Brian Turner

Brian offers Private Guitar Lessons to guitarists of all abilities at very reasonable prices. Whether you are a beginning, intermediate or advanced guitar player, let Brian Turner coach you in his private studio located inside Humble Music Center, Humble, Texas. He has students from all over the area: Atascocita, Kingwood, Huffman, Porter, Houston, Spring and beyond. Brian can take you to the next level in your playing with a lesson plan that is made just for you according to your needs. Contact Brian Turner at 281-354-4456 or e-mail brian@guitarlessonsbybrian.com. Skype and Face Time Guitar Lessons Online So, you do not live close enough for private guitar lessons? No problem, private lessons are now available using Face Time or Skype. Face Time is available for mac users while Skype is available to everyone. Skype is a free download at Skype.com. Learn one on one as if you were in the same room taking private guitar lessons. The worksheets and assignments are furnished via the website and emails.

Trail Of Woe

This Thanksgiving I especially have reason to give thanks to God.

There are few times in one’s life when a summer evening bike ride turns into an endurance test that is not only potentially life threatening but becomes a lifelong memory. I recently had such an evening bike ride. This is my story.

 

 

The ii, V, I Chord Progression in C

The I, IV, V Chord Progression in C

Barre Chords: Key C, Root 4 String

Barre Chords: Key C, Root 5 String

Barre Chords: Key C, Root 6 String

Guitar Method Reviews

I have been teaching guitar professionally since 1977. In that span of time, I have used virtually every method on the market. Many of my students ask my opinion when shopping for guitar instruction materials. The purpose of this list is to give you a review to help you make the right choice when selecting instruction materials. This list is a few of my favorites.

Acoustic Blues Guitar
I like this book because it teaches you to play the blues as a soloist. Unlike countless books on the market that just show you riffs. The tunes sound really good. Anyone interested in roots delta blues should have this in their collection. If you are acquainted with pentatonic scales and moveable chords, you should pick up on these tunes reasonably quick. Many of my students have worked through this one and they all have been pleased.
By Kenny Sultan, Published by Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, stock # HL00000157, ISBN 0-931759-73-0
Notation? yes,  tab? yes, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? yes, level? intermediate to advanced, cost? $18.95.


Back Up Trax Swing and Jazz 
This book is fun, fun, fun. Anything by Dix Bruce is good. The chord progressions in the tunes are the same progressions you find in standard swing tunes such as Sweet Georgia Brown, Honeysuckle Rose, and How High the Moon. The melodies are changed but they sound great. The book has everything: notation, tab for guitar and mandolin, and chord diagrams. The CD plays the tunes fast and slow with the melody and without. This book is great for anyone that likes classic swing music.
By Dix Bruce, Published by Mel Bay Publishing Corporation, stock # MB94344bcd, ISBN 7866-2344-6
Notation? yes,  tab? yes, chords? yes, chord diagrams? yes, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? yes, level? intermediate to advanced. 
 cost? $17.95.


Back Up Trax Old Time and Fiddle Tunes
A good book for those interested in flat picking fiddle tunes in the style of Doc Watson or Tony Rice. It has many bluegrass and Old Time fiddle favorites such as Blackberry Blossom, Red Haired Boy, and Temperance Reel. Learning fiddle tunes on the guitar is a great way to work up speed and pick technique while learning some cool tunes.
By Dix Bruce, Published by Mel Bay Publishing Corporation, stock # MB94339bcd, ISBN 1-56222-394-1
Notation? yes,  tab? yes, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? yes, level? intermediate to advanced. 
 cost? $17.95.


Chords and Progressions for Jazz and Popular Guitar
This is a great chord book. It begins teaching basic barre chords and progressions. Then it moves into chords used in jazz, chord soloing, comping, and chord substitution. It also teaches chord theory (how chords are constructed) and shows how chords relate to each other.
By Arnie Berle, Published by Amsco, ISBN 0-8256-1056-7
Notation? yes,  tab? yes, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate to advanced. 
 cost? $19.95


Fiddler’s Fakebook, The
This is the authority for North American and Celtic fiddle tunes. I had to buy a second because I wore the first one out. Almost all of the classic fiddle tunes are in this book. I usually learn the songs as they are written then I play them an octave lower which is more in the flat top guitar range.  It is 300 pages long. It has a discography that is a great source for recordings of these styles.  However, it is written in traditional notation only and it doesn’t have accompanying CDs. Brody offers a Guitar Fake Book and Mandolin Fake Book written in tablature only but they don’t have as many tunes or as much information as the Fiddler’s Fakebook does. Anyone interested in playing fiddle tunes on the guitar needs to have this book even if they have to sell their house to get it.
By David Brody, Published by Oak Publications, stock # OK63925, ISBN 0.8256.0238.6
Notation? yes,  tab? no, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate to advanced. 
 cost? $24.95.


