Steven Kirby, Assistant Professor
at Berklee College of Music
Susan Palmer has created a carefully crafted book for guitar
students who want to learn to read and also develop
fundamental chord and scale vocabulary that prepares them
for playing contemporary styles. There are many features in
this book that set it apart from traditional guitar method
1) It is extremely well paced and designed.
2) It is visually clear and appealing.
3) It reinforces learning of new material with a variety of
activities including both the playing and writing of notes
and note names.
4) An included CD provides chordal accompaniment for every
stage. Simple melodies are thus made to feel more like
"real" music right away because of these tracks. They make
the learning process more instantly engaging while
demonstrating how harmony can enrich even the simplest
melody. The student feels like they are making interesting
sounding music even when all they can play is three notes.
5) In addition to supporting the student's learning of
standard notation, the book also contains important chord
and scale lessons with corresponding play-along tracks.
6) Flexibility of design. The book's design makes it easy
for teachers to assign lessons from different sections
simultaneously to suit a student's level and progress. It's
designed to be used in a very flexible way by different
teachers and for students of varying levels.
Overall I rate this the best beginning level,
learning-to-read on the guitar book that I've encountered
not only because it does that so well but also because it
offers in a well integrated way additional materials that
are vital to preparing guitarists to play contemporary music
and develop improvisational skills. I use this book with my
students and I highly recommend that other guitar teachers
check it out.
Sandpiper Guitar Studios
Learning to play guitar is the easiest thing in the world to
do. It can also be one of the hardest. One can learn to
strum a few chords in relatively short order and make some
nice sounds. But one can choose to dig a little deeper, to
the point where one's guitar playing becomes an expressions
of one's own inner music--the music of the heart--which is
really what it's all about, isn't it?
Susan Palmer's new book/CD "The Guitar Lesson Companion"
bridges a major gap in learning to play the guitar. It's the
book I wish *I'd* written, having studied at Berklee College
of Music and having taught guitar for 20 years.
This thick, rich and blessedly spiral-bound volume with its
accompanying CD, is designed to be used while studying with
a private guitar teacher. As the author states right up
front, studying with a good teacher will save a lot of time
and money and accomplish far more than the do-it-yourself
approach, through which so many
guitarists--unnecessarily--come to understand the
A student enters the book at whatever level she is in at the
moment: "beginner", intermediate or advanced. This may mean
studying chords and how they work with songs in jazz, rock
or folk, or even learning to read notation, the language of
music (the musical examples are also in tablature).
The well-known CAGED system of understanding the language of
the fretboard is covered, along with a progressive,
intelligent blend of reading and rhythm studies, all
essential concepts a serious guitar player must master. The
main scale types are thoroughly explored, against a
musically satisfying backdrop of guitar, bass and drums on
This ground-breaking book/CD is the one I wish I'd written
for my students, but it's also the one I wish I'd had when
first seriously studying guitar. All the fundamentals and
more are here. This is a good investment in a guitarist's
Jonathan Patterson, Guitar
I have taught guitar for almost 20 years, and looked for a
book like this too many times to remember. Until now I
always gave up and settled for using the Hal Leonard method
plus my own hand-written extra sightreading exercises and
supplemental materials about scales/theory/improvisation.
I've wasted a lot of lesson time this way, and my students
(and their parents) take hand-written materials less
seriously than printed books. But the big problem I've had
with books is that most students don't fit nicely into
"Level 1" or "Level 2" of any available series. You know,
you get some students know scale patterns all over the neck
but can't read a single note, or students who can read
melodies but don't understand any theory or chord-scale
Susan Palmer's book solves all my materials and organization
problems and lets me focus on actually teaching. At about
150 pages this one book can easily replace several "Levels"
of the Hal Leonard or any available series I've seen. She
thoroughly covers the technical and theoretical fundamentals
that all guitar styles have in common, and--my favorite
part--she ties it all together into a continuous system that
is easy to understand and immediately practical. I love it
because when a student is stronger in one area than in
another, I can approach the area that needs work by showing
the student how it relates to what they already do well.
Because of these connections I find that ALL of the material
in the book is useful for all beginner-intermediate, and
even many advanced students.
It's an easy sell to parents because the sheer amount of
material will last a long time (no more "Didn't we just buy
a new book for Timmy last month?") and looks infinitely
better than a crumpled up pile of my handwritten notes.
Combine "The Guitar Lesson Companion" with teaching students
specific songs that they like, and your students will enjoy
what they're playing while understanding what they're
playing. Since that sums up my whole purpose and philosophy
as a teacher this book is exactly what I've been looking
Donna Zitzelberger, Guitar
Last week I downloaded the free lesson sheets for E, F, and
G and brought them to my beginning class of seven. The kids
are ages 8-12. They have already learned rhythm. This year I
tried a new twist on things in which I taught them all the
rhythm notation first. We just started the notes on the
first string, so I gave them the reading study that goes
with the backing track. I turned on the CD and they totally
started rocking out. Like all my classes, though, they did
not know the notes really well yet. So, I told them to come
back the next week and be ready to rock with the correct
notes. Well, today they came back and rocked their hearts
out. They were spot on -- all of them. I have to say in my 8
years of teaching, this is record time for learning those
first notes. The backing tracks for the notes sure makes it
easy and fun. I'm going to spend this summer reviewing the
book and may add it into my curriculum as the text we use
for learning note reading. I asked the kids if they would
like to use the book next year, and I got a huge "YEA!"
Today's class was all about finding the groove. We are just
about 6 weeks away from recital and the kids need to groove
to a rock song for one of their class songs. It was super
cool to go to our note reading section of the class and
still be grooving. Thanks Susan for creating a quality book
that should make life easy and fun when it comes to teaching
the little ones standard notation!
Paul Wolf, Guitar Instructor
I received Susan's book today...! One day turnaround, not
bad. My early review after skimming it on my lunch hour is
that it's an excellent step by step method for incorporating
music theory into your lessons without having to start from
scratch...you can supplement her curriculum with song
transcriptions and probably have enough raw material to use
for a year or two's worth of lessons.
The book is written for teachers, not for the general public
(although the students will be working from it, they would
need a teacher's guidance)
I'm glad I bought it and recommend it highly.
Paul Chasman, Guitar
Susan Palmer has written a clear, comprehensive, and
integrated method for learning the guitar. "The Guitar
Lesson Companion" will be an invaluable resource for many
students who want a solid musical foundation. The Companion
will also provide many teachers with a method that is
focused and directed, yet flexible enough to accommodate the
individual teaching style. I highly recommend this book to
students and teachers alike.
Dave McCullough, Guitar Instructor
Been looking it over, and I have to say, you put together a
real nice piece of work, very well organized and thorough -
L. Bruck: Music Educator
Having a master's degree in music pedagogy, I have seen a
lot of method books over the years and Susan Palmer's latest
addition to the guitar repertoire series is outstanding! My
11 year old son began guitar lessons last September and has
fallen in love with the guitar, thanks in part to this
excellent book. His rhythm, melody, and improvisation just
took off. But most importantly, I believe he will have a
love of music for the rest of his life, which is the major
challenge of any music series.