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Book Review: The Ultimate Guitar Chord and Scale Bible by Buck Brown and Mark Dziuba

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There are literally thousands of guitar books available, designed for every level of player. But the new Ultimate Guitar Chord & Scale Bible is the most comprehensive guide to the basics I have ever seen. The book is a joint project between the National Guitar Workshop and the Alfred Music Publishing house, and contains over 5,000 chords and 130 scales. There is quite literally something for every guitar player in this Bible, and as a one-stop for chords and scales, it is one of the best resources I have ever seen.

In December 1976, the English fanzine Sideburns published a now-famous illustration of three chords, captioned “This is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band.” It completely nailed the spirit of punk for many, which stressed D.I.Y. passion over technique. That was nearly 40 years ago, yet the intention should never be forgotten. As The Ultimate Guitar & Scale Bible itself states, “Remember, you make the music!”

My point is, no matter how “punk” a player wants to be, the more they know, the easier it is to musically express themselves. There are many tricks that can be achieved through the magic of add-ons such as pedals, and various settings on amplifiers. There are also books and DVDs (such as Alfred’s two-DVD set The Alchemical Guitarist) which offer some fantastic tips as well. But in the end, it all comes down to you, and what it is you want to say.

For many of us, though, the basic language of the guitar is our biggest stumbling block. All of the notes on the fretboard are right there in front of you, but combining them to produce chords is the first step a player must master. What the chord section of the Bible does best is to offer multiple fingerings for chords, which makes the process of playing so much easier. The less one needs to move their hands around the neck, the better, and for me, this is the biggest benefit of the book.

As the title indicates, The Ultimate Chord & Scale Bible is basically two books in one though. The scale portion is a pretty amazing resource for those who wish to branch out and play leads. Unless one is looking to make noise for the sake of noise, knowing the basic scales is essential. For budding guitar players, improvising a decent lead or solo is a real challenge. Believe me, I know. The simplest way to get started is to know the scale you wish to work with, and use the notes within it to fashion your solo.

The Ultimate Guitar Chord & Scale Bible will not automatically make you the next Hendrix, of course. But a resource like this is invaluable, no matter what your level of playing is. It is also laid out in a very easily understandable manner. This is especially true in the scale section, with plenty of notes and tips accompanying the various scales.

Taken together, The Ultimate Guitar Chord & Scale Bible is as good a resource as I have ever seen. I think a copy of it belongs in every guitar player’s practice room.

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About Greg Barbrick