Guitar Method Book 1 (Hal Leonard)
This book is similar to the Progressive Guitar Method except it has a few basic chords and rhythms. It’s a good book for beginners wanting to learn the fundamentals. Most Hal Leonard books have the audio files on-line that allows you to adjust the songs to any tempo or loop any segment. This feature alone makes Hal Leonards books better than most other publications
By Will Schmid and Greg Koch, Published by Hal Leonard, stock # HL00699010, ISBN 00-7935-1245-X
Notation? yes,  tab? no, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? beginner. 
 cost? $6.95.


Jamey Aebersold Jazz
Anyone interested in jazz will like these books. They have a hundred or more volumes with just about any jazz song. The books have CDs with the rhythm accompaniment using top notch musicians. I like these books but I wish they played the melody at least once on each track. Students are more enthused about learning songs when they hear how they should sound. Also, jazz songs can be hard to sight read because jazz is rhythmically more complex than other styles of music. Plus, most players depend on their ears as much if not more than sight-reading. You need to hear the melody first.
By various authors, Published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz, Inc.
Notation? yes,  tab? no, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate and advanced. 
 cost? varies for each volume.


Jazz Play Along (Hal Leonard)
These books are similar to the  Aebersold except better.  They play the melody of the song the first time around. Also, they have a larger variety of any genres. That is why I prefer them over Aebesold books.
By various authors, Published by Hal Leonard
Notation? yes,  tab? no, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate and advanced. 
cost? varies for each volume.


Library of Guitar Classics
This book lives up to its name. It has all the great classical guitar songs we love such as Spanish Romance, Recuerdos de la Alhambra, and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. It has many classics by Bach, Carcassi, Giuliani, Sor, Tarrega, and Albeniz. Be forewarned, you should be able to read music on the level of Mel Bay’s Modern Method Grade 3 to be able to handle these tunes. A few are easier but not many. They are done in standard notation only. This book is big, It has 256 pages of music.
Compiled and arranged by Jerry Willard, Published by Amsco Publications, ISBN 0-82561475-9,
Notation? yes, tab? no, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate to advanced.  cost? $21.95.


Mickey Baker’s Complete Course in Jazz Guitar
This book has been around since the 1960s at least. The first four pages are worth the price of the book. When famous jazz guitarists are asked about books during interviews, Baker’s book is usually the one they recommend. The fist half of the book deals with chords and progressions  used in jazz and exercises showing how they work together. The second half of the book deals with arpeggios and melody lines used over chord changes. You don’t need to read music to learn the chords in the first half of the book but the second half of the book is written in notation only (no tab). If you are able to read music at the level of Mel Bay’s Modern Method Grade 2 you should be able to work through these exercises. 
By Mickey Baker, Published by Lewis Music, ISBN
Notation? yes,  tab? no, chords? yes, chord diagrams? yes, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate to advanced.  cost? $8.95


Mel Bay’s Modern Method Grade 1
The late Mel Bay is the father of guitar method books. Any one who has studied guitar has heard of Mel Bay. His son Bill Bay has taken over the family business after the passing of his much respected father. The book hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years. But, if something works why change it? Mel Bay’s Modern Method teaches you how to read music on the guitar. The first twenty pages are similar to other methods that have followed. It tends to get harder toward the end than other methods. I wouldn’t start anyone younger than 12 on this book. Though this book is harder than some it is a great method for the serious student and if he sticks with it he’ll be a good sight reader. Another plus is the student will become acquainted with classic traditional songs he otherwise might not be exposed to. Also, Mr. Bay followed up this book with an unprecedented seven levels. There is an expanded version of Grade 1, 2, and 3 available that comes with audio files.
By Mel Bay, Published by Mel Bay, stock # , ISBN
Notation? yes,  tab? no, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? beginner. 
 cost?a46.95.


Modern Method For Guitar Volume 1 (Berklee Press)
I recommend this book for students that intend to study music in college. It teaches sight reading up to the fourth position and moveable chords. I recommend working through the first two Mel Bay or Progressive Guitar methods before tackling this one. After working through this book you’ll be a better sight reader than many pros. There are three volumes.
By William Leavitt, Published by Berklee Press, distributed by Hal Leonard, stock # HL50449400, ISBN 0-87639-013-0
Notation? yes,  tab? no, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate to advanced. 
 cost? $14.95.


Progressive Guitar Method Book 1
This book is very good for learning to read music on the guitar. It doesn’t do vertical reading (notes stacked on top of each other creating harmony) making it easier than Mel Bay’s Modern Method Grade1. This book goes at a good pace. It’s easy enough to keep the average student from getting frustrated before he finishes the book. This book is a great place to start for the sight reading guitarist. There is a book 2 also that picks up where 1 left off.
By Gary Turner and Brenton White, Published by Progressive, ISBN 0 959540482
Notation? yes,  tab? yes, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? no, DVD? yes level? beginner 
 cost? $19.95.


