I started thinking of writing some long discussion of my whole understanding of guitar books and pedagogy, and I remembered why I have only shared the minimal number of reviews I have so far. This stuff is complex, and there's too much to get into.
I just wanted to mention a quick update on my use of various books in my teaching after reviewing over 500 guitar-teaching and music related books, including over 250 guitar methods.
I am not going to suggest what auto-didacts should read. The issues of what is best varies from student to student, hence the value of teachers. I have my opinions on many things and I don't have time to share much here.
Here's what I am currently choosing to use in my own teaching. My reviews cover all manner of guitar books, but for this overview here I am ignoring rock, jazz, folk etc. and focusing on just the classical related stuff.
Learning the Classic Guitar Part Two by Aaron Shearer is probably the best, most progressive introduction to music notation at the same time as just starting with guitar. Students, especially young students, need not bother with the 1st part, I take care of teaching the techniques. I don't teach Mr. Shearer's strict focus on free-stroke initially. Rest stroke is best at first, and can be done with the early pieces in the book.
Free stroke, arpeggios, and chordal stuff is best taught with Mel Bay's Modern Classical Guitar Method by Stanley Yates. I've decided that it is not so good a book overall, however, because the music is alright but not superb and it also doesn't optimally teach notation, it is more of a book for students already comfortable with the early basics of technique and notation and musicality.
The Christopher Parking Method volume 1 is good for having decently musical content and a good collection, but isn't special. Volume 2 is one of the best choices for introduction of upper positions and other intermediate techniques, but that should then be followed up with more position-focused books, of which the best are often not specifically for classical guitar. For example, Mel Bay's Deluxe Guitar Position Studies. I also like the Primary Guitar Method, Standard Guitar Method, Conservatory Guitar Method, and A Special Guitar Method, series (each of many books) all by Dick Bennett (hard to find but available through Charles Dumont distributing and their retail side which is musictime.com) for general notation studies, folk songs, developing of chords etc. Alfred's Basic Guitar (all 6 volumes) is good too, but I prefer the old out-of-print 1st editions to the newer ones.
Aaron Shearer's Classical Guitar Technique vol. 2 is a great resource for reinforcing and seriously working on upper positions. [EDIT: this is if you are a rigid technically-minded person, I thought about it and realized that this book has some notability but I'm not sure that it should be the choice for anyone but very traditionally-focused technically-minded players because it is a bit tedious.]
Sagreras' Guitar Lessons 1-3 (and also 4-6 even) offer the most musical of short studies and progressive reading for intermediate to advanced students, but shouldn't be started until basics are done elsewhere.
Richard Corr's Guitar Academy series has some flaws that I've mentioned to him (use of some culturally insensitive things and other quirks) and I look forward to updates eventually, but they are already among the best of all methods. Inclusion of composition and improvisation is sorely lacking in most classical guitar teaching, and Richard balances things very well. His books are probably the most well-rounded of all.
Richard Pick's School of Guitar is certainly among the best for advanced students wanting to stick strictly to traditional functional tonality and gets into jazzy stuff too. I just don't think going through dozens and dozens of inversions of the same chord is necessarily worthwhile. To be clear, he has excellent beautiful musical examples as well.
Of the traditional etudes and methods, Sor's stuff is musically superior to Giuliani who is more flashy but predictable and square. Carcassi stuff is great, of course. There's others too from the old classical tradition, but they stand out as the best, as most people already know.
Classical guitarist's should be exposed more to Flamenco styles too, and for those, a good start is some of the selection's from Frederick Noad's Playing the Guitar and First Book for the Guitar. For those sticking to the classical tradition, Juan Serrano's Flamenco Guitar: Basic Techniques is great partly because it has tab and notes on separate pages so note-readers can focus on just the notes. Obviously getting into discussing the whole world of Flamenco is too much here.
As is known, some of the best modern studies for intermediate to advanced students are Gerald Garcia's 25 Etudes Esquisses
I am also a BIG FAN of the excellent series by David Burden called Traveling In Style that feature beginning to intermediate/advanced short pieces all strictly classical guitar idiom representing music from around the world. They aren't readily available in the U.S., you may have to order them from him directly like I did. They're available in Britain. He publishes under the name "Garden Music". I really think these particular collections are among the best anywhere and all teachers and students should check them out.
Also, there is no justification today for prohibiting use of the little finger on the right hand, and while I wish there were normal music editions and methods that used it, I at least suggest that Charles Postlewate's Right-Hand Studies for Five Fingers be checked out. For those not sure about it, just try using your little finger more and you'll see that it basically functions with practice. Use it at will. His book just goes through relatively nice training exercises and such.
For understanding technique at a professional level, Charles Duncan's The Art of Classical Guitar Playing is the very best resource. Not quite as good, but still worthwhile is the follow-up Classical Guitar 2000.
Anthony Glise's Classical Guitar Pedagogy is also an invaluable resource for all players, covering technique, interpretation, musicality, and also teaching and performing.
There's obviously TONS more than this. But if I didn't mention it here it probably means that I think it is at best not particularly noteworthy or that I have mixed or negative feelings. Or that it isn't classical guitar. Frederick Noad's Solo Guitar Playing, for example, is fine but it is just the same stuff you'll see elsewhere and I think the stuff most interesting in his books is in the titles I mentioned above. Another example, Vahdah Olcott Bickford's method has some unique content (considering its age) and is worthy of note, but the mixed feelings I have on it—the qualifications I would feel like giving—are simply too involved to have time to get into here, even though I appreciated going through the method myself when I reviewed it.
Of one extra note is Peter Inglis' Guitar Playing and how it works, which is an imperfect book that includes descriptions of very important and musical practice techniques that I have used for years but hadn't seen written before. The book as a whole is a bit scattered, and I didn't particularly value the second half which simply goes through standard scales and such, but the first part is special. You can purchase a PDF version online now. The best parts talk about practice ideas using shifting accents and looping variations, and they are the very best ideas out there (a good number of players and teachers probably know them but somehow they are just barely ever specified clearly in writing like they are here). Being a mixed bag, it is overpriced; but it has some valuable content that is unique among everything I've seen.
Oh yeah, there's also all those theory and psychology and composition and music collections... anyway, I just didn't get into those here, but they're important too.
I guess I'll mention The Listening Book by W.A. Mathieu, as it remains my favorite general music inspirational title that I recommend to everyone: listeners, musicians, amateurs, and experts.
Even after so much reviewing, I certainly haven't seen everything. I obviously left out a lot here also. I don't think this list is any sort of absolute, and I may change my mind as I continue to learn more. This is just a signpost and something to share rather than putting off sharing indefinitely.
Hope this is appreciated.
All for now,
Last edited by Aaron on Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.