A year or so ago, I took it upon myself to try to learn to play guitar, after winning a shiny new black Fender Stratocaster and a Marshall practice amp in a contest. After all, as everyone knows, those of us who write about rock music are in fact frustrated rock stars ourselves, right? Or so the myth goes…
Anyway, things went pretty well for awhile. I bought myself one of those Guitar For Dummies instruction books, and dutifully set about the task of learning the few basic chords of songs like "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore" taught in the book. I figured I'd be playing like Hendrix or Clapton in no time.
But then something happened — well, two things actually.
The first thing that happened was the dreaded F chord, which was something that I just couldn't quite wrap my stubby little writer's fingers around. You had to be one of those ambidextrous human rubber bands to master that damned F chord as far as I was concerned.
The second thing however, to be quite honest, was my own lack of discipline and a creeping sense of boredom with the whole thing. My first novel has been on perpetual hold for much the same reason.
So, like my favorite American president Richard Nixon, I gave up. Go ahead, call me "The Quitter." I dare ya'…
The truth is, endlessly practicing songs like "Home On The Range" will only take you so far for so long. The guitar has been gathering dust in my living room ever since. I could have used a book like this one back then.
When Owen Edwards' From Zero To Rock Hero: A Crash Course In Playing Rock Guitar showed up unexpectedly in my mailbox earlier this week, I had to take notice. Here was a book which made the bold claim that in a mere six weeks, I could be rattling windows and pissing off my neighbors like the guitar hero I always knew I was born to be. Like that song by Traffic says, here was a book that promised I could "sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy."
I had to give it a try.
So the good news is, Edwards' book lives up to its lofty promise on at least one level. This isn't your average how-to guitar book. There's no easing you in with simple folk ballads and the like. Instead, Edwards cuts right to the chase. Following a day-by-day lesson plan, this is a crash course designed to unleash your inner Jimmy Page in the quickest amount of time possible.
Edwards wastes no time in delving into such basic rock guitar essentials as power chords, riffs, and even some very cool lead guitar tricks. Before long — assuming you follow the plan here — Edwards even teaches the would-be guitar hero such things as the "tapping" technique made famous by Eddie Van Halen. The book also comes with a CD to allow you to track your progress against the real thing.
Best of all, Edwards takes you through the necessary steps with an engaging narrative and plenty of great songs to get your feet — or rather your fingers — wet with. As you learn everything from Zeppelin to Sabbath to Metallica and AC/DC on your way towards becoming a rock star, there are also plenty of great stories and pictures here to inspire your quest towards future world domination.
This is the book I wish I had when I first won that damn Strat. With any luck, it is also the one that will finally inspire me to pick it up again. I'll keep you posted.