Progressive Children Method book 1 and 2
I recommend these books for children under twelve years old. They are very well done. They teach the student to read music, keep time, and a few easy chords. They are very colorful with cartoon characters which the kids like.
By Andrew Scott and Gary Turner, Published by Progressive, ISBN 0 947183221
Notation? yes,  tab? no, chords? yes, chord diagrams? yes, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? no, DVD? no, level? level? beginner 
 cost? $14.95.


Steve Kaufman’s Four-Hour Bluegrass Workout
There are four CDs with this book. A big part of playing any style of music is being familiar with the repertoire of standards. This book has most of the Old Time favorites. The arrangements are a little easier than the arrangements in the Fiddler’s Fakebook and they sound great. Steve Kaufman has won many flat picking competitions. He is an authority and good source for Bluegrass and Old Time music.
By Steve Kaufman, Published by Homespun, ISBN 0-634-00519-7
Notation? yes,  tab? yes, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? yes, DVD? no, level? level? intermediate to advanced, 
cost? $44.95.

Is Christmas Necessary?

Is Christmas Necessary?
By Jerry Solomon

What do you think of when you hear the word “Christmas”? Frantic shopping? Family traditions? A commemoration of the birth of Jesus? Or a combination of all these responses and more? If you’ve been living in the United States long, you probably find it difficult to focus on just one without the others. And if you’re a Christian you probably want to focus on the birth of Jesus, but you spend a great deal of your December on shopping and traditions. Then you may finish “The Season,” as it has come to be known, feeling guilty because you didn’t focus on Jesus as the “Reason for the Season.” You may even want to ask if the season is really necessary, because you’re exhausted, broke, and relieved when it’s over for another year. So we want to ask, “Is Christmas necessary?”
In order to address this question we will focus first on a history of the celebration and its accompanying customs. Then we will concentrate on whether economics, traditions, or theology make it necessary.

A Brief History of Christmas
The very early church has not left us with any indication that Christmas was a part of their yearly calendar. Certainly the New Testament doesn’t include such an emphasis. Philip Schaff, a church historian, offers three reasons for this. In the first place, no corresponding festival was presented by the Old Testament, as in the case of Easter and Pentecost. In the second place, the day and month of the birth of Christ are nowhere stated in the gospel history, and cannot be certainly determined. Again: the church lingered first of all about the death and resurrection of Christ, the completed fact of redemption, and made this the center of the weekly worship and the church year. Finally: the earlier feast of Epiphany…afforded a substitute. The artistic religious impulse, however, which produced the whole church year, must sooner or later have called into existence a festival which forms the groundwork of all other annual festivals in honor of Christ. {1} So the Christmas celebration appeared comparatively late in church history. And it appeared as the result of a change in the ways Christians dealt with their surrounding culture. In order to see the progression of this change, it will be helpful if we consider early pagan festivals that were eventually transformed by the church. Some scholars assert that the earliest precursor of the Christmas celebration can be found within a Persian religion that influenced Roman life.One of the great festivals of ancient Rome was related to the winter solstice, celebrated on December 25 as the Natal Day of the Unconquerable Sun and tied to the Persian religion of Mithraism, one of Christianity’s early rivals. The church took over this day to turn the attention of Christians from the old heathen festival to the celebration of the “sun of righteousness.” {2}It is especially interesting to note that the mythological god Mithra, for whom Mithraism was named, “is described as being born from a rock, the birth being witnessed by shepherds on a day (December 25) that was later claimed by Christians as the nativity of Christ.” {3} Actually “the Christmas festival was probably the Christian transformation or regeneration of a series of kindred heathen festivals…which were kept in Rome in the month of December, in commemoration of the golden age of universal freedom and equality, and in honor of the unconquered sun, and which were great holidays, especially for slaves and children.” {4} Our contemporary struggle with how to react to Halloween may be similar to the struggle the early church had with Christmas. In particular, they had to decide if they should and would celebrate the birth of Christ. Then the question was, when would this celebration take place? Their answers are instructive for us today.Schaff describes this regeneration of heathen festivals in light of the cultural changes that began to affect the church: Had the Christmas festival arisen in the period of the persecution, its derivation from these pagan festivals would be refuted by the then reigning abhorrence of everything heathen; but in the Nicene age this rigidness of opposition between the church and the world was in a great measure softened by the general conversion of the heathen. Besides, there lurked in those pagan festivals themselves, in spite of all their sensual abuses, a deep meaning and an adaptation to a real want; they might be called unconscious prophecies of the Christmas feast. {5} Frank Gaebelein informs us that before Christmas was recognized in the West another festival was prominent among Christians in the East. The earliest reference to December 25 as the date for the Nativity occurs in the Philocalian calendar, which refers to its Roman observance in A.D. 336. But recognition of December 25 [in the West] had been preceded by that of another date–January 6 [in the East], when Epiphany was celebrated first in relation to the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan and later in relation to the coming of the wise men, or Magi, to worship the infant Jesus. {6} When the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity he sanctioned the “Christianizing” of various pagan emphases. So he was probably influential “in the institution of a Christian feast of the birthday of the Sun of Righteousness’ (Malachi 4:2) as a rival to the popular pagan festival of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) at the winter solstice.” {7} But it is helpful to know that his understanding of Christian doctrine was such that he “was not aware of any mutual exclusiveness between Christianity and his faith in the Unconquered Sun.” {8}So from the era of Constantine (306-337) onward, Christmas (from the Old English Cristes Maesse, “Christ’s Mass”) was gradually included in Western culture. By the time of the Reformation most leaders, including Martin Luther, “were for the abolition of all feast days, except Sunday; but the…long habits of the people were against such a radical reform.” {9} “During Cromwell’s time in seventeenth-century England [Christmas] was banned by Parliament, and in old New England the celebration of Christmas was officially forbidden.” {10} Now, of course, almost a quarter of each year is devoted to the celebration of Christmas in American culture. And as we will see, a variety of customs emphasize many facets of the season. Should this history make us uneasy? Should we consider disbanding the Christmas season? Obviously some have answered, “Yes!” to these questions in the past and present. But perhaps the wiser response is to give heed to the long traditions of the church and decide if those traditions have a legitimate end. Then we are challenged to decide if we are to isolate ourselves from our culture, become like our culture, or transform our culture. At the present time it appears that we should reevaluate what it may mean to transform the Christmas season for the glory of God.

