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The flatpicked guitar reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

161 reviews in the archive.

Livingston Taylor : Stage Performance

Submitted by zotzinguitar (see all reviews from this person) on 3/19/2013

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

Livingston has 17 Albums to his credit. His latest album is ‘Last Alaska Moon’, which has been widely appreciated. He has a tight schedule and like to keep himself busy with concerts to refine his Stage Performances. He has been consistently rated “the best class at Berklee” by his fast expanding group of students.
This book will help you to discover the conversation of a performance. It guides you with the correct way to begin and end your appearance on the stage. It teaches you about understanding and conquering stage fright. There are many helpful tips and tricks of onstage performance provided in this book. This book will entertain you with a natural humor and real-life anecdotes.
With over 10,000 performances under his belt; Livingston offers you a tried & tested method to deliver a successful message to your audience and elevate your level of performance to professional standards.
You can buy this at http://www.zotzinguitarlessons.com/books/

Overall Rating: 7

Chuck Anderson: Unlocking the Guitar - Notes on the Neck

Submitted by oppenheimm (see all reviews from this person) on 12/16/2012

Where Purchased: http://www.howtolearnjazzguitar.com/wordpress/books/

Overall Comments

Unlocking the Guitar - Notes on the Neck, by Chuck Anderson. Anderson Music Publications, 2002. ISBN#0-9719730-0-8

This book provides an approach to one of the trickiest topics guitar players of any level face: learning the notes on the neck. The author offers a superior method for learning the notes through the use of particular frets as reference points or "key frets."

The preliminary exercise in the book familiarizes one with these key frets and their application in identifying notes at every point on the neck. After mastering the prescribed methodology, Anderson suggests a variety of ways in which to internalize this information. These exercises include visualization techniques, application of chord and scale shapes, randomization, and identifying notes (in real-time) during improvisation.

This book also explicates the need for complete knowledge of the neck. The application of such knowledge extends to composition, improvisation, notation, note-reading, communication with other musicians, and practically every aspect of musicianship.

So, as a teacher, why do I recommend this book? Because this is essential knowledge. Every piano player or horn player knows every note as they play it; it is a disgrace that most guitarists are completely ignorant of this basic and fundamental information.

Suitable for all skill levels of guitarists

Overall Rating: 10

Steve Kaufman: Bluegrass Guitar Solos That Every Parking Lot Picker Should Know - Volume 1

Submitted by delboy (see all reviews from this person) on 2/11/2011

Where Purchased: Amazon Buyer

Overall Comments

I'd heard plenty of good things about the PLP series and was very familiar with Steve K through the web, through a few tracks on CDs over the years, and the pages of FGM magazine. When I saw this volume come up in the UK at a very reasonable price I thought I'd take the plunge.

What you get is a big old book - nice and clear text and tab for us short-sighted old-timers, and six CDs. Yep, six. The book pretty much just gives the tab for the tunes, and the CDs cover full speed performance of each track along with broken down and slowed down versions, with Steve talking through the pieces with particular emphasis on the problem and unusual areas. It's a real great way of covering the material - you can work through at your own pace using just the book and listen to Steve K as and when you need to understand a particular intricacy. For each song there are three versions - simple, intermediate, and advanced, along with some suggested endings. The simple versions are... simple. But they also sound great. I'd have no hesitation in playing these versions of the tunes as my break in these songs in jam sessions. The intermediate versions are a little more interesting and dfficult, as you'd expect. And the advanced versions take it all a step forward. But the great thing is, you can learn the basic version and then just a phrase or two from the intermediate (or advanced version) and thus slowly build up your own unique arrangement (maybe even add in some phrases from other sources), or work up to the advanced one a step at a time.

Steve K has a whole host of these books out covering scores of songs - I think there's a swing version, too. Volume 1 was the set I wanted on account of several songs that I've been working on are in here, as are several more that I want to learn. The 'setlist' is:

Ragtime Annie
Bill Cheatham
Goldrush
Flop Eared Mule
Forked Deer
Old Joe Clark
Soldier's Joy
Nothin To It
Red Haired Boy
Big Sandy River
Billy In The Low Ground
Under The Double Eagle
Fisher's Hornpipe
Blackberry Blossom
Turkey In The Straw
St Annes Reel
Arkansas Traveller
Sweet Georgia Brown
Whiskey Before Breakfast

Phew! The performance versions are wonderful. There's this moment of frission you get when listening to them when Steve plays something particularly great - you think "I've got the tab for that! I 'm in with a shout...." But of course it ain't that easy. Hearing it played, being giving the notes and instruction, is the easy bit. Learning it is the hard bit. If you're like me you're going to have to start off slow, and take it very steady!

