Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Building a Reference Library, Pt. III – Sight Reading

Back in December I began a series of posts discussing reference books that would benefit teachers to have in their library. This month I’ll continue and talk about some good books for sight reading. I know most guitarists don’t read or don’t read well, but working on it with a student is a good way to dive in and practice that skill! 

Robert Starer

Before one even starts to read notes on the staff, it is a great idea to become familiar with rhythms. Rhythmic Training is good book to start with and there is an also a workbook available with various rhythm drills. 

Dr. Charles Colin and Bugs Bower

This book emphasizes short eighth measure melodic studies, focusing specific rhythms with accompanying chords above. The rhythms don’t get much faster than eight notes and also supplies examples of picking patterns.

M.T. Szymczak

This book has been in my library for years! There are one and two page studies and it emphasizes working with sixteenth note rhythms. One of the things that is unique is that it offers a rhythm guitar part with its own accompanying rhythm. It is from the Berklee Series and is out of print, but if you come across a copy that is not too pricey it is worth it.

Roger Filiberto

The title says it all – studies in all positions. Of course you can read music in any position, but this is organized and helps to break down the fretboard positions and offers studies which are specific to each.

Tom Bruner

Looking for a challenge? This is it! The book has position studies, but the trick is the notes are entirely random. This book can be frustrating, but you’ll get to know the notes - that’s for sure.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Building a Reference Library, Pt. II – Music Theory

In my previous post I wrote about building a “reference library” and talked about several books which are wonderful sources for everything guitar related. This month I’ll continue on the same topic and discuss materials that are good resources for understanding music theory.

Everything You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask
By Tom Kolb

One of my personal favorites and a book I believe every player should have in their library; Tom Kolb is one of those players who is also a wonderful teacher. The book is laid out quite well starting with Chapter 1: The Fretboard and makes it way through theory basics, intervals, harmonizing the major scale and even delves into complex subjects such as chord substitution and reharmonization. 

A Journey Through Form and Analysis of Modern Harmony
By Ed Arkin

This book is no longer in print, but if you ever come across a used copy it is worth having in your library. It can get pretty “heady,” but covers topics like: Harmonizing the Major Scale, The Blues, Chromatic Alteration, Tritone Substitution and Quartal Harmony. There are some copies on Amazon, but the price tags are over the top. 

By Gardner Read

Ok, not exactly “music theory,” but the book covers everything you ever wanted to know about music notation and then some! The book is 400+ pages devoted to everything regarding music notation and I have referred to it any number of times when I have come across something I did not recognize or understand.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Building a Reference Library, Pt. I - General Knowledge Books

One of the things I have always found helpful as a guitar teacher was having a reference library to pull lesson material from. This could include anything from something you would like to teach a student (such as finger-tapping) or just general knowledge you would like to impart (like guitar history). I feel spoiled because years ago when I was building a reference library many music stores used to have a healthy stock of books on various topics from music theory to song books. Today when I go into music stores the stock is rather limited to basic method books and an abundance of tablature song books. 
Since the Internet took over the world I have been disappointed numerous times with a book purchase because I haven’t been able to go through the book a bit before I purchase it. If you’re lucky there are a few pages posted to see what the book is about. Needless to say, I enjoyed thumbing through books prior to purchasing them to get a feel for whether they would help me as a player and teacher; over the years I have amassed a sizable reference library. 

Over the next few posts I am going to discuss some books that I have found extremely helpful which I have referred back to time and time again. It may be old school when everything today is a click away, but a book itself may go more in-depth on a topic you had only a passing interest in, offer insight into a new topic or lead you into a totally new direction. An old friend once said, “If you buy a book and get one new piece of information out of it, then it was worth the money.” 

The books listed below are all purpose general knowledge books – let’s take a look! BTW, if you have some reference books you’ve used and can recommend please feel free to chime in. 

This book has several sections and some of things discussed include: 1) Guitar Innovators: short biographies of well-known and lesser known players. 2) Acoustic Guitars: discusses the anatomy of the instrument and how they are constructed. 3) Electric Guitars: reviews hollow and solid body guitars, pick-ups and instruments by Fender & Gibson. 4) Playing the Guitar: tuning, right & left hand technique, theory, rhythm charts, scales, harmonics, modulation and chord substitution. 5) Guitar Maintenance and Customizing: setting the action, fret care, guitar care, simple repairs and strings. 6) Performance Technology: guitar amplifiers, microphones, mixing consoles, working on-stage and sound processing. 7) Chord Dictionary: the chords are laid out in a “per key” basis with multiple fingers for various chords. 

A dictionary of music is one of those reference books that should be in every musician’s library. The book contains everything from musical periods, notation, tempo markings in all languages one may come across, descriptions of musical forms as well as theoretical concepts. 

A wonderful book which uses visuals to a great extent to help the reader understand various guitar & music related topics. There are three main sections to the book: 1) The Guitar – which has a timeline of instruments and discusses all types of guitars. 2) Playing the Guitar – covering topics such as playing position, alternate picking, playing the blues, the modal system, melody over chords, transposing chords and chord scale relationships. 3) Sound and Amplification - which discusses such topics as combo amps, rack mounted systems and specific amplifiers like the Vox AC30. 

A wonderful book covering guitar history from the pre-twentieth century guitars to “modern” instruments made by Paul Reed Smith and Emmett Chapman. All variations of guitars are talked about: classical, flamenco, steel string, resonator, archtops, solid body, etc. The book is a whopping 480 pages with pictures and profiles of various makers.