There are as many ways to learn to play the guitar as there are students who want to play. Some people enjoy and do very well on the more formal, traditional path of private lessons, books, and study. While formal lessons are a proven, time-tested method for musical improvement, they are not for everyone, as they require a fairly large commitment of time and money to be truly effective. Many guitarists of the modern generation have turned to their computers in their efforts to conquer the guitar with mostly mixed results. Video guitar lessons, which really began with Arlen Roth’s Hot Licks tapes in the 1970’s and 80’s, have truly come into their own with DVDs and the Internet but, these, too, are not for everyone and seem to work better for more advanced students than for those looking to learn the basics. Lesson software is another popular choice and can represent a great alternative for those who wish to use it. The eMedia company is one maker of instructional software and sells a number of programs that can be of use to many different guitarists. One of eMedia’s most popular offerings is the Guitar Collection Pack, which is a bundle of four programs, Guitar Method, Intermediate Guitar Method, Blues Guitar Legends, and Guitar Songs Volume I, that provide the advancing guitarist with enough learning options to keep busy all winter.
Variety in lesson material is very important to the aspiring guitarist, as music is one of those things in life that requires us to learn more than one thing at a time if we want to improve in a reasonable time frame. The Guitar Collection Pack achieves this goal very nicely and includes lessons in everything from first-year rudiments to note-perfect song transcriptions. Those just starting out playing guitar at any age will get a lot out of the two Guitar Method CD-ROMs. Think of them as revved-up versions of the traditional Book One and Book Two lessons that many of us, including your humble reviewer, started out with. eMedia really makes guitar basics come alive on these titles and combines tons of information with an interface that lets users read their lessons, watch full motion videos of each topic covered performed by Kevin Garry, Ph.D., from the University of Colorado at Boulder, play along with the Animated Fretboard on over 70 songs including hits by Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, and even get instant interactive feedback on their playing with the Note Tracker function, which works with the microphone on the students’ computer. The Intermediate disc goes on in this manner and includes over 50 more songs, a Deluxe Chord Dictionary, a Scale Directory, and utilities like a tuner, metronome, and digital recorder. Together, the Guitar Method titles give the new guitar player a firm foundation in the basic elements of music and guitar technique as well as experience playing styles ranging from rock and blues to country and classical. These are excellent choices for those wishing to learn a bit of academic music at their own pace.
The other two programs in the Guitar Collection Pack are Blues Guitar Legends and Guitar Songs Volume I and these are more performance-oriented and feature direct transcriptions of famous songs. The beauty of these programs is that each song also features a simplified version so those not up to full-on solos and such can still play along and learn. Each program also comes with MIDI versions of the songs included that allow users to adjust the songs’ tempo to their liking as well as the full original recording. Difficult sections of the songs can be selected and looped to provide more intense practice. Blues Guitar Legends teaches just what you would think it would by its title and covers songs like “Statesboro Blues” by The Allman Brothers, “Smoking Gun” by Robert Cray, “The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King, and “Crossfire” by Stevie Ray Vaughn. Guitar Songs Volume I is more multi-faceted in the styles it covers and ranges from classic rock by Buddy Holly, Santana, and The Who to the blues of Eric Clapton and SRV to country, folk, and even three classical arrangements. There are even two celebrity guest spots by Peter Frampton and Roger Fisher of Heart each doing one of their most famous songs (“Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Magic Man”, respectively). Both of these programs will help students grow their repertoire as well as their song-learning skills in a fun and engaging manner.
Each of the four programs eMedia includes in the Guitar Collection Pack is powerful on its own, but, when bundled with the others, the learning potential of the whole set is off the charts. This is a great set of software for those looking to learn the guitar on their own or to supplement the work being done with a teacher. On top of it all, eMedia’s intuitive interface will allow students to spend their time learning the guitar, not the inner workings of their computers. Anyone looking to develop or improve their guitar playing will want to give these programs some serious consideration. Visit eMediaMusic.com for more information.