What to expect from the blog.
Here you will find news updates about The 50 Greatest Guitar Books; lessons; articles and essays regarding the latest guitar methods (and more); and recommendations of books I am personally fond of, as well as others of historical note. There will also be guest contributions every now and then.
For Shawn’s general guitar and music blog please visit: Prester John Guitar
August 8th, 2016: Paganini Re-Revisted
June 3rd, 2016: The Beatles: A Weird Guitar Lesson
My take on The Beatles “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite” for WeirdGuitarLessons.com.
May 1st, 2016: How To Memorize New Chords
A few techniques I have learned, developed with students, and modified to my own personal tastes.
April 11th, 2016: “Freebird!”
My latest lesson for Premier Guitar magazine. Let the praise and backlash begin.
February 1st, 2016: NAMM 2016 Roundup
More than a thousand words.
December 10th, 2015: The Mahavishnu Orchestra Etude
I am delighted to share this lesson. John McLaughlin and The Mahavishnu Orchestra changed my life overnight. After hearing The Inner Mounting Flame for the first time I was committed to playing music like that. A few years later Boud Deun was formed. We were lucky enough to release two records on Cuneiform Records and play many shows. At the risk of tooting my own horn…on two separate occasions I had strangers come up to me after shows and say, “I saw Mahavishnu in 1971, I haven’t since a band play like that since…until tonight.” I’m delighted to share this tiniest bit of insight into one very small aspect of John McLaughlin’s playing thanks to Premier Guitar.
If you want to cut to the chase and just hear the audio part of the lesson (with scrolling notation), click this link: Mahavishnu Etude Audio
October 10th, 2015: Expanding the Two-Chord Jam
What do Santana, Zappa, The Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and many others have in common? The two-chord jam! Learn more from my latest article for Premier Guitar.
October 6th, 2015: Play Out Of Tune!
Five great “out of tune” recordings, my latest for Reverb.com.
August 1st, 2015: The Guitarist As Athlete
June 12th, 2015: Crafting Layered Guitar Parts
May 18th, 2015: The Pitfalls of Tone Chasing.
Would Eric Johnson’s “perfect” tone work on a Beatles record? My latest for Reverb.com.
April 21st, 2015: Are Your Guitar Solos Too Long?
The question no guitar player ever asked themselves, “Are Your Guitar Solos Too Long?”
April 14th, 2015: Goodreads Giveaway!
March 16th, 2015: Open-G Tuning Tricks & Tips
February 10th, 2015: Twin-Guitar Harmonies
January 26th, 2015: NAMM Photo Roundup
Yours truly at the EarthQuaker Devices booth.
New Steve Howe/YES signature licks book from Hal Leonard.
From the Fender Custom Shop.
The $100 Guitar Project’s little brother?
The legendary Eddie Kramer.
Beatles’ guitar case.
The history of Guitar Player magazine.
See you next year!
December 23rd, 2014: Silent Night Blues
I’ve been having fun the past week jamming the “Silent Night Blues” with my students. Below you’ll find the basic sheet music, but I recommend modifying the tune to be played in 4/4 with a shuffle blues groove. Listen to (and download) my version, and the backing track, here: Silent Night Blues – Silent Night Blues Backing Track.
October 28th, 2014: Japanese Pentatonic Scale and Guitar Effects
My latest video lesson, a combination “using guitar pedals in unusual ways” and “the Japanese pentatonic scale.”
October 5th, 2014: The Whole Tone Scale
August 12th, 2014: Jerry Garcia Electric Etude
June 15th, 2014: African Guitar 101
My latest lesson for Premier Guitar. An African Guitar primer.
May 11th, 2014:
Rare 2nd/1st Edition Sale $10!!! SOLD OUT!
Due to a mix-up at the printer, a new printing of The 50 Greatest Guitar Books labeled “2nd Edition” actually is a repeat of the very 1st printed edition, including the original typos. And although the content of the book is still accurate and the typo issues minor, I don’t want to sell these books at full price. So, if you are interested in a RARE 2nd/1st Edition copy of The 50 Greatest Guitar Books, one (or more) can easily be yours for just $10 + $4 shipping. And I’ll even sweeten the deal by signing every copy!
