right hand up and down strumming chords whilst singing or jamming along to a cd; some wish to do a combination of both; some want to play quietly along to young children's songs or simply amuse themselves by tackling riffs in their own space.; some want to progress to a range of electric guitars; some want to take classical grade exams. Add to this different ages and levels of musical experience and you see the problem.
So, having established the needs and aims of the pupil, I then hit the music shop. Sometimes a tutor book will develop too quickly; some deal with chords only but have uninteresting practice songs; some deal with notes only but assume you have technical knowledge; some attempt the technical knowledge but vary the style of presentation between volumes so drastically that you feel like you have to start again for each new section......... and so it goes on.
All of which is a round bout way of getting down to tell you that amongst all the possibilities availabIe I love:
**The Complete Rock and Pop Guitar Player Omnibus Edition.**
The book is published by Wise Publications. I have not been able to track down their website, but they are a well know music publishers with other proper series such as the Guest Spot series.
Most of the main music stores stock their publications and their guitar books are generally useful. Inside this particular book you are directed towards www.musicsales.com but this seems no more valuable a link than a google search for music shops.
Musicroom.com currently sell this for £19.95; Amazon and Ebay have the title for £9.96 and £9.99
**Why this book?
The Complete Rock and Pop Guitar Player Omnibus Edition has a distinctive red cover made of quality shiny car. The front cover bears a picture of an electric guitar as I guess this appeals to more popular players, but it is just as useful for an acoustic (normal rounded like you see in Spain) guitar.
Written by Rikky Rooksby, rock journalist, composer and author of 24 guitar tutors and information books, this particular edition is the OMNIBUS edition and as the back cover will tell you, consists of three parts which have been updated and revised.
The book is sturdy with a strong spine.
In addition to the tutor book, this edition contains 3 cds of "soundalike" backing tracks which you can use to develop the speed of chord changes and to begin to feel like a real musician.
The soundalikes are very good and all the pieces are truly in the style you would expect from the piece you want to play. Most items have two recordings each to allow for either a slow playing followed by a faster version or a version in a particular key followed by an easier to sing key if you happen to have a capo (a device that clips onto your guitar to raise the pitch of your chords. Handy to play along to published cds without using tricky chords!)
In this respect it is evident that this has been written by someone with teaching experience. The flexibility these cds afford is something you often have to purchase two or three versions of the same song to provide.
**Where do we start?
Part one begins with a handy picture of a guitar - electric and acoustic presumably to reassure you that you have purchased the correct instrument! Seriously, though, the book assumes that you know nothing and gives handy hints about strumming positions and technical language with the help of black and white photos. The descriptions are usefully pitched and not at all trite - useful for both adult and younger learners.
The next part helps you learn to tune your instrument and explains how to read the chord boxes. This, for me, is one of the most appealing aspects of this series. Each new chord is presented in both diagrammatic form and photographic form, thus bridging the gap between the phisical placing of your fingers on the fretboard and the standard reading of a chord form which is full of numbers and angles and can be confusing to begin with.
By page ten you are ready to tackle your first piece: Paperback Writer by Lennon and McCartney. All you need is two chords (G and C)! Who would have thought a chart topper could be played on just two chords? The photo and diagram tell you where to place your left hand fingers and another diagram explains how often to strum your right hand. Have a practice then get out the cd and you are the star!
By this time many books get confusing since words of the song are written out but interspersed with various capital letters to indicate the chord names. On top of this you have to work out how often to strum (perhaps not so straight forward after all!). This book solves the confusion problem with a yellow highlighter pen! The chord line is written out under a yellow strip complete with up and down arrows for the strum; underneath this are the words to sing. Fantastic.
On the whole, songs fit into one or two consecutive pages to reduce page turns mid song and it is very clear where to find the cd accompaniment you need. Loads of info on a page but with no sense of clutter or confusion. At last!!!
To keep up the momentum as you progress through the book and build up your song and chord repertoire there are snippets of info about the pieces you play and photos of the stars who played them. There is also a section of additional lyrics, should you become so accomplished you want to play all the verses.
Part two follows the same format (if it ain't broke don't fix it!) plus the addition of some new strumming patterns and chords as well as introducing yet another way in which guitar music is written down: the TAB. The tab isn't too well explained in my view. Many think it is self explanatory but if you are a music reader it can cause confusion. The tab consists of a diagram of 6 lines each representing a guitar string. There are a series of numbers on the lines which represent the fret in which the note is created. eg if the line at the bottom has a zero on it you are to play the lowest sounding string ie the one nearest your head, with no fingers on the frets - this will play an open string E. (Get it?!)
If you are a music reader then the musical notes also appear on a next door stave which gives you chance to check your theory.
Don't panic at this point, though, as these plucking tabs are only for riffs in certain places in the song. A riff is a short interlude where the guitar plays a tune rather than accompanying. You can take your time to develop these or leave it to the first recording on the cd and join in when the chord parts begin.
This section also includes a useful section on basic music theory and counting and the cds are well recorded.
Part three begins with a section for electric guitar enthusiasts and features various sound effects you can make. Chords are more complex; riffs longer and stumming and plucking combined. The final song is also written out in melody line alone as well as chord pattern
This edition is evidently a compilation of 3 books previously available separately. It is well combined though including a clear contents and cd index across all three sections. The songs are well graded in ascending order of challenge and by the end of the first section you have over 20 chords in your repertoire - value for your money.
There are 50 songs to tackle in this book alone. I won't list them all here as you probably need to go and get a cup of tea (or stronger!) if you are still reading this, but here are some examples:
Rock around the clock
That'll be the day
Stand by me
No woman no cry
Blue suede shoes
I shot the sheriff
Light my fire
Every breath you take
Tears in Heaven
The spine of this book is sturdy and the book can be opened flat without damage but it is a fairly hefty tome and a couple of clothes pegs come in handy to attach the open pages to the music stand to avoid closure just as you've mastered the tricky bit!
14-15 Berners Street
I like this book!
If you've always wanted to play this would be a good place to start with or without a teacher.
Off to do some jamming now to keep ahead of one particularly talented pupil!!
Thanks for reading.
Also on ciao under same name - do drop in to visit.