There's no actual guitar instruction here. It's not about teaching you crosspicking (though there's plenty of it in the arrangements) or hammer-ons or how to keep a relaxed right hand or any other technical information - it's purely about learning these songs. Also there's no hints or information around why Steve chose (in the intermediate and advanced versions) the notes he chose. I'm a geek when it comes to understanding why someone chooses the notes they do - and that's why there's one star missing in the score. I'd love to understand how someone like Steve K would approach this stuff, not just when composing these different versions, but maybe in improvising upon them too. But that's not the intent to it's probably a little tight of me to knock off a point.

My other issue is nothing to do with the book and everything to do with memory. There's a lot of stuff in this set. I've already learned and forgotten several arrangements of several tunes. I'm not sure I'll ever keep it all my head at the same time.

Great stuff. Highly recommended for players of all levels.

Overall Rating: 9

Michael Horowitz: Gypsy Picking

Submitted by delboy (see all reviews from this person) on 11/24/2010

Where Purchased: On Line from DjangoBooks.com

Overall Comments

Like most guitar players I've bought an awful lot of instruction material over the years and probably 95% of it lies gathering dust in a drawer or on a shelf somewhere. But every now and then one stumbles across a gem that becomes a truly well-worn and deserving friend.

Michael Horowitz's Gypsy Picking is one such book. I've long loved the gypsy jazz style, not just Django, but Stochelo Rosenberg, Romane, Gary Potter, Jimmy Rosenberg, Birili, etc etc My early attempts to play in this style floundered (and also foundered) terribly.

Then I heard mention of this book.

It's a slimish book (with a CD of all the patterns and exercises) - just 60 or so pages - and on a first glance it appears to be quite simple. When I saw that a whole section - some 15 pages or so - was devoted to playing patterns on open strings (i.e. the right hand only) I thought what's going on?!

But there's the rub. I'm a massive believer that the right hand (or should I say the picking hand) is *the* most important hand in this art of ours. As I read what Michael had to say, and as I applied myself to this style of picking, as I set a metronome going nice and slowly and started to really try and nail these patterns I suddenly started to get a bit of that Django sound. It felt good. It felt great. Sometimes going back to basics is just what we need.

Then... when I moved onto the next section and started to add the left hand patterns onto what my right hand was already doing the scales really did fall from my eyes and appear beneath my fingers. There was the sound and - unbelievably - I found very quickly that I could play some of these patterns far faster than I'd be able to using my normal picking style. It suddenly became clear why the Manouche players play this way.

There are limitations. This style of picking originated because of the need to project an unamplified guitar above the raucous crowds of Parisian nightclubs back in the day. It's not necessarily so required now. Playing runs up the neck works far more efficiently than coming down the neck. But it's all part of the style.

So having learned some basic patterns you then get to apply some cracking licks and scales and arpeggios to these patterns and have a whole lot of fun in the process.

There's a five chorus Django solo to learn and examine and break down. It's covered at a nice easy pace, and although Michael doesn't overtly mention this (maybe for copyright reasons) it is an actual Django solo from his Minor Blues recording. Django's version is far faster than Michael's version - something to aspire to!

There are recommendations of other recordings and artists to listen to and masses of other information and advice tucked away throughout the book.

I'm still a million miles from being able to improvise efficiently over songs like Minor Swing and Dark Eyes - but it's not because of the picking style and it's not because of any deficiences in this book - it's simply a very demanding style that requires constant attention.

Bottom line is that this is one of the few books I've read and applied and learned from cover to cover, I use the styles and techniques and licks in all my playing from time to time, and as a primer before moving on to other books and material in the style there is none better.

Overall Rating: 10

Arlen Roth: Nashville Guitar

Submitted by delboy (see all reviews from this person) on 11/24/2010

Where Purchased: Local Music Shop

Overall Comments

I bought Arlen Roth's Nashville Guitar book way back in 1977. Over the last 30+ years it's probably been my most used tuition book - and is part of an elite club of books that I've read and learned from cover to cover.

It's quite a comprehensive book - almost 150 pages - and came with a flexi-disc. I no longer have a turntable, but a very kind soul on another forum sent me a CD of the material on the flexidisc and it's been a joy to hear the examples again after all these years.

The book covers a lot of material:

Rhythm playing
Carter style playing
Travis Picking
Basic country lead guitar
Bluegrass
Rockabilly
Double note runs
Nashville String Bending techniques

I'm not 100% sure, but I've been told that the final chapter on Nashville String Bending helped revolutionise country guitar picking. Certainly the sounds Arlen coaxes out of a Telecaster with no help from a B-Bender is amazing.

