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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