Customs
The Christmas season includes many customs we take for granted. Where, when, and how did these customs come to have a place in the Christmas celebration? Their origination probably will surprise you.

Merriment and Gifts
“The merriment and giving of gifts, especially to children, may reflect the Roman Saturnalia.” {11} During this festival the Romans honored “the god of agriculture by engaging in much eating, drinking, visiting, masked reveling and notorious celebrations on the streets. Courts closed, and no one was convicted of a crime. Gambling was legal. Slaves dressed as their masters and were served by them. A mock king was chosen. Gifts were exchanged, at first simple wax candles or clay dolls.” {12}

Greenery and Lights
“As for the use of greenery and lights, this goes back to the celebration of the Kalends of January in ancient Rome.” {13} Kalends was a celebration of the Roman new year. People gave each other gifts of green boughs, “honeyed things,” lamps for light and warmth, and silver and gold objects. “Christians used candles symbolizing Christ as the Light of the World, seemingly a combination of Roman and Hebrew customs.” {14} Druids set lighted candles on tree branches. People in the Middle Ages put lighted candles in their windows on Christmas Eve to guide the Christ child on His way. No stranger was turned away, because it could have been Christ in disguise.

Christmas Trees
“Romans trimmed trees with trinkets and toys during the Saturnalia, and put candles on them to indicate the sun’s return to earth.” {15} “Druids honored Odin by tying golden apples and other offerings to tree branches.” {16} In the eighth century, St. Boniface purportedly dedicated the fir tree to the Holy Child as a counter to the sacred oak of Odin. However, Martin Luther gets credit for the tree we are more familiar with.” {17} The Germans placed fruit, gilded nuts, gingerbread, paper roses, and glass balls on their trees. The Poles placed stars and angels. The Czechs made ornaments of painted egg shells.

Manger Scene
During the Middle Ages the manger scene was used to tell the story of Christ’s birth. St. Francis of Assisi set up a nativity outside a cave with live animals and people. In France children gather moss, stones, and greens for a nativity scene which is called a creche.

Christmas Carols
“The first Christmas hymns were written in the fifth century. Originally composed in Latin, they contained primarily theological topics. Carols (noels), songs with more human personal subjects, appeared in the 1200s. During the Middle Ages people incorporated drama and plays into the celebration of Christmas. Carols became an integral part of these reenactments. After the plays, carolers strolled down the street singing thus the birth of street caroling.” {18} [See The Theology of Christmas Carols]

The Yule Log
The word yule refers to the feast of the nativity. Yule log refers to a large log formerly put on the hearth on Christmas eve as the foundation of the fire. Sometimes the Druids burned a Yule log to symbolically represent the removal of evil spirits and dissension in the family at Christmas.

Mistletoe
For the Norsemen mistletoe was sacred to Frigga, goddess of love and mother of the sun god. Balder, her son, was killed by an arrow tip dipped in mistletoe. Frigga shed tears which became the mistletoe berries. Frigga would kiss everyone who passed beneath the tree. The Druids’ high priest used a golden sickle to cut sacred mistletoe.

Holly
The holly plant was sacred to the Roman god Saturn. Romans gave one another holly wreaths and decked images of Saturn with it. Christians decked their homes with it. Druids believed that holly remained green so the world would be beautiful when the sacred grove lost its leaves.

Poinsettia
The poinsettia was brought to this country over one hundred years ago by Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. minister to Mexico.

Christmas Cards
The first painted Christmas card was designed by John C. Horseley in 1846. The giving of cards became a tradition in Victorian England due to the queen and Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol.”