A rare, signed copy of The 50 Greatest Guitar Books for just $14. I don’t expect these to last long, so order soon! Please note, though, that this deal is only available when using PayPal.
April 28th, 2014: Gypsy Jazz Rhythm Guitar
My latest lesson for Premier Guitar. A Gypsy Jazz Rhythm Guitar primer.
March 17th, 2014: Leo Kottke Guitar Lesson
February 14th, 2014:
The 50 Greatest Guitar Books One-Year Anniversary!
One year ago today The 50 Greatest Guitar Books was released and it instantly became a best seller on Amazon.com. Thank you all for your support and encouragement this past year.
To help celebrate the one-year anniversary I am giving away two signed copies of the 2nd Edition of the book! You can enter to win a copy simply by sharing the Facebook page: The 50 Greatest Guitar Books on Facebook.
Keep a lookout for more developments with the book this year including, more video lessons, blog posts, Facebook updates, and live performances and workshops. Thanks again for all your support!
I would like to specifically thank the following people and organization for their help promoting the book in 2013.
Tim Sparks (Postmodern Fingerstyle Wizard, picks for Tzadik,Tonewood, Truefire)
Tom Butler-Bowdon (Bestselling Author of 50 Self-Help Classics, 50 Psychology Classics, 50 Prosperity Classics)
Benjamin Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan)
Henry Kaiser (Grammy Award winning and Academy Award nominated experimental guitarist, improviser, and producer)
Gary Marcus (Author of Guitar Zero: The Science of Becoming Musical at Any Age)
Wayne Johnson (Grammy Award winning guitarist for Manhattan Transfer, Bette Midler, Rickie Lee Jones, Natalie Cole)
Prof. Glen McCarthy, (American String Teacher’s Association ASTA Guitar-in-the-Schools Committee, George Mason University School of Music, National Association for Music Education NAfME Guitar Council, and Clinician at Teaching Guitar Workshops)
Thank you all.
February 1st, 2014: Harmonic Minor Modes Lesson
My latest lesson for Premier Guitar magazine: Harmonic Minor Modes
January 24th, 2014: Photos from the NAMM Show!
December 1st, 2013: “Silent Night Blues”
Play the rhythm track with the typical blues shuffle groove (A5 – A6 – A5 – A6, etc.), then lay down the melody with a shuffle feel as well, and emphasize those “blues” notes. Make it an “Un-Silent Night!”
November 14th, 2013:
My first lesson for Flatpicking Guitar magazine.
I am delighted to have a lesson in the latest issue (Nov./Dec. 2013) of Flatpicking Guitar magazine. I love this magazine, not least of all for the fact that even though the magazine is 80-90% about bluegrass guitar, they always feature other styles like Gypsy jazz, Texas swing, and Classical. That is the gist of my lesson in this issue; how to present a mix of styles without being pastiche. And each issue comes with an excellent instructional CD. Honestly, every issue of Flatpicking Guitar is better than most guitar books I have seen! Do yourself a favor, subscribe!
November 9th, 2013:
My latest lesson for Premier Guitar magazine.
October 23rd, 2013:
Taylor Guitar’s Wood&Steel magazine, Fall 2013
Looking for a new practice routine? Check out Shawn’s latest article, “Five Minutes a Day,” in the Fall issue of Wood&Steel from Taylor Guitars.
October 3rd, 2013:
SixString App Book Giveaway
Announcing a new “50 Greatest Guitar Books” giveaway from SixString.com. Four winners will be chosen during the month of October, one every Thursday, beginning Oct. 10. Just download the app (it’s free) and “fan” The50GreatestGuitarBooks to enter. For more information visit: Sixstring.com/50greatestguitarbooks
September 28th, 2013:
Texas Swing Video Lesson
A supplemental video lesson for the Country guitar lesson 17c, “Texas Swing Backup.” Get the free sheet music here: Texas Swing Notation and Tab
September 21st, 2013: How Many Guitar Chords Are There?
