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.

Friday’s Freebies
Archive
Friday’s Freebies