One of the difficulties I have faced in learning to play the guitar has been in finding books that match my level of proficiency. There are hundreds of titles out there for the beginner, and there are many more which are geared for those who already know how to play. But how about those of us who are in between? We may know some of the basics, such as chords and scales, but still have a long way to go before being ready to play the Led Zeppelin songbook.
Alfred Publishers have been in business since 1922, and are the gold standard when it comes to music instruction. To get an idea of just how big the largest educational music publisher in the world is, they currently have over 90,000 titles in print. This is a huge variety of material to sift through, but their recent publication of Rock Guitar for Adults and Blues Guitar for Adults caught my eye.
Beginning Guitar for Adults by Nick Vecchio is the precursor to this pair of books. All three are intended for those of us who are a bit older, and are either just developing an interest in learning to play or revisiting the instrument. It may seem like a minor distinction, but the “adult” tone is refreshingly geared towards people who may no longer be kids, but still have a lot to learn.
I decided to begin with Blues Guitar for Adults, by Wayne Riker. The book opens with an introduction, and basic information such as how to read music and tablature. The first three chapters stress the fundamentals. These are “The Twelve-Bar Blues Format;” “The Eight-Bar Blues Format;” and “Blues Techniques.”
Riker then shows us how to apply this material, with discussions of arpeggios, minor blues, and improvisation. The majority of the book is concerned with teaching the student how to improvise, or solo, over the various forms. The first rock and roll songs were basically the blues, sped up and amplified. There have been a lot of changes since then, but the basics remain the same. For anyone looking to advance their technique, these improvisational exercises are invaluable.
Rock Guitar for Adults by Tobias Hurwitz is presented in a similar manner, although there are significant differences. The first four chapters set up the budding player with some very important first steps. They are “Rock Chords;” “Getting Bluesy;” “Fun with Chord Progressions;” and “Spice Up the Strumming.”
From here, Hurwitz takes us into similar territory as to where Riker did in the Blues book – the world of lead guitar improvisation. There are some obvious differences between blues and rock, but learning how to solo over the chord structures is key to both. I found the chapter titled “Jamming” to be a lot of fun, and the sidebar “Things Not to Do in Any Jam Session” is hilarious.
The last four chapters give the student some insight as to what techniques are favored by rock heroes such as Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix. You may not walk away from Rock Guitar for Adults being able to play at the level of those guys, but you will at least have a deeper understanding of what they are doing.
Both books include a CD, with demonstrations of all of the examples offered inside. As a self-taught, and decidedly amateur player, I had been stuck at the same level for years. Both of these books have helped me to improve my skill set. There is something about working your way through books such as these that tends to focus your attention. I found myself making time to practice every night, which was a bonus in itself.
For anyone whose playing may have stalled out over the years, these books are highly recommended. If you are just starting out, then the previously mentioned Beginning Guitar for Adults should be tackled first. Once you have gotten through that one – it took me about six weeks – you will be ready to take things a step further. For those who are looking to learn guitar, these titles cannot be beat.