August 28th, 2013: Muriel Anderson Book Review
Building Guitar Arrangements From The Ground Up by Muriel Anderson
This book is good for an ambitious and industrious late-beginner or an intermediate player who knows little to nothing about music theory. The major limitation is the meager number of songs Muriel arranges. If this book were a bit longer and contained two more fully exploited examples, giving them the treatment she grants “Simple Gifts” (no less than seven different arrangements), it would be highly recommended. Even though the arrangements are aimed at fingerstyle players, the concepts in Building Guitar Arrangements From The Ground Up will be useful to all guitarists.
August 1st, 2013: Flamenco Guitar Video Lesson
A supplemental video lesson for Flamenco lesson 28c “Rumba Variations.” Get the free sheet music here: Rumba Variations.
July 14th, 2013: Post-NAMM Photos
My favorite piece of SWAG from NAMM, Hiwatt button!
July 10th, 2013: Nashville NAMM
Shawn will be promoting The 50 Greatest Guitar Books at the Summer NAMM show this week in Nashville, TN, July 11-13. Drop by booth 621 and say “Hi.”
July 5th, 2013: Taylor Guitar’s Wood&Steel magazine, Summer 2013
Check out Shawn’s latest article, “Play Like You,” in the Summer issue of Wood&Steel from Taylor Guitars.
June 30th, 2013: Giveaway Contest Winner, Week 4.
And the winner for the week of June 23rd is…Samantha Mullins-Collier of West Virginia. Congratulations Samantha.
As a special “thank you” to everyone who entered the contest, we are running a sale of 10% off the cover price of the book, all this week on all Paypal and Amazon: $17.99 instead of the usual $19.99. The sale is this week only June 30 – July 8.
June 23rd, 2013: Giveaway Contest Winner, Week 3.
And the winner for the week of June 16th is…Trevor Wentzel of Michigan. Congratulations Trevor.
And if you have already entered, you are still eligible for the last drawing. Good luck!
June 16th, 2013: Giveaway Contest Winner, Week 2.
And the winner for the week of June 9th is…Jonathan Edwards of Michigan. Congratulations Jonathan.
And if you entered last week, you are still eligible for the rest of the month. Two more chances. Good luck!
PS: Happy Father’s Day. Love you Pop!
June 14th, 2013: Jazz Blues Video Lesson
A supplemental video lesson for the chord progression heard in lesson 23b “Solo in G: double stops.” Get the free sheet music here: Jazz Blues in G. The sheet music also includes the guitar solo, which comes with the 100+ free mp3 downloads. To hear the solo click here: “Solo in G: double stops.”
June 9th, 2013: Giveaway Contest Winner, Week 1.
And the winner for the week of June 2nd is…Corey Perry of Oregon. Congratulations Corey.
And if you entered last week, you are still eligible for the rest of the month. Three more chances. Good luck!
June 6th, 2013: Shawn is BookBaby’s “Author of the Month.”
I am delighted, honored, and grateful to be Bookbaby’s “Author of the Month” for June 2013. To express my gratitude, I have written an essay suggesting how authors, especially self-published authors, might sell more books: Write the Book You Want to Read.
May 22nd, 2013: Rik Emmett Autographs and Gives Away a Copy of The 50 Greatest Guitar Books
The great guitarist and educator Rik Emmet is so pleased with his inclusion in The 50 Greatest Guitar Books that he is giving away an autographed copy this month (he did the same last month too!).
Visit RikEmmett.com to find out how to win.
Here’s an excerpt from The 50 Greatest Guitar Books regarding Rik’s writing on guitar, and music in general.
Clever, judicious, pointed, funny, and humble, Rik Emmett’s writing shines among the best of guitar instructional literature. His literary acumen is evenly matched by his musical sagacity and understanding. A highpoint in the history of Guitar Player’s monthly columns, we as music students are blessed to have all of Emmett’s articles collected into these four well-rounded volumes.
Midway through Vol. 4, Emmett quotes composer Aaron Copland who said, “Musical efforts have meaning only in so far as they go out to an intelligent body of hearers.” For the Love of Guitar will help you become that intelligent hearer as well as an intelligent guitar player.
Rik Emmett (b. 1953) Canadian guitarist, vocalist, and founding member of the rock band Triumph, Rik Emmett is a professor of songwriting and music business at Humber College in Toronto. Although he is best known as a rock guitarist, his playing style exhibits jazz, classical, bluegrass, and flamenco leanings.
