Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

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Aaron

Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by Aaron » Thu Feb 04, 2010 2:21 am

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.

KenK

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by KenK » Thu Feb 04, 2010 2:03 pm

Hi Aaron-

I can't imagine looking at 500 guitar books!

Thanks for including your thoughts here.
Interesting (and surprising) that you like Shearer the best.
I guess there's a reason that it's the "old stand-by".

I was pleased by what you said about Charles Duncan's "Art of Classical Guitar Playing".
As a self taught player, I got a lot out of that one.
(My own history is several decades of other styles before teaching myself CG.)

I'm curious what your thoughts are on these three:
"The Natural Guitar" -F. Lee Ryan
"Kitharologus" -Ricardo Iznaola
"Technique, Mechanism, Learning" -Eduardo Fernandez

I liked them quite a bit, though not for beginners.

Glad to see you mentioned the Postlewate book.
I'm a pinky user myself and think it's really well done.

Another question, while we're on the subject-
I've looked at the Aguado, Sor and Carcassi Methods out of a historical curiosity.
(I think they're on the Boije site)

The Aguado is especially detailed, though it seems rather dry or clinical by today's standards.
Considering that the Sor and Carcassi etudes remain a staple in current teaching,
I sometimes wonder if we're missing something by bypassing their "Methods" as a whole.

That in itself might be a fun discussion.

KenK

Aaron

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by Aaron » Thu Feb 04, 2010 3:27 pm

Ken,

First, I didn't say that Shearer's book was best overall, just best for the situation of early introduction to guitar when doing a conceptual notation-focused learning as well (as opposed to rote aural learning a la Suzuki), and as far as classic, please note that I'm talking about his newer "Learning The Classic Guitar" and NOT his original "Classic Guitar Technique." The older one is much more dull and less notable. Interestingly, I find volume 2 of each series to be the most useful.

"The Natural Guitar" -F. Lee Ryan
Have yet to review that. I may get to it.

"Kitharologus" -Ricardo Iznaola
Just a bunch of unmusical, technical junk. Sure, serious players will probably get something out of going through this, and it is accurate and physically challenging... However, out of all the books I've looked at, I can't possibly expect other people to go through them all and there will always be something of more importance than to bother with Kitharologus. I didn't even mention Pumping Nylon or Guitar Gymnasium or other technical workout books (which are much better and musical than Kitharalogus). Again, going through Kitharalogus at any point is time you could be doing something more musically important.

"Technique, Mechanism, Learning" -Eduardo Fernandez
Have yet to review that also. It's in my list of books I'm interested in seeing.

I haven't actually gone through the Sor, Aguado, or Carcassi methods and I've thought of it but always had something else to do. I think you might be right that they are really worth checking out. I find myself interestingly apologetic toward historical works. I mean, I don't fault Sor for being old-fashioned and classical the way I do some modern authors. I'm fine with Sor being old-fashioned and in that context I think he's great. When a new 21st century method teaches strictly classical era stuff I criticize it as small-minded and limited. The irony is that the new method might be just as good musically and just as effective in teaching. But it's easier to be forgiving of the old book because it has a better excuse why it isn't modern, of course.
Last edited by Aaron on Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Matt Molloy
Posts: 781
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Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by Matt Molloy » Thu Feb 04, 2010 3:51 pm

What no Emilio Pujol? No Pascual Roch?

:nerveux:

Pah!

*Matt stamps back off to the practice room*
"I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morcambe

Proud member of the LGCI.

Guitar: James Lister 2009 SP/MP.

Aaron

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by Aaron » Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:07 pm

Matt Molloy wrote:What no Emilio Pujol? No Pascual Roch?
I haven't reviewed those either! Gah... there's no end, even if I just want to know "what is that Emilio Pujol stuff people mention...?"
Can you point me to specifically what titles you think should be considered?

