When one picks up the guitar, or any instrument, the initial stages of learning are a heady rush. You can’t take in all the basics fast enough, but you’re making music and making progress so you just keep going. At some point, though, you either hit a plateau or you realize that while you’re making music, it doesn’t always sound, well, musical. Or at least as effortlessly musical as other musicians seem to sound.
Total Acoustic Guitar, by Andrew DuBrock, gets you over that initial hump from eager but idling beginner to musical intermediate. The author tackles three major areas – rhythm, finger picking and lead playing – and guides you through the various steps to become more skilled and confident in each of these important facets of acoustic guitar playing. For the “somewhat beyond beginner” guitarist, you’ll find it full of “tips and techniques for becoming a well-rounded player,” as the book’s subtitle aptly states on the cover.
After a brief, but surprisingly thorough overview of the basic skills beginners should know by this point (open position chords and simple strumming – including alternate bass style and easy walking bass lines), Total Acoustic Guitar introduces the reader to syncopation, playing scratch rhythms and rhythm fills, and using arpeggios as a rhythm technique. You also tackle acoustic guitar power chords and learn some very cool and exotic sounding open string chords that are simple variations on the open position chords you learned when you first started playing guitar.
The fingerpicking section starts out with very simple and basic picking patterns and takes you up through Travis picking and pinching techniques. You’ll be able to play some impressive blues and finger style guitar when you’ve worked your way through this part of the book.
The final section on leads teaches both technique and the basic theory necessary to understand how to apply the techniques to the music you play. Pentatonic scales (major and minor) and blues scales are examined, as well as the normal major scale and natural minor. You also get instruction on mixing scales to fit the mood and style of a song. DuBrock also teaches the importance of slurs (hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides and bends) and his teachings of the use of open strings and double stop playing will make your acoustic solos sing out.
The CD that accompanies this book is well produced. DuBrock has made very good arrangements of familiar Public Domain songs to illustrate the techniques he teaches. All the audio examples are clear and the reader should find them all very helpful.
Andrew DuBrock is an outstanding teacher as well as a fine writer. Anyone who’s read Acoustic Guitar Magazine at any point in the last ten years is undoubtedly familiar with his fantastic work as both writer and editor. He has an incredible knack for making the trickiest of techniques understandable to anyone and his writing is as interesting and entertaining as it is enlightening and educational. More important, he can inspire you to take the steps needed to take your playing to the next level. He is encouraging and supportive all along the way, just through his written words alone.
If you’re relatively new to the guitar and have gotten to a point in your playing where you’re wondering if you’re ever going to be better and make everything thing click musically, then you should give Total Acoustic Guitar a read. If you follow DuBrock’s instruction and advice, you will undoubtedly see and hear marked improvement in your guitar playing.
This is another book that will go on the Guitar Noise “Highly Recommended” book carousel!