I recall being blown away by the Sam McGee and Merle Travis fingerpicking sections back when I first got this book. How one person could coax such sounds out of a single guitar amazed and delighted me. Still does.

The country licks and scales informed my playing for years. Still do.

The bluegrass section is full of great licks in the G,C and D positions, and the exercise solos that Arlen has written usually contain one or two amazing and useful little twists and turns. I learned all of this stuff several times over (I have a terrible memory) and still go back to it weekly.

There's a beautiful arrangement of Wildwood Flower in the Maybelle Carter style and there's a whole bunch of Clarence White solos transcribed. It's only recently - since I've got hold of more of Clarence's material - that I've been able to match these transcriptions to the originals. But they are - despite it not actually saying so - very close transcriptions of sections of Listen To The Mockingbird, I Am A Pilgrim, and John Henry.

There are Doc Watson and Alton Delmore solos transcribed, too.

Much of the material in the book isn't on the CD/flexidisc. Back then space was at a premium - and there's one particularly hot solo that is on the recording but not in the book. Nevertheless, by the time you've worked through this material you'll be able to pick up such stuff anyway.

The rockabilly section is a bit lightweight and very basic (although the classic Workingman's Blues lick is included and that's always welcome!) but that aside, it's simply a gold mine.

I've seen other, more modern country guitar books, but none have touched me or inspired me the way this one has. I believe it's still available, certainly there are used copies out there. You have to work a little harder with older books like this than maybe you do with modern DVDs and books that have every sound file on the CD, but it's well worth it.

A classic of guitar tuition literature.

Overall Rating: 10

Joseph Weidlich: Old-Time Country Guitar Backup Basics

Submitted by musekatcher (see all reviews from this person) on 4/22/2010

Where Purchased: Elderly

Overall Comments

Old-Time Country Guitar Backup Basics
Joseph Weidlich, Author
2005 Centerstream Publishing - Hal Leonard Publications

Old-time country guitar can be evasive, due to the elaborate forms existing at the turn of the century. While surviving practitioners provide much insight as to "how it was done", we also have an extensive collection of early studio, radio, and field recordings from which to mine this invaluable American innovation. Often understated as "rhythm" guitar, old-time guitar is much more than just keeping time, and pounding out chords.

The instructional book, "Old-time Country Guitar Backup Basics" attempts to capture some of the key elements of the earliest styles of guitar, associated with backing up singers, fiddlers, and other lead instruments in the context of early rural American country music. The book is brief yet adequate in establishing a solid style of guitar for most any pre-WWII country music one might enjoy.

The author Joseph Weidlich is originally a serious student of classical guitar, giving him both a technical and acedemic background from which to appreciate the depth and complexity of his chosen subject. In fact, his first trek into traditional American music lead him to publish several acclaimed books on mid-1800's minstrel banjo, of which he is also an accomplished student. He has also collaborated with the noted old-time music scholar Dr. Alan Jabbour, and banjo luthier Mike Ramsey.

The book begins with a fair recap of the origins of what is vulnerably known as "old-time music". The typical chronological formula of fiddle-then-banjo-then-guitar is explained, with the latter debatably acknowledged as a 1920's entry to old-time string bands. The author might investigate pictures, stories, and artifiacts that suggest guitars being used with fiddles and banjos as early as pre-civil war (ref. Bob Carlin's Southern Exposure) to expand on his timeline. The author also acknowledges the mingling of blacks and whites in forming old-time music, arguably the pre-cursor of all American popular music following, but makes an assertion that the open guitar tunings of the early 1800's lead directly to the formation of blues, which may be a simplification of all the experimentation in the 100 years in between. At any rate, the attempt to define "old-time" music at the beginning of the book is both admirable, and telling of the author's recognition of this important subject.

Weidlich makes an important point, that virtually all the early string bands recorded had their own unique sound. The typical repertoire consisted not only of archaic fiddle tunes, but also minstrel era tunes, gospel pieces, ballads, tin-pan alley and other popular songs and tunes. He goes on to describe the effect of the depression, and the modernizing of guitar styles following in the late 1930's, even though several of his examples were actually recording as early as 1931.