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Matt Molloy
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Location: Edinburgh

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by Matt Molloy » Thu Feb 04, 2010 5:13 pm

Aaron wrote:
Matt Molloy wrote:What no Emilio Pujol? No Pascual Roch?
I haven't reviewed those either! Gah... there's no end, even if I just want to know "what is that Emilio Pujol stuff people mention...?"
Can you point me to specifically what titles you think should be considered?
The Pascual Roch books are available as a free download from the University of Rochester here...

https://urresearch.rochester.edu/instit ... temId=3947

The Emilio Pujol "Rational School of Guitar" is published in a rather good translation by Ophee.

Both well worth looking at in my opinion.

Cheers,

Matt.
"I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morcambe

Proud member of the LGCI.

Guitar: James Lister 2009 SP/MP.

Aaron

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by Aaron » Thu Feb 04, 2010 11:40 pm

Matt Molloy wrote:
The Pascual Roch books are available as a free download from the University of Rochester here...

https://urresearch.rochester.edu/instit ... temId=3947

The Emilio Pujol "Rational School of Guitar" is published in a rather good translation by Ophee.
Thanks, I'm aware of the Pujol translation and it's in a long list of "someday" items. I checked the link about Pascual Roch, and the book says there are 3 volumes but the files only seem to contain 2...

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Matt Molloy
Posts: 781
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2005 12:06 pm
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by Matt Molloy » Fri Feb 05, 2010 12:51 am

Sorry Aaron, I neglected to include the link to the third.

This should do it.

https://urresearch.rochester.edu/instit ... ionId=3946

Hope this helps. I have a particular fondness for both the Pujol and the Roch as they were both students of Tarrega so I feel that their take on guitar pedagogy should not be taken lightly.

Enjoy the methods... There are some nice transcriptions (Tarrega and Roch) in the third volume.

Cheers,

Matt.
"I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morcambe

Proud member of the LGCI.

Guitar: James Lister 2009 SP/MP.

Paul Hammer

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by Paul Hammer » Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:26 pm

Thanks to you, Aron, I have just found out about Gerald Garcia - a fellow countryman - and have purchased his 25 Etudes Esquisses. On Garcia's website you can download one of his arrangements of an old Celtic ballad- 'Heman Dubh' .

I have printed your post - so much info on it - and was wondering how "Pumping Nylon", and other popular books, fit into your scheme of things?

Thanks for your time and trouble.

Paul

Aaron

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by Aaron » Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:53 pm

Paul Hammer wrote:Thanks to you, Aron, I have just found out about Gerald Garcia - a fellow countryman - and have purchased his 25 Etudes Esquisses. On Garcia's website you can download one of his arrangements of an old Celtic ballad- 'Heman Dubh' .

I have printed your post - so much info on it - and was wondering how "Pumping Nylon", and other popular books, fit into your scheme of things?

Thanks for your time and trouble.

Paul
You'll really like Garcia's stuff, it's really stayed at the top of my list even as I keep finding new stuff.

I own Pumping Nylon, and I got a decent amount out of it. I think it's alright but a bit scattered. Anyone ready to play the few full-length pieces there is someone who is already way beyond the basic stuff in the rest of the book. A lot of the exercises are great, but some are too much and some are pretty obvious. I guess I think it is a book that deserves to be recognized as notable. It's got some very good elements and some not-so-great elements. I think the biggest issue is that it is lacking contextual perspective. It's a mixed bag, but I'm glad to have it.

what do you mean by "other popular books"?

Frets100

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by Frets100 » Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:10 pm

Thanks for these useful info guys. Appreciate your reviews given.

joelewis

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by joelewis » Mon Feb 15, 2010 4:15 am

This was very useful. Any sense of what would be the most effective method for younger kids - say in the 8 to 10 year old range?

Aaron

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by Aaron » Mon Feb 15, 2010 4:41 am

joelewis wrote:This was very useful. Any sense of what would be the most effective method for younger kids - say in the 8 to 10 year old range?
Very hard to say. I've looked at lots and many have good elements but no method seems to combine them all.

I'd pick Richard Corr's Guitar Academy series as the most promising, but there are some weird concerns about the present edition, including a traditional murder ballad including words and cartoon drawing of the murder and the title of some exercises with the culturally offensive term "injuns". I've expressed my concerns to him along with a number of other criticisms. He expressed a desire to address my concerns and discussed things with me specifically. A future updated edition of his method may become the best all-around children's method for use with a teacher. As is, I still think it has special merit, but I have to say that with qualifications and issues.