Santa Claus
“A popular medieval feast was that of St. Nicholas of Myra (c. 340) on December 6, when the saint was believed to visit children with admonitions and gifts, in preparation for the gift of the Christ child at Christmas. Through the Dutch, the tradition of St. Nicholas (Sinter Klass, hence ‘Santa Claus’) was brought to America in their colony of New Amsterdam, now New York.” {19} “Over the years the American Santa developed many of the secular characteristics of the British Santa, ‘Father Christmas,’ including entering a house through the chimney and stuffing stockings hung near the chimney. This idea came from an old Norse (Scandinavian) legend. But the American Santa became better defined in the 1800s. Clement Moore in 1822 first described Santa in a fur- trimmed suit leading a sleigh pulled by reindeer in his poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas.'”{20}

InPlainSite.org Note There is a great deal more to “Santa Claus” that most people are aware of. For the most part, the world will tolerate stars, angels, Christmas trees, or a baby sleeping in a manger. But there’s still “no room at the inn” for the King who invites us to walk His lowly path. Worse.. Jesus’ place has been usurped by a pleasant fat fellow boasting a red hat and team of reindeer. So how do we understand the Santa Claus phenomenon? What do we REALLY know about Santa? Is he just a harmless, friendly fellow? Or is there something or someone else hiding behind the façade?  See Santa Claus.. Pretender To The Throne

Now that we have scanned the history and customs of Christmas, can we conclude that any of it is necessary in our time? We will consider economics, traditions, and history/theology as we attempt to answer this question.

Is Christmas Necessary Economically?
First, is Christmas necessary economically? C.S. Lewis, in his brusque, reasonable manner, gives us reasons to consider the question of the economic necessity of Christmas. He wrote:
Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn’t go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone’s business …I mean of course the commercial racket.
Lewis then goes on to make the following statements about the “commercial racket”:
It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. Most of it is involuntary. Things are given as presents which no mortal ever bought for himself. The nuisance.{21} Such comments probably “ring true” for many of us. But is it realistic to attempt to eradicate what has become a major element of the economic system in this country? Helen Dunn Frame offers insights into this question:
As to economics, we might not be “less in debt” without Christmas purchases, because…over one quarter of the year’s retail business is transacted [during the Christmas season] in everything from department stores to grocery stores. Without this holiday volume, year-round prices could be higher, and fewer jobs might be available. {22}
Such reflection leaves us with a challenge. If we want to de-emphasize the commercial side of Christmas, how do we do it without upsetting the economy? Perhaps the economic gain that comes from the Christmas season can be supplanted by some other holiday or emphasis. But what would it be? Perhaps it would be overtly pagan, which would not leave us content. There seems to be no immediate answer to the dilemma the Christian faces while living in this country. I’m reminded of the slow eradication of slavery from the early church. If slavery had been eliminated immediately, it would have created chaos in the social and economic fabric. Thus there was a patient change as the church influenced the culture around it. Maybe that process can serve as a model for us.

Is Christmas Necessary Traditionally?
Second, is Christmas necessary traditionally? Most of us live with traditions. There are national traditions, family traditions, religious traditions, sports traditions, military traditions, etc., that affect our lives. Some are good; others are not-so-good. Some are stifling; others provide stability and continuity. It seems that traditions are very much a part of what it means to be human.
The Christmas season is full of traditions. When we begin to focus on Christmas at the end of each year it usually means that we begin to give attention to the reestablishment of things passed from the previous generation to ours. A tree is put in the same place; the same decorations, most of which have a story of their own, are extracted from storage; cards are written; gifts are purchased; and we devote a great deal of energy to one particular day with the renewed hope that a sense of peace and joy will infuse us. Even if those feelings don’t characterize us when the celebration is over, we still strive for them the following year. And of course it is sad that many dread Christmas because the traditions that were a part of their past cannot be restored since those who shared the traditions are no longer here to share them.
So is Christmas necessary traditionally? In order to answer this, I want to offer three comments. First, Christmas traditions can be life-enhancing or stifling portions of our lives. It is up to us to decide which they will be. Second, traditions that bring family and friends together should be positive events. The positive nature of them is up to us. Third, traditions that point to the truth of the Incarnation are reminders of God’s glorious provision for us. The way we construct our traditions will either lead us towards or away from this truth.

