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mel bay books and alternatives


(@imalone)
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Hi, thought this was best in the beginners forum. I'm looking for the next Mel Bay book (3), and nowhere here seems to have them. Before I order it from Amazon though I thought I'd ask if anyone knows what books from other series are roughly equivalent? The Hal Leonard ones are pretty easy to get hold of and also the Rock School ones, though particularly there I don't know whether the 'grades' are comparable, since I guess the rock school grades correspond to ... rock school grades.


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 Nuno
(@nuno)
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Did you try at http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/ ? I bought several books there, they have a good service (usually faster than Amazon). Sometimes they have better prices than Amazon.com (or Amazon.es). They have in stock the book you are looking for.

I have used Mel Bay and Hal Leonard books. I didn't follow one of those "all guitar" series, I picked fingerpicking, blues or jazz books. Alfred is a good brand, too.


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(@alangreen)
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...... I don't know whether the 'grades' are comparable, since I guess the rock school grades correspond to ... rock school grades.

Rockschool used to be validated by Trinity College London, one of the big three UK music grade exam boards; meaning that the degree of difficulty of Rockschool Grades were meant to be equivalent to other instruments. Trinity launched their own rock and op syllabus early this year so I'm not sure if that validation still exists - I'm working from the Trinity books unless a student specifically requests Rockschool.

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


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(@imalone)
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Thanks both. Just to clarify, it isn't any particular issue I have with Amazon (I don't think I've ever had a problem with them, bookdepository are arguably better for books these days), I'm more coming from a 'support local shops' point of view here. I hadn't thought of the Trinity books, that's a good point too, I doubt rock school have diverged too far in one year, I was more wondering if anyone knew whether the Mel Bay book numbers line up with any other series.


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 Cat
(@cat)
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I built my business on Mel Bay's "Chord Cycles". Unbelievably cogent book...giving me tons of middle eights. I bought it...something like...40 years ago.

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


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(@imalone)
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I built my business on Mel Bay's "Chord Cycles". Unbelievably cogent book...giving me tons of middle eights. I bought it...something like...40 years ago.
:( they don't seem to do it any more. Oh well, plenty more scores in the sea.


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(@noteboat)
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I think I've got a copy of the book Cat's referring to - I bought mine about 35 years ago. Mine is titled "Guitar Chord Progressions" by Johnny Rector - from the current Mel Bay catalog it looks like it's still in print, but now it's called "Deluxe Encyclopedia of Guitar Chord Progressions"

The reason you're having a tough time finding book 3 is that Mel Bay is discontinuing the original Modern Guitar series, and replacing it with the "Expanded edition" series. The books double in size, from 48 pages to 96. When they first came out with that series (10-12 years ago) I was pretty eager to get a set, because the original is weak in some areas - for example, when you learn the first position notes on the A string, none of the exercises in that section contain an A or B note in the original edition!

But when my copies arrived, I was really disappointed. The material is fine, but the type size got smaller by about 20-25%. Teaching a beginner to read is challenging enough without the music being small. About four years ago, they sold out of the original book 4, and started shipping me expanded editions instead whenever I ordered. I wrote to Mel Bay complaining about this, and received two responses within a week, one from Bill Bay - he told me no one had ever considered font size, and they would increase it on the next print run. But I'm still waiting to see it.

Every method out there has some good points and some serious downsides. Part of the problem is that guitar pedagogy is still evolving - we're a new instrument compared to piano or violin. Part of the problem is the guitar's tuning - you learn to read music in the key of C before tackling sharps and flats, but the key of C is harder to play (because of the F chord) than keys like G or D. Everyone comes up with their own solutions - I tend to use Mel Bay and supplement with exercises I write out.

Quick summary of good/bad points of the methods I've used:

Mel Bay: good overall, but weak on 5th string (in the original); because the focus is reading, difficult pieces come up early - in book 1, the hardest to play is Shenandoah (roughly p.26 - I don't have my copy in front of me) and in book 2 it's Barcelona (p.9 in the original). Music is old cheezy folk songs and minor classical composers (Mazas, Pleyel, etc)

Berklee series: moves very fast, starts with a one octave major scale. Good for motivated players who already read music for another instrument. Weak points: it's Berklee-speak in spots, numbering scale fingerings in a fairly meaningless way and using slang like "drop 2 voicings" that are also pretty inconsistent. All music original to the series, so it's more interesting.

Hal Leonard: good series with pieces of reasonable difficulty for what's being presented. Weak: doesn't introduce flats at the same time as sharps, which I think is more confusing when they do come up - I teach both at once, but focus mostly on sharps, because sharp keys are more common for guitar music... but with the workshops I'm doing with middle school jazz bands I'm using flats first, because they have to play with horns, so most of their music is in F and Bb. (What you need to learn, and in what order, is going to depend a lot on context)

Bill Bay/Mike Christiansen's Mastering the Guitar series: Better paced than Mel's course, and it also teaches tab with standard notation. But it tries to do too much: plectrum and fingerpicking at the same time... and they introduce some techniques too early for my taste, like hammer-ons when you've only learned notes on three strings. Mix of old & original music, and I like Christiansen's compositions - he's a classical guitarist.

Alfred is decent too, but I've got the same complaints - like most teachers who've been around the block a few times, I've developed my own sequencing of concepts. It's a hard thing to write a method book (I know, I've tried) so we work with what's available and adapt.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@imalone)
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(lots)
Thanks! That might just cover everything. The Johnny Rector book is pretty tempting (now I know what I'm looking for I've also found someone selling the original 1956 edition for £100, think I'll get by with a newer copy...).

Edit:
The guitar chord progressions book has turned up (from the cover it looks like they've tagged on 'Delux' and 'encyclopedia of' at different points). Idiosyncratic 70s American typsetting and they insist on writing 'thru' (which, someone should have pointed out to Webster, is pronounced 'fru'). However an amazing amount of material in there, I'll be a very long time getting through it.


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