Gear Reviews

Intermediate Guitar Method




I have always been a miserable guitar player, although I did use to be in a few bands. Well, maybe just one real band, and that one sucked thoroughly. We were two guitarists in there, and I never got to play any solos, which was just shitty. I mean, the other guy was way better than me, but he played so safe and dull and shit. I was pretty good at being noisy, so I should be doing all the soloing. That’s probably the main reason why I quit the band.

The bass player from that band and me started practicing with different people, playing all kinds of stupid music. It was super fun, but we never got around to do anything with it. Later on, I figured I was going to be a real deep singer-songwriter kind of guy. I even bought one of those four-track recorders and wrote and recorded loads of shitty songs. I still got them, but I never listen to them, mainly because the lame ass four-track recorder broke, and you can’t play these cassettes on a regular deck, because they’re so sped-up.

Anyway, the point is, I’ve always been a shitty guitar player, and I’ve never really practiced it either. I learned all the basics – the chords, “Tom Dooley” type of songs, some finger picking – and that took me ages, because I never really sat down to practice it. Pretty stupid, obviously, and probably a main reason why I haven’t touched a guitar for the last few years. You get bored playing the same things over and over again, having fallen into a rut and not knowing how to get out of it. And if it’s not fun, why bother with it?

So, anyway, when the offer to review this new course from eMedia came up, I jumped at the chance to start from scratch again. I decided that Intermediate Guitar Method was going to be the CD-ROM that would bring out the great guitar player that must surely nestle inside me somewhere.

This is the second part of eMedia’s guitar courses and it’s assumed you know the very basics of guitar playing – that is, how to hold it, how to strum, how to finger open chords, and stuff like that. Nothing too complicated. There’s an electronic guitar tuner feature included, a metronome, a recorder, a massive chord diagram, and tons of scales, and so, if you’ve been playing just a wee bit guitar already, you might as well skip the first lesson and jump directly to this one.

The course is divided into six chapters, and it’s recommended that you go through them chronologically. I decide I’m not going to blow my chances at greatness this early on, so I do as I’m told. We’re kicking off with some left-hand technique stuff, far less exciting than it may sound for the uninitiated. We roll through hammer-ons, pull-offs, trills, vibratos, slides, and bending strings. We play the melody lines to “Oh Susanna,” “Amazing Grace,” “Scarborough Fair,” and “House of the Rising Sun.” All your guitar textbook standards, then. Verdi’s “Largo” pops up along the way, but that’s the odd one out. Easy peasy. Out of the blue comes this 12-bar blues solo thing and I’ll have to focus a bit, but all in all, a pretty basic chapter and a sweet start.

It’s pretty neat stuff: there are some nice multi-colored dots to keep you company while you’re playing, there are loads of sound bites, commentaries, straightforward explanations to what you’re doing at any given time, and video clips of this guitar instructor, Kevin Garry, playing along with you. One complaint, though: Playing melody lines without a backing track is dumb. You strike a note, it dies out, complete silence, and you strike another note. Why aren’t there some cheap MIDI tracks on here?

Chapter two: Right-hand techniques. Alright, loads of barre chords in here. Those are tricky bastards, so if you haven’t been there before, this could keep you occupied for some time. Thankfully, I figured them out many a moon ago. If I can do it, anyone can. Bear that in mind, kiddies.

The sound clip to “Midnight Special” has this guy singing along. Hurrah, I was beginning to feel lonely in here. This is great, and yeah, the singer stays with us through the remaining course. We’re jammin’, baby! Or at least we’re going through some more standards – “All Along the Watchtower,” “I’m Your Captain,” and “Touch Of Grey.” Fair enough. Ok, left hand, check. Right hand, check. Let’s join forces. On to chapter three!

Strumming styles. We’re really rocking now. Stuff like palm muting and blues shuffle. We play Johnny Cash’s “Drive On” and we do a pretty fun version of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful.” Practicing strumming, though, is a bit of a drag. This chapter’s fun because it’s got some cool songs in it, but practicing the different techniques is very un-fun. Next!

Whoops, am I moving to fast? Because suddenly we’re in theory hell. This one’s called “Using Scales and Building Chords,” and it’s every bit as theoretical as it sounds. Mastering Bach’s “Gavotte” should give you some immediate satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment. But stay with it, it gets even more complicated. You’ll learn stuff like, what’s an augmented 7th chord and what exactly are those four-tone chords. Very un-punk and there’s loads of text in here. This is one of those chapters that you’ll rush through for now and return to when you’ve finished everything else in here. Especially considering what the following chapter has in store for us.

Guitar solos! Whoo hoo! Disappointingly, this is the least interesting of the chapters – we mainly get a random selection of solos, progressing from the very basics to the Hendrix stuff, but with no real motivation for it other than to learn a few licks here and there. And once again, why are there no backing tracks included? Guitar solos are lame without backing tracks.

So, last chapter then: Fingerstyle guitar. In which you learn to play Heart’s “Dreamboat Annie,” “The Water is Wide,” and a version of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” that should bring your girl-/boyfriend to her/his knees in no time. Fine closing piece here, with everything explained in enough detail to let you know what you’re doing at any one time. I still have some practicing to do before I wrap up this last chapter but hey, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Really, this is quite the comprehensive package from eMedia, one of the most exemplary and impressive guitar courses I’ve encountered. There are few misses in here and a clear and well-directed build-up. Easy to operate, with a nice presentation that doesn’t distract from the real purpose of the CD: to teach guitar playing. And you can’t really go wrong with this one.

eMedia Music Corp.:

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