Is Christmas Necessary Historically or Theologically?
Third, is Christmas necessary historically or theologically? Of our three questions, this is the only one that has a definite affirmative answer. Without the Incarnation there is no hope, and Christmas would be given over completely to economics and traditions devoid of Christ. Malcolm Muggeridge has written poignant phrases to describe the importance of the birth of Christ:
Thanks to the great mercy and marvel of the Incarnation, the cosmic scene is resolved into a human drama. A human drama in which God reached down to relate Himself to man and man reaches up to relate himself to God. Time looks into eternity and eternity into time, making now always and always now. Everything is transformed by this sublime drama of the Incarnation, God’s special parable for man in a fallen world. {23}These profound comments lead me to consider what probably is the major fallacy of the Christmas season when Christ is not considered. That is, we attempt to “concoct” happiness and meaning without substance. As Muggeridge states, “I find myself more and more strongly aware that this is the true situation: that the hope of man, that he can create through human agency either a happy life as an individual or a satisfactory life as a collectivity, is the ultimate fantasy.”{24} Christmas without the historical birth of Jesus in space and time and the theological implications of that birth leave us grasping for something that cannot be obtained.
But some level of the implications of that birth can be grasped. Let’s reawaken to the awesome presence of God in human flesh! To pass through the Christmas season without thoughtful contemplation of the wonder that “God with us” is shameful. “The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.” {25} Consider these beautiful, penetrating phrases from the pen of Augustine: He it is by whom all things were made, and who was made one of all things; who is the revealer of the Father, the creator of the Mother; the Son of God by the Father without a mother, the Son of man by the Mother without a father; the Word who is God before all time, the Word made flesh at a fitting time, the maker of the sun, made under the sun; ordering all the ages from the bosom of the Father, hallowing a day of today from the womb of the Mother; remaining in the former, coming forth from the latter; author of the heaven and the earth, sprung under the heaven out of the earth; unutterably wise, in His wisdom a babe without utterance; filling the world, lying in a manger. {26} C.S. Lewis contributes two memorable illustrations of the Incarnation as he considers what it means to assert that God descended to us: In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity…. But he goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders. Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in midair, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the deathlike region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both colored now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colorless in the dark, he lost his color too. {27} May we “break the surface” of our views of Christmas so that we can recover the precious thing that truly is Christmas: celebration of the birth of Jesus the Savior.

Conclusion
No aspect of the contemporary celebration of Christmas is necessary in an absolute sense. But there is an economic necessity; this can be changed with great effort. Another economic emphasis could be devised at another time of the year for different reasons. There is a traditional necessity; but this can be met through other celebrations. Indeed, this need is met presently by many through other means. There is a historical/theological necessity that cannot be altered. If God had not become flesh, there would be no hope for mankind. There would be no birth of Christ, no death on our behalf, and no resurrection from death to life. Praise God He did humble Himself and become as a man!

Notes
1. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. III (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1910), 395.
2. Frank Gaebelein, “The Most Beautiful Story Ever Told,” Christianity Today (7 December 1979):19
3. The New Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Macropaedia, 4:552.
4. Schaff, 396.
5. Ibid.
6. Gaebelein, 19.
7. The New Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 603.
8. Owen Chadwick, The Early Church (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1967), 126.
9. Schaff, 393.
10. Gaebelein, 19.
11. Ibid.
12. Helen Dunn Frame, “Life Without Christmas: What if they gave our holiday back to the heathens?” The Dallas Morning News: Scene Magazine (9 December 1979), 42.
13. Gaebelein, 19.
14. Frame, 42.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid.
18. Bill Perry, American Holidays (Ephrata, Penn.: Multi-Language Media, 1995), 21-22.
19. The New Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 604.

20. Perry, 20.
21. C.S. Lewis, “What Christmas Means to Me,” God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1970), 304-305.
22. Frame, 42.
23. Malcolm Muggeridge, “Nature is a Parable,” National Review (24 December 1982), 1614.
24. Ibid., 1615.
25. C. S. Lewis, “The Incarnation,” The Joyful Christian (N.Y.: Macmillan,1977), 51.
26. Walter Elwell, “When God Came Down,” Christianity Today (7 December 1979), 17.
27. Lewis, “The Incarnation,” 54-55.

©1996 Probe Ministries. Copyright/Reproduction Limitations This document is the sole property of Probe Ministries. It may not be altered or edited in any way. Permission is granted to use in digital or printed form so long as it is circulated without charge, and in its entirety. This document may not be repackaged in any form for sale or resale. All reproductions of this document must contain the copyright notice (i.e., Copyright 2007 Probe Ministries) and this Copyright/Limitations notice.

The Puerto Rican Cuatro

The Puerto Rican cuatro is great for old-time and bluegrass music. In this video I explain why.

Guitar Method Reviews

By Brian Turner

I have been teaching guitar professionally since 1977. In that span of time, I have used virtually every method on the market. Many of my students ask my opinion when shopping for guitar instruction materials. The purpose of this list is to give you a review to help you make the right choice when selecting instruction materials. This list is a few of my favorites.
I’m not employed by nor do I receive money from any of the publishers listed below (with the exception of my book Songs That Sound Great On Guitar which is published by me).

