One thing I inevitably find myself doing when travelling on an airplane is contemplating my situation in life. Not a mid-life crisis sort of thing, mind you. The situation at hand is more than enough. I am hundreds of thousands of feet in the air, sitting (relatively) comfortably in a warm, well-lit place, having a cold drink and (but not so much these days) a hot meal. Sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed when I think of everything that goes into making this possible.
The proliferation of the home computer, in concert with the widespread availability of internet access, does the same thing to me from time to time. Especially when it comes to music. Just look at this page. You wanted to learn (or learn more about) the guitar, so you went to your favorite search engine and typed in “guitar lessons,” or something like that, and, hello, here we are. How much easier could things be?
Well, Guitar Breakthrough, a guitar tuition software created by Len Collins, manages to do a great job of making things even simpler for the beginning guitarist. After installing the software, you are given an introduction and then a few choices, depending on what level of guitarist you are or what aspect of the Guitar Breakthrough lesson interest you most.
The Introduction pretty much explains the layout of Guitar Breakthrough, the various icons you will encounter. The “just starting to play guitar?” section is an introduction as well – it gives an overview of the ten “lesson sections” in the software. Each lesson itself varies in size and depth of detail. The first lesson, on the fretboard, contains thirty-two pages while the Harmony section has sixteen. But with sections on chords and modes as well as sections on songwriting, soloing and reading music, it’s an ambitious lesson plan.
The lessons are plotted out so that each page either covers or exemplifies a particular point. So it goes without saying that some pages are longer or shorter than other pages. Some are, in fact, charts or illustrations. Every now and then you will be shunted to a side page where important points are stressed again in order to make certain the reader has grasped a particular concept.
You will also run into some fun graphic tricks, which make the lessons interactive. For example, in the first section, Len gives you a few fingering exercises (very good ones, by the way). Then a screen appears which walks you through the exercise with the help of some rolling billiard balls (trust me, it’s cooler than I’m making it sound!) and then you also get a screen that allows you to “drop and drag” and arrange new exercises for yourself.
From learning the fretboard, you go on to learning to read music notation and then to learning scales and things like key signatures. Len has, in fact, devised a very clever way of learning the major scale in different keys. Then you go on to extensive lessons on modes and chords and then finally into the lead guitar and soloing sections. Another great thing about Guitar Breakthrough is how it goes out of its way to show you how all the sections are linked together.
The overall tone of the entire package is enthusiastic and encouraging, which I genuinely worry may turn off some people who may not give it a chance. Len also constantly advises his students to get their hands on as much outside material, especially written music, as possible in order to use and practice what they have learned. This software is a great tool for the beginning guitarist or the intermediate guitarist who (as intermediate guitarists are wont to do) may have quickly brushed over his or her chord theory. To find out more about Guitar Breakthrough, including a look at their free demo, visit their site at http://www.guitarbreakthrough.com/ – I think you’ll like what you see.