The author finally describes the techniques in the book as taken from source recordings, of guitar players using thumbpicks and sometimes fingerpicks, and describes the use of a flat pick as a modern innovation. He targets the book at those who use a flatpick. The author might have identified several early guitarists who did use a flatpick, and were quite influencial.
The introduction adequately describes the author, his background and perspective, and the intended usage of his book. It is believed the author researched his subject well, chose his material carefully, and accurately, concisely, and effectively produced a very useful primer for early country guitar backup technique, typical of at least one style in wide usage before WWII, and broad enough to work in most any setting of old-time country music, or most any country music for that matter.

One improvement for this book, would have been the inclusion of a legend or key to the author's tab format for the techniques reviewed. There are many forms of tab in print, and it took a while to decode several symbols and values. As a strict observer of aural tradition and playing by ear, attempting to translate tab into music was very frustrating, but proved functional. Still, an accompanying CD would have halved the time invested in completing the book. Also, a basic explanation of a musical scale, and the numbering system for notes would have helped too, but in the authors defense, he states a basic understanding of these skills is required before working thru the book. With so many books including these foundations, it is a minor oversite for this publication, and most book consumers fully expect a tablature format.

He begins the tab and technique section with the bedrock "boom chick" lick. It would be preferred to use a more phonetic term, like "boom ching", as it is more correct to hold each chord, and let strings ring. "Boom chick" implies a staccato, choked, or shortened second beat, which was in use, but not the way most intend when using the term and not prevalent in the books subject area. Still, "Boom chick" seems to prevail. Again, a CD would clear this up very quickly.

Next, the author walks the reader easily thru the critical skill of alternating the "bass" note or the 1 and 3 beats, but also includes the use of the boom-ching-ching-ching lick often heard by the likes of Jimmy Rodgers. He describes the typical I and V or root and V pattern in good detail. Other techniques like the "6-7-8" run, and the "Golden Age Lick" are described, with the Golden Age Lick repeating twice at the end of a phrase, perhaps best performed by Roy Harvey of Charlie Poole's North Carolina Rambers.

The author then describes the usage of the third or III note. This is an important element, as it distinguishes a pre-war and post-war preference for guitarists. Guitar students will easily recognize this difference when strumming a three finger G chord, and comparing with the four finger chord. The four finger chord eliminates the "third", while the usual accompanying style avoids the 5th string for the same reason. Several variations of using the third are presented.

The 3-2-1 lick is described, although this lick can be overused, and can also unitentionally add a tin-pan-alley flavor, especially if extended into the 3,3-,2,1 lick. He choses several varations, as he does for most all the techniques, and all are very faithful in his purpose.

Leading tones are described, which are a wonderful addition to songs and more lyrical pieces, perhaps more at home with singing bands such as the Carters, and less at home with strict fiddle-banjo teams like Woltz's Southern Broadcasters. Alton Delmore used these often in his recordings before WWII with his brother, and although primarily known for his more than 1000 compositions, and his exemplary singing with his brother, he was an accomplished instrumentalist on fiddle, banjo, and guitar. He was not alone in using this and other techniques learned during his early1920's tutelage in the South, reinforcing its inclusion in this book.

Other techiques are described including chromatic tones. These really give a certain flavor to your backup, and it can't be helped but to harken the Mississippi Shieks, and the Baxters wonderful fiddle and guitar music, as well as many other teams across the South.

Finally, the remaining important technique described was at first confusing. After reflection, it is believed the "playing licks over chords" section is an attempt to emulate counterpoint on the arpeggios or notes of chords and changes as done in the early years, and more recently used in modern "walking" of the bass. This element is certainly present in some of the earliest recordings, Riley Puckett of the Skillet Lickers being only one example. However, it can be overdone, and confused with bass "walking". Its a subtle difference, and further study and careful usage would have to be observed in its usage to preserve the original purpose of old-time guitar. The author does a good job of introducing the concept as a teaser. Additional listening to references included in the book would provide excellent examples.

There are a wealth of other techniques, both documented, and living in aural form today that couldn't be included without sacrificing the delightful brevity of this work. However, should the author desire, a second book could certainly build on this one, with the extensive amount of material available and in use today. Old-time guitar hasn't recieved as much attention as fiddle and banjo elements, but its just as important, and can make any fiddler or banjo knocker sound their best when performing so many wonderful string band pieces. And for those guitarists who think they have grown tired of "rhythm" or feel under-appreciated, the old-time guitar material in this book and elsewhere can make you a hot commodity.

In closing, it was concluded that this publication is a real standout in the plethera of instructional material today, on a nearly obscure but important subject. It is hard to imagine a better product on the subject, in the space used, and selling for the reasonable price suggested. It was a pleasant surprise to find a book on this subject at all, and even more gratifying to find it so well written. - jbh

Jim Holland
Athens, Alabama

Overall Rating: 10

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