  • Acoustic Blues Guitar
    I like this book because it teaches you to play the blues as a soloist. Unlike countless books on the market that just show you riffs. The tunes sound really good. Anyone interested in roots delta blues should have this in their collection. If you are acquainted with pentatonic scales and moveable chords, you should pick up on these tunes reasonably quick. Many of my students have worked through this one and they all have been pleased.
    By Kenny Sultan, Published by Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, stock # HL00000157, ISBN 0-931759-73-0
    Notation? yes, tab? yes, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? yes, level? intermediate to advanced, cost? $18.95.
  • Back Up Trax Swing and Jazz
    This book is fun, fun, fun. Anything by Dix Bruce is good. The chord progressions in the tunes are the same progressions you find in standard swing tunes such as Sweet Georgia Brown, Honeysuckle Rose, and How High the Moon. The melodies are changed but they sound great. The book has everything: notation, tab for guitar and mandolin, and chord diagrams. The CD plays the tunes fast and slow with the melody and without. This book is great for anyone that likes classic swing music.
    By Bruce Nix, Published by Mel Bay Publishing Corporation, stock # MB94344bcd, ISBN 7866-2344-6
    Notation? yes, tab? yes, chords? yes, chord diagrams? yes, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? yes, level? intermediate to advanced. cost? $17.95.
  • Back Up Trax Old Time and Fiddle Tunes
    A good book for those interested in flat picking fiddle tunes in the style of Doc Watson or Tony Rice. It has many bluegrass and Old Time fiddle favorites such as Blackberry Blossom, Red Haired Boy, and Temperance Reel. Learning fiddle tunes on the guitar is a great way to work up speed and pick technique while learning some cool tunes.
    By Bruce Nix, Published by Mel Bay Publishing Corporation, stock # MB94339bcd, ISBN 1-56222-394-1
    Notation? yes, tab? yes, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? yes, level? intermediate to advanced. cost? $17.95.
  • Chords and Progressions for Jazz and Popular Guitar
    This is a great chord book. It begins teaching basic barre chords and progressions. Then it moves into chords used in jazz, chord soloing, comping, and chord substitution. It also teaches chord theory (how chords are constructed) and shows how chords relate to each other.
    By Arnie Berle, Published by Amsco, ISBN 0-8256-1056-7
    Notation? yes, tab? yes, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate to advanced. cost? $19.95
  • Fiddler’s Fakebook, The
    This is the authority for North American and Celtic fiddle tunes. I had to buy a second because I wore the first one out. Almost all of the classic fiddle tunes are in this book. I usually learn the songs as they are written then I play them an octave lower which is more in the flat top guitar range. It is 300 pages long. It has a discography that is a great source for recordings of these styles. However, it is written in traditional notation only and it doesn’t have accompanying CDs. Brody offers a Guitar Fake Book and Mandolin Fake Book written in tablature only but they don’t have as many tunes or as much information as the Fiddler’s Fakebook does. Anyone interested in playing fiddle tunes on the guitar needs to have this book even if they have to sell their house to get it.
    By David Brody, Published by Oak Publications, stock # OK63925, ISBN 0.8256.0238.6
    Notation? yes, tab? no, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate to advanced. cost? $24.95.
  • Guitar Method Book 1 (Hal Leonard)
    This book is similar to the Progressive Guitar Method except it has a few basic chords and rhythms. However, unlike the Progressive books it has no CD. It’s a good book for beginners wanting to learn the fundamentals.
    By Will Schmid and Greg Koch, Published by Hal Leonard, stock # HL00699010, ISBN 00-7935-1245-X
    Notation? yes, tab? no, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? beginner. cost? $6.95.
  • Jamey Aebersold Jazz
    Anyone interested in jazz will like these books. They have a hundred or more volumes with just about any jazz song. The books have CDs with the rhythm accompaniment using top notch musicians. I like these books but I wish they played the melody at least once on each track. Students are more enthused about learning songs when they hear how they should sound. Also, jazz songs can be hard to sight read because jazz is rhythmically more complex than other styles of music.
    By various authors, Published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz, Inc.
    Notation? yes, tab? no, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate and advanced. cost? varies for each volume.
  • Jazz Play Along (Hal Leonard)
    These books are similar to the Aebersold except they play the melody of the song the first time around. If you want to learn to play jazz I highly recommend these books.
    By various authors, Published by Hal Leonard
    Notation? yes, tab? no, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate and advanced. cost? varies for each volume.
  • Let’s Jam CDs
    Let’s Jam CDs are used for the student wanting to improvise. They provide background music to play along with. The insert in the CD case is a small book with chord charts of the tunes and suggestions about which scales to use. The players that did the recording are very good. You’ll recognize many of the chord progressions that are popular rock, blues, jazz, and country songs. It would help to be acquainted with basic scales and moveable chords before trying these tunes. When my students use these CDs I usually notice their rhythm improves immensely. There are five CDs available: 1. Blues and Rock (orange label) 2. Jazz and Blues (brown label) 3. Country and Bluegrass (blue label) 4. Acoustic (gray label) 5. Hard Rock (black label).Published by Cassette and Video Learning Systems
    Notation? no, tab? no, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate to advanced, cost? $9.95.
  • Library of Guitar Classics
