Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hal Leonard Guitar Method Complete Edition Review


I run into people all the time that say that they have always wanted to learn how to play the guitar. If it is something that you have always wanted to do, then make the time and get down to it. And, if you are self-motivated, the Hal Leonard Guitar Method is a great place to start. I have bought many copies over the years as I usually end up giving mine to a fledgling guitarist that is in need of direction.

Hal Leonard is the world’s biggest music print publisher, and they have been around for over 60 years. Whether you are looking for sheet music, orchestral arrangements or instructional materials, they have all of the basses covered. The Hal Leonard Guitar Method has been around for over 30 years, and the Will Schmid / Greg Koch second edition has become an industry standard, and a top seller in their catalog.

The Complete Edition that we are looking at here today is all three books combined into one, and it includes play-along CDs for each of the volumes. It is a 144 page full-size (12 x 9 inch) book with a plastic comb binding, which allows it to lie flat on a music stand. This is a great format as staple or glue bound books have trouble staying open, and once you break the spine to flatten it the pages start to fall out. Comb or spiral binding are the only ways to go.

This book is great for the novice as it starts at the very beginning. By the beginning, I mean it talks about the different types of guitars, the names of the guitar parts, and even how to properly hold the guitar and tune it. By the way, this method works well with either acoustic or electric guitars. Anyway, from there, they dive into how to play, and I like the way they go about it, though I could see how some might have a problem with it.

A lot of young players want to learn to play songs right away, and I can understand their motivation, but this book focuses on the fundamentals, which includes learning how to read music. The authors go one string at a time in the first position, showing where the notes fall on the staff, and working in simple melodies with ¾ and 4/4 time signatures. I think this is a very effective teaching technique, and the ability to read music will only help in the future to help sort out melodies from sheet music or if the guitarist actually gets a paying gig that requires the ability to read sheet music.

Another cool thing is that chords are held off for a few weeks, which helps the budding player develop some callouses, which makes fretting chords a lot more satisfying. New chords and theory are introduced a bit at a time, so the student does not get overwhelmed.

Some of the songs and melodies can be hokey (e.g. “When the Saints Go Marching In”), but this is a beginner book and these simpler melodies are ones that most people can remember. In all cases, there are chords listed on top of the staff so the instructor (if there is one) can play along, and there also duets so that the learner can play some neat harmonic parts.

The first book finishes off with eighth notes and basic strumming techniques, and books two and three move into faster work, plenty of new chords (including barre chords), different picking techniques and more intricate and useful sheet music and melodies. If the player completes all three books of this method, they will be a solid intermediate player that can actually read music, which puts them a step ahead in my book.

This edition came with three CDs (one for each book), and they are neat play along pieces for many of the lessons within the books. They mostly have complete full band arrangements with other guitar lines, bass, drums and synthesizers. Often times they are presented in different tempos or formats, so the listener can hear the different ways that the same line can be played. The arrangements border on bizarre at times (like muzak you might hear in a Japanese department store), but I think they are fun. It is certainly a nice bonus for learners that might not know the melodies or are having trouble working out the rhythms and time signatures.

The best part about the Hal Leonard Guitar Method Complete Edition with CDs is the price. It has a list price of $24.99, but I see them online for as low as $14.99 from major retailers like Walmart. That is way cheaper than a single guitar lesson, so you might want to get a copy if you are thinking of taking up the instrument.


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