Alfred's Self-Teaching Basic Guitar Course
Alfred Publishing has been around for decades, and has a long list of classic guitar instructional material to it's credit. In today's world, where YouTube videos of self-proclaimed teachers dominate, is there room for an old-school print method? Well, if you combine the best of the old with the new, the answer is yes.
Using Public Domain tunes has been a staple of guitar books for many years. Not only are the melodies familiar to most people, but the copyright has expired on most of them, making them an affordable option for instructors. The downside is, if you are using them to teach sight-reading, the tunes are sometimes so familiar that students play them by ear rather than from the page.
Folk ditties like "Aura Lee" and "A Tisket, A Tasket" are known to us Boomers, but I think a 10-year old kid today may be baffled by them. Alfred addresses this by using the opportunity to tell the story behind the song, even giving composer bios and historical details that I had never read before. In fact, the book uses diverse styles like boogie-woogie and early rock flavored in their musical examples, and puts them in a historical timeline that leaves the student knowledgable about many of the trends, fads and styles from the pre-Justin Bieber era.
Alfred's approach in this book relies heavily on the Study Guides, a pre-lesson page consisting of "explanations, directions and additional information to help you to more easily understand how to play. You also learn a little music theory, a little music history and about songs and their composers". The Study Guides take the place of an actual teacher, offering the insights and details that keep a student interested and engaged in the material.
Standard notation is used throughout, no tablature. Musical concepts are gardually introduced, with each lesson incorporating previously mastered material with related fresh notes, scales, chords, melodies, technique. More modern popular songs appear, including a couple of John Denver hits and even the venerable Freed-Brown smash "Singin' In The Rain".
The included CD and DVD offer audio and/or video examples of every lesson, making this a self-teaching course with virtual instructors just a mouse click away. Jeff Garvin hosts the DVD and does a fine job covering the theory material in the book. Musical examples are audio only, with the student's part in the right speaker and the teacher's accompaniment in the left. Overall, I think Alfred has successfully integrated the best of the old approach with the convenience of the new. As a basic guitar course, it delivers on it's promise.