May 9th, 2013: Wood&Steel magazine, Taylor Guitars
Full disclaimer: I frequently contribute to Wood&Steel, including a lesson and essay in this issue titled “Hit Your Mark.”
April 25th, 2013: Pedal Steel Style Guitar Lick: Video Lesson
Video lesson No. 2. A pedal steel style guitar lick from chapter 2. Free sheet music and tab below. To download the sheet music, right click and “save image as…”
April 16th, 2013: Jonas Mollberg Book Review
This week’s blog marks the first of my brief reviews of books I personal enjoy but that, for a variety of reasons did not make it into The 50 Greatest Guitar Books.
On the surface this appears to be a portfolio of guitarist Jonas Mollberg’s original compositions, which indeed it is. But the true intent behind this work becomes more obvious once you start playing the pieces. These are actually graded studies (pieces that become progressively more challenging) in a pseudo-classical style, designed for the 21st century guitarist. Balancing the line between classical guitar etudes and the singer/songwriter fingerpicking tradition – a la James Taylor, Jim Croce, et al. – Mollberg has composed music that is very lovely and easy to play. These pieces will delight fledgling fingerstyle guitarist as well as individuals overly familiar with the standard, beginner, classical etudes from the past 200 years.
April 9th, 2013: Elixir Guitar Strings Giveaway
Elixir Guitar Strings is helping to promote The 50 Greatest Guitar Books by holding a free string giveaway contest. Anyone who orders the book between April 9-16, and “likes” The 50 Greatest Guitar Books Facebook page, will be entered to win. 20 readers/players will win. A big “thank you” to Elixir for supporting the book and my work in general. I have been using Elixirs now for 15 years and I wouldn’t think of using anything else.
April 3rd, 2013: Shawn’s mini-interview with Radial Engineering.
March 26th, 2013: Eric Johnson Style Guitar Lick: Video Lesson
I am super excited about this first video guitar lesson. Short and sweet and shred! An Eric Johnson style guitar lick. Enjoy, like, share, and shred! Free sheet music and tab below. To download the sheet music, right click and “save image as…”
March 20th, 2013: Simple but amazingly helpful tip for getting the most out of your guitar books.
I believe these “before” and “after” pictures speak for themselves.
Tired of trying to use your capo to hold books open on your music stand? Did you know that most office supply stores and print shops (I use Staples) can remove the spine from any “perfect bound” book and replace it with a spiral binding for about five dollars? This simple trick can make using your favorite guitar book even more productive and enjoyable. An excerpt from The 50 Greatest Guitar Books:
A Note of Formatting and Binding
The elegance of the perfect paperback binding makes it standard format for most books, music and otherwise. This book is perfect bound. I would like to suggest, now that you own the book, that you be a bit more pragmatic and bit less concerned with appearances when it comes to function. I specifically formatted this book so that the spine could be easily cut, removed, and rebound using the less stylish but infinitely more practical spiral binding. Spiral binding allows the book to lay completely flat without having the pages turn at their own free will. I have done this to dozens of my own books, and a reputable office supply store can alter your book for a minimal fee.
Here are a few more of my favorite books I have done this to.
If you feel this damages the book’s overall aesthetic (which I can completely understand) you could always buy two copies, one for looks and one from practicality (I’ve done this too).
See you next week. Sincerely, Shawn Persinger
March 14th, 2013: Shawn’s guest blog and GuitarChat interview on Guitarkadia.
March 7th, 2013: Collin Bay’s Top 10 Guitar Books
Appendix II of The 50 Greatest Guitar Books features several Top 10 lists of favorite guitar books from many illustrious players, educators, and publishers. Among the names is Collin Bay, who is in change of artist relations and product development at Mel Bay (not to mention being the grandson of the legendary Mel Bay).
When I reached out to Collin for a contribution he responded within just a few hours with two lists: one with commentary, one without (the list were only slightly different). I was so blown away by how well-written and thoughtful his commentaries were I assumed he’d made a list like this in the past. But no, he reassured me that he just started writing what came to mind. I was thoroughly impressed.
