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instructional books & websites


taking weekly lessons with an experienced teacher is a good first step toward becoming a good guitar player, but we can't possibly cover everything you need to know in our short time together each week. once we've gotten through the fundamentals (i'll provide the sheet music), you may want to start looking around for some additional learning resources to round out your knowledge or strengthen some specific areas of your technique.

i have never been able to find one book or site that has it all. some are general books on guitar playing that try to cover it a lot of topics briefly, and some are in-depth lessons on specific music styles or aspects of playing like chords, scales, jazz, or improvising. but unfortunately there is no one guitar "bible" that covers every topic exhaustively.

if you want to be a truly well-rounded player, keep your eye out for books, dvds, magazines, or websites that look interesting, well-organized, and seem to have something new to teach you. make sure to factor in your learning style, how much you already know, and your personal goals when deciding which book or technique to tackle next. books that come with cds or dvds are nice because you can actually hear the examples or exercises you're trying to master, and some give you "backing tracks" that you can practice soloing over. you really can't go wrong by buying one or several of these (even if they have a similar focus) because each one will be taught in a different style and will at least teach you a few new things.

you can find these learning resources at most local and online music retailers, as well as general book stores like amazon, borders, or barnes & noble. and don't forget, we have one of the best library systems in the world right here in columbus. they have an excellent collection of resources for musicians, and they'll deliver it right to your local branch. below are a few of my favorite learning resources - if you find some others that are good, please let me know so i can list them here for everyone!

 

beginning books / complete methods

hal leonard guitar method (3 book series + 3 cds) by will schmid and greg koch - this is a good all-rounder.

mel bay's guitar primer - this is a beginner book for learning the traditional way: it teaches you the notes on the guitar one string at a time and how to read guitar music written in standard notation. being able to read standard notation (as opposed to tablature) is more important for classical and jazz players, but it definitely can't hurt players of any style. potential music majors have to have good reading skills, so get this or something similar to get you started.

the complete idiot's guide to: playing guitar, playing bass guitar, music theory, music composition, songwriting, solos and improvisation, etc. - when i checked them out, i was suprised at how good they were at giving a "big picture" view of a particular subject. i heard that the "for dummies" versions are good too.

the complete electric bass method (3 book series: beginning, intermediate, and mastering) by david overthrow - a good all-rounder series.

basses loaded series by rod goelz - primer, volume 1 (essential standards), volume 2 (rock edition), volume 3 (blues edition), volume 4 (groove workshop) - these are great resources for all kinds of scales, techniques, and styles.

 

advanced guitar

fretboard logic (3 volumes + 1 dvd) by bill edwards - this is a 3 volume + 1 dvd set that will totally unlock the guitar fretboard for you. it's one of the only books out there that teaches you music theory from a guitarist's perspective. it might be a little much for a beginner, but once you have the basics down, this is the best book i've found for truly understanding how the great players can easily play all over the neck. the secret is the CAGED system of chords and scales. even after several years of playing professionally, i had several "A HA!" moments while working through these books - highly recommended!

fretboard theory by desi serna - this is similar to fretboard logic (above) in that it deals with music theory for guitarists as well as how to apply it. topics include the CAGED system, scales, modes, and extended chords. very good.

scales over chords (with cd) by wilbur m. savidge and randy lee vradenburg - this book focuses on what you need to do when playing lead guitar, coming up with a vocal melody, or writing a bass line: figure out which notes work & don't work over a given chord progression by figuring out its key and parent scale.

guitar scale guru by karl aranjo - the name pretty much sums it up!

the complete jazz guitar method (4 volumes + cds: beginning, intermediate, mastering chord/melody, mastering improvisation) by jody fisher - a great intro to jazz guitar. make sure to get the cds that are available but not always packaged with the book - it always helps to hear what you're shooting for.

jazz chords and accompaniment by yoichi arakawa - another good jazz book that focuses mainly on chord voicings.

play what you hear interactive jazz course by chris standrings - this is actually an interactive jazz course that uses your web browser to navigate you through its lessons and music examples. this is for intermediate to advanced players.

 

guitar and amp maintenance

guitar player repair guide by dan erlamine - you don't need to be able to fix everything, and i would definitely leave major repairs to the pros. but knowing how to adjust your truss rod, bridge height, fix wiring problems, or even install your strings the right way can save you a lot of money and time!

the complete guide to guitar and amp maintenance by ritchie fliegler - another good book on keeping your gear playing its best.

 

miscellaneous

guitar chord encyclopedia by steve hall & ron manus - a great reference to keep in your gig bag or case, especially if you play in a church or school group and you never know which chord you're going to need to know on the spot.

songwriter's rhyming dictionary by kevin m. mitchell - there are online rhyming dictionaries, but this is a good one if you're working on a song "unplugged". indispensable for a songwriter!

songwriters on songwriting by paul zollo - interviews with famous songwriters including bob dylan, paul simon, carlos santana, etc. talking about how they do what they do. there are lots of "how to write a song" books out there (this is no substitute for those), but this one is cool because it gives you insight into how some of your favorite songs were written.

zen guitar by philip toshio sudo - all you have to do is tune up & play. we all have a song inside of us that makes us unique. this book is all about opening your mind to the joy that can come from just losing yourself in the act of playing your guitar.

101 guitar tips: stuff all the pros know and use by adam st. james (with cd) - this is full of all kinds of great & random advice that you won't find anywhere else. it's basically an F.A.Q. for guitarists. if you've ever wondered about the nashville chord numbering system, what the difference between overdrive & distortion is, why you should only change one string at a time, how to protect your guitar when travelling by airplane, or what tools you should always have with you at a gig, this is your book.

the artist's way by julia cameron - a twelve week course on stimulating your creativity and blasting through writer's block. this book is great for everyone - not just fine artists - because creativity is a skill that transcends all disciplines.

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