"Christmas Carols for Solo Guitar"
Glenn Weiser, 1996 CENTERSTREAM Publishing
Christmas time is a time for celebration
and music making. So it never fails that as a fingerstyle player,
you are asked to play a christmas tune or two for family and friends, or
as part of a performance. So it's almost a requirement that every
fingerstyle player have a tune or two in his/her repertoire to fill
If you find yourself in need of
some Christmas material to round out your repertoire, this is a book to
seriously consider. Glenn has put together 21 intermediate
arrangements of some of the more well known Christmas tunes (see the
tunes list below). All these arrangements, like most of Glenn's
work, are in standard tuning or dropped D (50%). I've always
liked the dropped D tuning myself because that low D root note adds such
a great quality to a piece. These dropped D arrangements are no
exception That low D adds a special depth to the music; which
makes these christmas tunes sound great and fun to play.
Order a copy
directly from Glenn
Reference & Instructional Books
"Mastering Fingerstyle Guitar"
Book/CD, 95 pages, 78 example tracks
Steve Eckels, National Guitar Workshop, Alfred Publishing
While there are a
number of fingerstyle instruction books around, you can probably count on one
finger all the graduated series that
have been done specifically for fingerstyle guitar. This review is for the 3rd book in the
"The Complete Fingerstyle Guitar Method" series by the
National Guitar Workshop. The series consists of Beginning,
Intermediate, and Mastering, and all are offered in book/CD, book only,
and CD only. While I can't speak personally about the first two
books in the series, I can offer my opinions on this particular one
in hopes it will provide some indication about the quality of the
This book can best
be described as a book of exercises of advanced
fingerstyle techniques. The first two chapters cover some of the
basics like rest strokes, free strokes, and finger control exercises to
develop stronger right and left hand control. Chapter 3 presents a
series of exercises on chord voicings and using them to create
interesting chord movement (I assume to help in composing and
arranging). Chapter 4 & 5 goes into fingerstyle techniques and
fingerstyle speed development that can only be categorized as
advanced. As with all these exercises, the CD is invaluable in
being able to hear what the author wants you to do.
emphasis of this book (20 pages) is dedicated to the modern fingerstyle
techniques of left and right-hand tapping like that of Michael Hedges
and Preston Reed. The tapping techniques in Chapter 6 contains
some 20 exercises of various techniques; all of course with CD tracks to
illustrate the techniques.
There is also a
chapter dedicated to Alternate Tunings; although you should note that
the alternate tunings covered are not any of the common "Open"
tunings normally used. Steve presents tunings like Lydian Tuning
and Mixolydian Tuning. So if you are use to the more common
tunings, these will take you out of your element and suggest some new
tuning possibilities you may not have encountered before. All of
these tunings are simply defined and then followed with a single example
piece of music which all utilize many of the tapping techniques
presented earlier. There is no attempt to provide scales, chords
or fretboard patterns (but Steve does offer a fingerboard template at
the end to allow you to create your own).
The last chapter
covers arranging and composing and goes through 6 different arranging
ideas that are illustrated using the tune "Scarborough Fair". I
found this chapter particularly useful because it used the same melody,
and that makes it easy to fully appreciate the effect each idea can
This book is
probably one of the best I've seen for developing the more advanced and
modern fingerstyle techniques in use today. It also provides a lot
of great ideas on how to use those techniques to create modern
arrangements and compositions.
"The Blues Fake Book"
Woody Mann, 1995 Oak Publications.
If you're new to Fake Books,
these are books which contain melody lines, chords, and lyrics to
tunes. These books are created for those who either wish to
create their own arrangements or just need the chords to allow them to
construct simple accompaniments to the songs.
This book was recommended to me
by Mike Dowling
as one of the best sources for lead sheets to the old Delta blues
music. With over 200 blues songs from the 20's to the present, it
represents one of the best collections of these tunes I've
seen. For me, just to have the full lyrics for some of these
tunes is a big help because many of the blues books and videos on the
market don't give you that information. But also, I like to create
my own arrangements and this is just what is needed to do that.
So if you get out your "Book
of 101 Blues Licks" and start applying them to the tunes in this
book, you'll have your repertoire filled out in no time.
Complete Book Of Alternate Tunings"
Mark Hanson, 1995 Music Sales Corp.
This book is by far the most comprehensive
reference book on the subject of alternate tunings that I have
found. There are chapters on 17 of the most popular guitar
tunings, plus many of the derivative tunings that are based on these;
resulting in hundreds of possible tunings to explore. Each
contains historical information, charts on how to produce the tuning
from standard tuning, a unison and octave tuning chart, scales in keys
appropriate to the tuning, numerous chord charts, listings of a variety
of tunes and artists that use the tuning, plus "waterfall"
effect passages that show you how to imitate the sustained sound of a
harp that is so common in Celtic music (these are cool scales!).