Regrettably, to keep the appendix II consistent, I was unable to publish Collin’s commentaries in the book. So I’m posting them here so we can all benefit from Collin’s insight. Enjoy.
Collin Bay’s Top Ten Guitar Books by Collin Bay
Growing up in the Bay household I had access to more music books than anyone could possibly imagine. There were quite literally decades worth of music books that both my dad and grandfather had collected. This environment was extremely beneficial to my development as a musician. I remember my first guitar lesson at Interlochen Arts Academy, where I went to high school: the guitar teacher and I talked through the four-year curriculum—I had already worked through every single title on his list!
I mention this because it is simply impossible to provide a definitive list of the top ten guitar books. My list would change every day. Further, aside from the countless books that influenced my musical education, I also was lucky enough to attend two amazing conservatories (Interlochen and New School University)—my experiences in those schools were invaluable and I can’t even begin to list the teachers and peers who helped me grow musically…and that is to say nothing of the actual music that has shaped my ear and mind.
Without further ado I present my list of ten music books that changed my life:
1. Modern Guitar Method, Mel Bay. Mel Bay Publications
Quite literally, this book put me through college. My grandfather was asked to put together a guitar method for the troops during World War II via the GI Bill. After the war he took his method to all the major publishing houses, all of who told him the guitar was a passing fad with no future. He self-published and 10 million copies later can be looked at as an example of someone who lived the American Dream. This title is hugely influential—I would put its reach against that of any music book ever published. It has been imitated ceaselessly because of its simplicity and accessibility. There is no better beginning guitar book.
2. Guitar Chords, Mel Bay. Mel Bay Publications
In my opinion this book was my grandfather’s other truly revolutionary idea. Prior to Guitar Chords, chord reference books just didn’t exist. This book is responsible for spawning an entire branch of music publications: reference guides. This book, as well as his work in general, played a significant role in establishing the guitar as a “serious” instrument; one worthy of the most rigorous study and a place on the most prestigious international stages… and it’s still as useful and relevant today as the day it was published.
3. Music, Cognition and Computerized Sound: An Introduction to Psychoacoustics, Perry R. Cook. MIT Press
This was the textbook for a class I took at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts called The Science of Music and Sound. I read this cover-to-cover and it completely turned my musical world upside down. I previously only had limited exposure to scientific side of music. This book approached everything from the physics behind sound production to the neurological functions associated with music perception. I feel this is perhaps the most important aspect of music to study, and is at the vary least of prime importance to any musician. It also provided me with knowledge that enriched my experience listening to music.
4. Music Notation: A Manual of Modern Practice, Gardner Read. Crescendo Book.
This is a book I refer to every single day in my editorial work at Mel Bay. This is another reference book I read cover-to-cover. It has an awesome section explaining the origins of music notation. I also read it in hopes of discovering new musical devices I could use compositionally—I found a ton. This book is a definitive reference guide for any and all music notation issues and gets quite specific even with extended techniques for each family of instruments.
5. This is Your Brain on Music, Dr. Daniel J. Levitin. Dutton Books.
I read this book at the same time I was checking out the Perry R. Cook book. This book actually charted on many bestseller lists, and while it is written as a narrative it still contains a plethora of information vital to anyone wishing to produce sound.
6. Music of Bing & Ruth, David Moore. Mel Bay Publications
The last time I heard Bing & Ruth was in a small club in Redhook, Brooklyn, and I was with a friend from another country who, prior to the concert, knew nothing about their music. During the concert she was so overwhelmed with the beauty and intensity of the music, she actually basically had a meltdown—she was crying and had to step out! Bing & Ruth’s music is almost indescribable. Sonically it is somewhat similar to minimalism; however the musical underpinnings bely each member’s theoretical grounding in jazz, third stream and Avant-garde traditions. One of the coolest parts of my job at Mel Bay is getting to come up with the books that I would buy, that don’t exist, and bringing them into print. This is one such book. Regardless of whether or not you’re into David Moore’s music, this book is chock-full of cutting-edge musical ideas, especially centering on form and timbre.