Learning the Classic Guitar by Shearer and many others I've already mentioned are totally fine with kids. I don't believe that there should be much distinction between kids' methods and adult methods. Any method that goes through things too fast is not good for anyone. Any method that is very slow and progressive to be good for kids will be fine for adults too!

The best thing for kids is to experience a lot of music. Exploration and creativity are vital. They should learn to discover all the sorts of sounds possible on the guitar. Improvised copy games are ideal. I also encourage use of open tunings and strumming. There are so many, many things to learn. A book is only a small part of it all. And anyway, any book that is kid-oriented and goes really slowly and progressively can be used by a good teacher. Also, the Suzuki approach of listening and rote learning through observation and careful teaching is effective too, except that sticking to the rigid selections of Suzuki is boring and problematic. I suggest the listening and observation and rote learning along with improvisation, copy games, and conceptual understanding. I also teach about physics and harmonics right at the very beginning, even with young kids.

All that said, the title I've been most successful with is the "Guitar For The Small Fry" series by Dick Bennett, which is written for pick-style guitar but is easily used for classical technique. It develops understanding of notation in an excellent way. I've had a large number of students complete that series in a relatively short time and all of them are confident guitarists and decent sight-readers. My youngest student started at age 3 with simple strumming and sounds and moved into the Small Fry books by the time he was 4, going very slowly and with help from his parents. He completed them all and mastered reading basic 1st position notes, including accidentals by age 5. Today he is 7, he improvises very freely, is very creative and has progressed a good portion of the way through the 2nd volume of the Parkening Method after finishing much of the 1st volume. But we're now using Jerry Snyder's "Basic Instructor Guitar" to learn chords and folk style while also reviewing 1st position notes with a greater emphasis on sight-reading and understanding the theory. I've also used Mr. Snyder's "Guitar Today" method with younger students and that is pretty decent too.

Maybe one day I'll write my own method, but I suspect I'll always find something else to be a higher priority. And anyway, Richard Corr may get close enough to ideal with a future edition of his books. Either way, the real importance is the teacher, not the book.

peluche

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by peluche » Mon Feb 15, 2010 11:02 pm

Aaron,

thanks a lot for posting this, this is most useful as a "rough guide"! Especially for those of us who have no teacher. You're da man! I mean, who else can claim to have an overview of such an endless list of guitar books? Amazing!

As far as Pujol is concerned, you seem to confirm my impression that he has really fallen out of fashion at least in the English-speaking world (only partly so here in Germany) -- justifed or not. Though AFAIR, Brouwer, Dyens were partly taught by this method. There is a very steep learning curve in it. Dull at times, academic, "old school", heavy on the technical side. Rest stroke all over the place. RH at right angle to strings. But very thorough. My guess would be that your judgement will be very severe in part, but I'll leave that to you of course :) Maybe it should be included among those classical methods like Sor's, where old-fashioned ways are treated with leniency :) -- Anyway, count me among those who would really be interested in hearing your opinion about it.

Thanks again, cheers,

-- peluche

relayer66

Re: Update on books after reviewing 250+ methods

Post by relayer66 » Wed Feb 24, 2010 5:17 pm

I'd like to recommend "The Art of Spanish Guitar" by Celino Romero.
It is a very traditional method based on the way Celedonio taught his sons, and contains an excellent assorment of exercises by Tarrega, Aguado and others...including Guiliani's 120 right hand studies. A lot of the material in Pumping Nylon (an excellent book) is also found here, not surprising since Tennant's background includes time spent with the Romeros. The 120 studies, are printed larger and I can actually read them unlike in PN where I need to get out a microscope to see them. There is also a great selection of studies by Carcassi, Sor etc, and a nice starter assortment of repertoire pieces.
I didn't want to buy this rather expensive book, since I thought I had everything I needed in Sagreras, Parkening, PN etc, but I am glad I have it in my collection now.

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