WHAT TEACHERS, EDITORS, AND STUDENTS ARE SAYING ABOUT
“THE GUITAR LESSON COMPANION, VOLUME ONE”
Steven Kirby, Faculty 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 books.
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.
Gilbert, Guitar Student:
I received my book in the mail yesterday in good order thank you very much. I opened it up at the dinner table to the 1st String, High E page and started to study a bit. Woke up this morning thinking about the Note Identification Worksheet and knowing where E F and G were at on the High E string and as notes. Cool. Nice relaxed learning.
This book looks like the book I wish my guitar teacher had when I was taking lessons. A great guitarist, worked professionally, but not a great ‘teacher’ for me. Thank you most kindly, I will most definitely be using your book, it’s clear and well written so that even this older guy, law school graduate and all- can understand it. My son at eight years old could read music but I’ve had a deficient music education and my eyes glaze over at a lot of the instructional material that is out there.
Take care and continued good luck. Now to go look at that first video again. 🙂
Jon Bloomer of GuitarNoize:
I was contacted recently by a guitarist called Jian who wanted to bring to my attention their guitar teacher and in particular this teacher’s guitar method book that she wrote. I was intrigued and was put in contact with Susan Palmer, a guitar instructor at Seattle University. Susan is very passionate about teaching guitar which led her to create ‘The Guitar Lesson Companion’. This method book was created to help students get more out of their lessons and provide a structured framework that provides teachers with an outline to expand upon and exercises that students can work through on their own.
First of all the book is ring bound which instantly makes it very usable, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to play from a book that keeps closing, this book will sit on your music stand, table, lap whatever and stay open at the page you want. This is usually overlooked by publishers or maybe it is more expensive to produce books this way? The book starts with the basics of playing guitar and reminded me of the Fred Noad classical guitar book that my teacher used when I was starting my classical guitar studies. To begin with there are some warm up exercises which a beginner will probably have trouble with but it is something that they can continually reference and use and it makes sense to be at the start of the book. Next up Susan dives into musical notation in relation to open strings. If you have ever wanted to learn how to read music, even if you can already play guitar, it is essential that take it slowly and learn to recognise each note on the stave in relation to the fretboard. Susan’s studies give you the opportunity to step through the reading exercises filling in the blanks so that you are reading the music, rather than just looking at it.
So Susan’s idea is you start out slowly, using a few notes on the top E string to progress through basic Rhythmic exercises. Each exercise is available on the included CD to help you to follow the rhythmic examples to start out. After a few pages of studies Susan moves on to the B string and so on slowly building in rhythmic complexity and expanding your fretboard knowledge and reading abilities until you are reading music that covers all 6 strings in the first position (first 3 frets and open strings). This is a great stepping stone for learning to read music across the entire fretboard and is the first thing you learn as a classical guitarist. The next section of the book moves on to scales and theory with plenty of exercises to help you learn. Susan has written studies to take you through the Major keys starting with G Major and then through the cycle of fifths each using all 6 strings to play the scale, a scale pattern and then arpeggiating the major scale to finish.
The next section of the book focuses on chords, using diagrams and TAB for chord changing exercises and jams. Each chord sequence either has a melody using the Major/Minor and Pentatonic scales that you have already learned or a set of scale diagrams that you can use to improvise over the changes. There are diagrams showing the Major and Pentatonic Minor scales in all 5 “box” positions and exercises to complete to make sure you know the actually notes as well as the scale degrees. There is also a section on the CAGED system of movable chord shapes to help you open up even more possibilities over the fretboard.
All in all it is a very thorough book, so who is this book for? Well it is definitely aimed at guitar teachers and students who are beginner to intermediate level or perhaps the more advanced player who simply wants to learn to read standard musical notation rather than just TAB. I can see how teachers would benefit from having this teaching framework to aid their own teaching syllabus and it gives students the opportunity to complete exercises on their own and work with the CD between lessons. Every aspect of learning guitar is covered in a systematic but simplified manner. What I’m saying is, don’t expect to learn entire songs or instrumental pieces however you will have the chord and scale vocabulary to learn your favourite songs if you follow Susan’s method, practice and don’t try to rush through it (easy to say I know!).
Rick Fortenberry, 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 instrument.
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 the CD.
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 education.
Robb, Guitar Student:
I want to thank you for sharing your knowledge of music with me. I ran across your YouTube videos – watched a few – then purchased your book. Simply Brilliant!
I have been interested in the guitar since my father let me play with his guitar as a young boy. Now 35, I can finally appreciate the instrument (through your teachings) and let my inner music out. I just finished page 14 (CD Track #2) and I wanted to tell you that in all my years of education, from grade school to college, I have never been more inspired in such little time.
The fact that you have us (those who are using your materials) playing along with background music – as simple as the sheet may be – within the first day, allows for an immediate return on our music investment. I know this particular exercise is simple (E, F, and G), but how you put it together with the CD… it’s just amazing! Well done.
Jessica M., Guitar Student
At 32, I’ve taken guitar lessons with 4 different teachers and used numerous other guitar lesson books. Each time, I was disappointed and ended up quitting because I didn’t feel like I was following a logical progression of learning. The teachers usually started each lesson by asking me what I wanted to learn, so I ended up spending a lot of time and money learning the chords to a handful of songs. This book has completely changed my outlook on learning the guitar. With the help of my guitar teacher, I’m starting to build the fundamental skills to be able to figure out songs on my own. The exercises are fun and challenging – I am actually excited about practicing every day! I would recommend this book to anyone just starting or wanting to improve their guitar-playing.
Matt Brown, Former Guitar Student, Songwriter and Band Leader:
This book provides a great balance of guitar training that effectively improves one’s knowledge of rhythm, the fretboard, chords, and reading music. In addition, this book really improves your guitar playing skills regardless of which genre you prefer to play. It is one of the easiest books out there to follow. It gets right into it.
Check out Matt Brown here!
Alison, Guitar Student:
It gave me a better understanding of the fret board and different fingering positions and introduced me to new strumming rhythms.
James, Guitar Student:
It’s an awesome book and I’m very pleased with it!!
Donna Zitzelberger, Guitar Instructor:
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!
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 – impressive!
Jonathan Patterson, Guitar Instructor and Performer:
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 relationships.
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 for.
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 Instructor
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.
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.
Nick Torres of GuitarNoise:
On the surface Susan Palmer’s The Guitar Lesson Companion seems to be a throwback to the Method books of old. You know the ones, “this is the sixth string, this note is E, it’s played like this, here is what it looks like on the musical staff.” And as a reward you learn to play “She’ll be coming round the mountain” Ah, but to dismiss this gem of a book as that beginning guitarist’s nightmare would be foolish. This book is more of a hybrid of lesson companion, instruction manual and method book.
This book is presented as a method book to guide teachers and students on a logical path through the learning process. The Guitar Lesson Companion isn’t really a book for beginners to use on their own; the material needs to be supplemented with direction and exercises from a teacher. But what if you don’t have a teacher? Well the book does come with a CD with tracks to supplement your learning experience, but here’s an extraordinary value for you, Susan has put together a companion website for the book with video lessons that match the book. Videos are no substitute for a teacher, but these videos with Susan, who has been teaching guitar in Seattle, Washington for 10 years, are a close second. If you are looking for a method book to teach yourself to read and understand music, look no further.