    This book lives up to its name. It has all the great classical guitar songs we love such as Spanish Romance, Recuerdos de la Alhambra, and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. It has many classics by Bach, Carcassi, Giuliani, Sor, Tarrega, and Albeniz. Be forewarned, you should be able to read music on the level of Mel Bay’s Modern Method Grade 3 to be able to handle these tunes. A few are easier but not many. They are done in standard notation only. This book is big, It has 256 pages of music.Compiled and arranged by Jerry Willard, Published by Amsco Publications, ISBN 0-82561475-9,
    Notation? yes, tab? no, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate to advanced. cost? $21.95.
  • Mickey Baker’s Complete Course in Jazz Guitar
    This book has been around since the 1960s at least. The first four pages are worth the price of the book. When famous jazz guitarists are asked about books during interviews, Baker’s book is usually the one they recommend. The fist half of the book deals with chords and progressions used in jazz and exercises showing how they work together. The second half of the book deals with arpeggios and melody lines used over chord changes. You don’t need to read music to learn the chords in the first half of the book but the second half of the book is written in notation only (no tab). If you are able to read music at the level of Mel Bay’s Modern Method Grade 2 you should be able to work through these exercises. By Mickey Baker, Published by Lewis Music, ISBN
    Notation? yes, tab? no, chords? yes, chord diagrams? yes, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate to advanced. cost? $8.95
  • Mel Bay’s Modern Method Grade 1
    The late Mel Bay is the father of guitar method books. Any one who has studied guitar has heard of Mel Bay. His son Bill Bay has taken over the family business after the passing of his much respected father. The book hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years. But, if something works why change it? Mel Bay’s Modern Method teaches you how to read music on the guitar. The first twenty pages are similar to other methods that have followed. It tends to get harder toward the end than other methods. I wouldn’t start anyone younger than 12 on this book. Though this book is harder than some it is a great method for the serious student and if he sticks with it he’ll be a good sight reader. Another plus is the student will become acquainted with classic traditional songs he otherwise might not be exposed to. Also, Mr. Bay followed up this book with an unprecedented seven levels. There is an expanded version of Grade 1, 2, and 3 available that comes with a CD.
    By Mel Bay, Published by Mel Bay, stock # , ISBN
    Notation? yes, tab? no, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? beginner. cost?a46.95.
  • Modern Method For Guitar Volume 1 (Berklee Press)
    I recommend this book for students that intend to study music in college. It teaches sight reading up to the fourth position and moveable chords. I recommend working through the first two Mel Bay or Progressive Guitar methods before tackling this one. After working through this book you’ll be a better sight reader than many pros. There are three volumes.
    By William Leavitt, Published by Berklee Press, distributed by Hal Leonard, stock # HL50449400, ISBN 0-87639-013-0
    Notation? yes, tab? no, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? no, CD slow speed? no, level? intermediate to advanced. cost? $14.95.
  • Progressive Guitar Method Book 1
    This book is very good for learning to read music on the guitar. It doesn’t do vertical reading (notes stacked on top of each other creating harmony) making it easier than Mel Bay’s Modern Method Grade1. This book goes at a good pace. It’s easy enough to keep the average student from getting frustrated before he finishes the book. This book is a great place to start for the sight reading guitarist. There is a book 2 also that picks up where 1 left off.
    By Gary Turner and Brenton White, Published by Progressive, ISBN 0 959540482
    Notation? yes, tab? yes, chords? no, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? no, DVD? yes level? beginner cost? $19.95.
  • Progressive Children Method book 1 and 2
    I recommend these books for children under twelve years old. They are very well done. They teach the student to read music, keep time, and a few easy chords. They are very colorful with cartoon characters which the kids like.By Andrew Scott and Gary Turner, Published by Progressive, ISBN 0 947183221
    Notation? yes, tab? no, chords? yes, chord diagrams? yes, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? no, DVD? no, level? level? beginner cost? $14.95.
  • Songs That Sound Great on Guitar
    This book provides songs for beginner and intermediate guitar players. The beginner chapters consist of just the basic melodies, lyrics, and chords while the intermediate chapters add harmony to create solo guitar arrangements. Having both versions in the same book allows you to observe the thinking process involved when taking a basic melody and adding harmony to create a solo guitar arrangement. Everyone needs this book! I might be a little biased since I wrote it.
    By Brian Turner, Published by guitarlessonsbybrian.com,
    Notation? yes, tab? yes, chords? yes, chord diagrams? yes, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? yes, DVD? no, level? level? beginner and intermediate, cost? $20.00.
  • Steve Kaufman’s Four-Hour Bluegrass Workout
    There are four CDs with this book. A big part of playing any style of music is being familiar with the repertoire of standards. This book has most of the Old Time favorites. The arrangements are a little easier than the arrangements in the Fiddler’s Fakebook and they sound great. Steve Kaufman has won many flat picking competitions. He is an authority and good source for Bluegrass and Old Time music.
    By Steve Kaufman, Published by Homespun, ISBN 0-634-00519-7
    Notation? yes, tab? yes, chords? yes, chord diagrams? no, CD normal speed? yes, CD slow speed? yes, DVD? no, level? level? intermediate to advanced, cost? $44.95.

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