As a reference book,
there are no actual transcriptions, only reference material to use as a
basis for your own compositional work. But it's this very
information that is priceless for quickly figuring out the "lay of
the land" in a new tuning. It gives you enough meat to start
you on your way.
How to Improvise...And Never Play A Bad Note"
Wilbur Savidge, Randy Lee Vradenburg, 1994 Praxis Music Publications,
After playing guitar for around 10 years I came to
the realization that even though I could play guitar pretty well, I had
a problem with improvising around chord progressions when in group jam
situations. Over the years I acquired music theory books
that promised to help in this area, but never have I found a book/CD so
well done as this one. It does have its share of music theory but
only what's necessary to tie together the relationships between chords
The book relies
predominantly on fretboard diagrams so that you can visualize the scale
patterns...I feel this is the main reason this book is so good...by
being able to visualize the patterns on the fretboard makes it much
easier to remember them. But it also offers TAB and standard
notation for reference and to present the exercises. The book
includes a CD to demonstrate the exercises as well as complete Rock,
Jazz, Blues, and Country songs for practice. The exercises
are in a variety of styles including Rock, Jazz, Blues, Bossa Nova,
Cajun, Cha Cha..etc...to show that this stuff can be applied to ANY type
of music. If you want to improve your improvisational
guitar skills, this book is highly recommended.
"The Art Of
Contemporary Travis Picking
Mark Hanson, 1979 & 1986
Accent On Music
Book/CD, 66 Pages
One of the
most common questions I get from visitors to this web site is a
recommendation for a good beginners fingerstyle series. My
criteria for a "good" series is one that focuses on
fingerstyle techniques and not on music theory. The music theory can be obtained from
numerous other sources and often only serve to complicate the task at
hand; learning to play "Fingerstyle".
The other factor I
think important is that the author select worthwhile music based on the
idea that if you are going to spend hours practicing, it'd be real nice
if at the end you had something you will want to play; "Mary Had a
Little Lamb" doesn't qualify.
Mark Hanson's two
book series are the ones I frequently recommend for all the above
reasons; his books are focused on fingerstyle techniques and the music
is specifically arranged to present the concepts.
Also, at the end of this book, Mark presents his excellent arrangement
to "Water Is Wide", "Hesitation Blues" and his
composition "Over And Out Rag". All are very worthy
tunes to master, making the process fun.
This book focuses on
providing fingerstyle patterns and strategies for accompanying
songs. It's a good beginner book because it gives you a
step-by-step way to develop the finger independence crucial to playing
in this style. Each song is selected and arranged to reinforce the
concepts presented; as you look through the table of contents below,
you'll see that the book is laid out in a concept-example-song format.
The book comes with
a CD that presents each and every example and performs each piece.
Together you get all the information you'll need to learn the
concepts; I only wish these book/CDs were available 30 years ago
when I was first learning this stuff.
Also be sure to
check out the companion beginner video "Fingerstyle Guitar" reviewed on
Buy the Book from Accent On Music
"The Art Of
Mark Hanson, 1988 Accent On Music
Book/CD, 66 Pages
have gone through Mark's Travis Picking book,
you are pretty much ready for the next book in the series. While
the Travis Picking book concentrates on song accompaniment and pattern
picking techniques, this book changes focus to solo fingerstyle pieces
and offers a great selection of tunes that are not only instructional in
nature but also just plain fun to play. When you've mastered a few
of these, you'll have material that you'd be proud to play for
anyone; "White House Blues", "Golden
Valley", "Twin Sisters", and "Strawberry Curl"
are as fun to play as any fingerstyle tune you'll find.
Like Mark's Travis
Picking book, this one also includes a CD and a detailed breakdown of
each piece. He plays each example and tune at 1/2 speed so that
you get maximum opportunity to clearly hear how it should
sound Then at the end of the CD he plays each piece at
performance speed to hear them as intended.
This book covers
important fingerstyle topics like Right-hand rolls and the ever critical
damping techniques and more (see index below). And the one thing
it doesn't have is a bunch of unnecessary music theory to confuse
the main goal; to give you the techniques you need to be a better
Mark also provides a
number of tunes in alternate tunings to expose you to this very
important option for solo guitar. Tunings such as
Dropped D, G6 tuning, DADGAD, and others. It really is very
important to get use to these if you want to play solo fingerstyle these
All-in-all this book
is well organized and offers great examples to help you expand your
fingerstyle skills and build your repertoire as you go.
Also be sure to
check out the companion beginner video "Fingerstyle Solo Guitar"
reviewed on this site.
Buy the Book from Accent On Music
may also want to look at
Richard Gilewitz's Fingerstyle Guitar
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