A great deal of what the student will get out of The Alchemical Guitarist’s lessons obviously corresponds to their level of knowledge. For a person with basically no formal training (like myself) these DVDs provide are a treasure trove of information. In fact, there is so much that it is a little difficult to absorb everything in one shot. Thankfully, with DVDs you can go back and review the lessons over and over as often as you wish.
The manner in which Lloyd presents the material is very logical, and relatively easy to follow, but there is a lot of stuff here. Before ordering The Alchemical Guitarist, I happened across an online review of it. The review said something to the effect that Richard Lloyd was teaching calculus to fourth graders.
I disagree with this, but I do understand the point. As a guitar instructor, Richard Lloyd teaches us the basics. Scales, modes, and music theory in general are all covered. But he takes things further at times, including some of the fascinating history of the instrument. The very first lesson, “Magic Circles: The Cycle of Fourths & Fifths,” is a great example of this.
Lloyd goes all the way back to 500 BC and the discovery of the musical scale by Pythagoras. He built a single-string guitar, which he called the “mono-chord.“ With this, he fitted it with one fret, which could be moved up and down the neck, and measured. Thus he was able to break the instrument down to halves, two-thirds, three-fourths, and so on until we reach the ratio of 32:45. It is the tri-tone, also called “The Devil’s Interval.”
Lloyd elaborates: “If you happen to know that this is the most dissonant thing possible, you might open a song with it.” He then shows us an amazingly simple, yet brilliant example of the tri-tone. Playing the E (top) string open, then holding the string at the sixth fret, and alternating the two notes back and forth magically results in the opening section of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.”
Alchemy is an early, unscientific form of chemistry with connotations of magic. The quest to turn lead into gold is what alchemists have been known for down through the ages. It is an apt title for the guitarist Richard Lloyd is teaching us to be. Besides the lessons, each volume of the set contains PDF files with written music that can be accessed on both PC and Mac computers.