7. Defibulators Songbook, The Defibulators. Mel Bay Publications.
A few years ago I was hanging out several friends’ apartment in New York City. There were maybe six musicians there and we were all hanging out, sharing music, playing music together and listening to music. Two of my friends played a cover of a song by The Defibulators called Dum Dum. The song is pretty simple but the lyrics are unreal. One line in particular jumped out at me: “Drinking gasoline like it was milk”. I delved deeper into their music and found one of my most favorite bands of all time. Like the Bing & Ruth project, I was extremely proud to work with The Defibulators and bring into publication a book I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to read. This book is more than just a songbook though—it really is more like a musical autobiography. There are lead sheets, solo transcriptions, essays and more that really paint a total picture of The Defibulators as musicians. I am most impressed with musicians who draw on their disparate influences to meld them into something new, original and innovative; The Defibulators have accomplished that and this book shows how.
8. The Rest Is Noise, Alex Ross. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Simply the best-written, most captivating history of twentieth century classical music. Classical music from that century has had a profound influence on me musically and Ross brings to life the music and composers of that era.
9. The Real Book, Fifth Edition, Anonymous. No publisher.
In preparing this write-up I checked out the Wikipedia entry for The Real Book, which is pretty comical for many reasons—check it out! Speaking briefly to the content, this book is a collection of songs from the “Great American Songbook”—mostly popular 32-measure AABA form tunes from Tin Pan Alley. I personally have very little use for any of these pieces nowadays, but they are important to study for many reasons, probably primarily because they are the basis of American popular music even today, and the harmonic movement in many of the songs is still the “meat and potatoes” of harmony today. This book is now available legally (with some alterations), but the legal edition was not in print when I was studying jazz. The reason this book is on the list for me though is because it opened my eyes to the world of copyright law. Discussing copyright and intellectual property in general is totally a hot potato these days, and I have more to say on it than I can fit into this paragraph. Still—how crazy is it that if a musician wants to cover a song live or on record, he or she can, but if a musician wants to put his or her arrangement of that song in print, they can’t without securing permission and they could be denied? Copyright laws are vitally important; yet, as they are currently written they completely inhibit creativity, are very anti-artist, anti-small business, and lend themselves to massive conglomerates creating monopolies. This is an issue I am extremely passionate about, yet one I have no optimism about the prospects ever improving. Anyway, as a music publisher I absolutely cannot endorse this book. But it is undeniably useful, despite being riddled with errors, and a fascinating piece of work. The paradox of someone creating such a pivotal, influential work, yet never being able to claim credit for fear of being jailed and bankrupted, is complex and riveting. So don’t buy this controversial, amazing, horrible book!
10. On Practicing, Ricardo Iznaola. Mel Bay Publications.
Ricardo Iznaola is one of a few truly brilliant pedagogues. He also happens to be so good at guitar it makes me sick. As a 12-or-so-year-old kid studying classical guitar, this book was really helpful. It provided me with a great way to approach the instrument and practice in general. It laid the foundation for years of serious work I then put in on the instrument. I probably wouldn’t be the musician I am today without having read this book, as I wouldn’t have been as effective at practicing.
A big thanks to Collin for his thoughtful contribution. See you next week. Sincerely, Shawn Persinger
February 28th, 2013: Support and Shares
Support from the on-line guitar community. Thanks!
Thanks for reading and sharing. Sincerely, Shawn Persinger
February 20th, 2013: Thank You
First things first: I want to say “thank you.” The 50 Greatest Guitar Books was released last Thursday, February 14th (Valentine’s Day) and as of this morning the book was #54 on Amazon.com bestselling guitar books list. And the first pressing has sold out entirely in just six days! Thank you to everyone who has ordered.
So what does this blog have in store? As I wrote in the conclusion of The 50 Greatest Guitar Books:
I happily declare that my study of guitar methods will be a never-ending project. Given the amount of time it took to write this book, the blog will undoubtedly progress slowly. Yet I intend to continue providing insight and instruction for those interested in guitar-education literature. In addition to featuring the latest methods, published after the release of The 50 Greatest Guitar Books, I also plan to include books I am personally fond of and others of historical note.
I also plan to feature the favorite books of other players and educators I admire.
For today I just want to stick to a friendly “hello and welcome.” I hope this guitar book journey continues to be a long and fruitful one.
Sincerely, Shawn Persinger