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Fingerpicking Styles

"Frailing The Guitar", Book/CD
Steve Baughman, 2001 Mel Bay Publications
32 pages, 38 track CD

It isn't often a book comes along that offers a new and unique way to play fingerstyle guitar.  So Steve Baughman's "Frailing The Guitar" book/CD is a refreshing change of pace.  This simple technique in which the thumb is employed on an upbeat, instead of on its usual downbeat, creates a driving groove reminiscent of Appalachian banjo. Frailing is a very versatile pattern that works as well with singer-songwriter guitar accompaniment as it does with fingerpicking blues and old time fiddle tunes. 

This book/CD is well laid-out with numerous examples in both slow and fast versions.  Although each example identifies the associated CD track, the CD directly tracks the sections in the book.  This makes it very easy to work your way through the examples.  Being able to hear the examples makes all the difference in the world in learning the technique. 

The tunes are also graduated from easier to more difficult to allow a gradual progression as the technique is mastered.  While all of the tunes in the book use open tunings, Steve does show how it can be used in Standard tuning as well.  This modestly priced book/CD gives you everything you need to add this great new technique to your toolbox.

"Great American Tablature Songbook"
Mark Hanson, 1999 Accent On Music
Book/CD, 112 pgs. 57 songs

So you've been working on your fingerstyle techniques and you've seen all the instrumental TAB around the internet, but what you really want is to sing some songs and use those new fingerstyle abilities to accompany yourself.  Well the Great American Tablature Songbook is one you should seriously consider.  This book is a collection of American classics with fingerstyle arrangements designed to serve as song accompaniments rather than instrumental pieces.   The vast majority of the songs are in standard tuning, but there are a few in Dropped D and a few in altered tunings (G6 tuning and Open G-minor).   If you haven't seen a lot of Mark Hanson's arrangements, you'll find them all quite playable.  Many are suitable for beginners but there are also many that are intermediate level and above.  

The CD included with the book demonstrates all 57 songs and even splits the voice and guitar (right & left channels) to allow you to practice with one or the other.   One of the biggest hurdles to learning fingerstyle accompaniment is trying to internalize the guitar part so you can focus on the vocals.  The CD allows you to work on each part separately until you're ready to do both yourself.  It also helps to hear how the melody should sound in case you haven't heard the song.   I think the CD is big help.

Accent On Music's Price:
112-page Book & 70-min. CD
Standard Notation, and Tablature

Buy the Book  from Accent On Music

"Open Tunings For Solo Guitar"
Dorian Michael, 1997 CENTERSTREAM Publishing
Book/CD, 47 pgs. 14 songs in 9 tunings

If you have been wanting to explore open/altered tunings but have been unable to find a good source of material to learn from, this book is just what the doctor ordered.  Dorian has transcribed a collection of 14 arrangements and compositions in 9 different tunings (see list below).  What I really like about this book is that it has tunes appropriate for both beginners and intermediate players.  For example he provides two versions of his dropped D arrangement for Fishing Blues; a basic version and a fully adorned intermediate version.

It's my opinion that books which include CDs are 10 times easier to learn from, and this book is no exception.  Dorian explains a little about each tuning, introduces the tune, and performs each one.  This really helps in getting oriented to the new tunings.  In addition, before each song there are usually some chord diagrams and other tidbits of useful information about the tuning.  So all together this makes for a great book, and is one you should consider if you are looking for some tunes to help get your feet wet in the wonderful world of open/altered tunings.

"Celtic Guitar"
Glenn Weiser, 2000 Warner Bros. Publications

Glenn Weiser has released a new Celtic book with an included CD...and a great new book it is.  This book/CD set is part of the Warner Bros. "Acoustic Master" series and is a great sampling of Celtic arrangements in Standard, Dropped D, and DADGAD tunings.  Glenn's playing on the CD is excellent and it's enjoyable to listen to all by itself.

One of the things different with this book over Glenn's others is that this one is the first to include arrangements in DADGAD.  There are 40 tunes in the book, and except for the 6 tunes in DADGAD, they are about 50% standard tuning and 50% Dropped-D.  As shown in the tune list below, the book is organized into categories.  

One thing you should take note of is that the tunes on the CD are organized in the order they appear in the book, but the Table of Contents and Index are not and no cross reference was provided.  So you will need to take a few minutes to mark the tunes and the Index with the CD track numbers.  The tune list below is listed in the order they appear on the CD.

If you love to play Celtic tunes but have struggled to learn them because you didn't know how they're suppose to sound, the included CD should help greatly in climbing the learning curve and have you playing in this wonderful style in no time. 

Order a copy directly from Glenn

"Celtic Harp Music of Carolan and others for Solo Guitar"
Glenn Weiser, 1995 CENTERSTREAM Publishing

The Celtic Guitar style is one of the more popular styles amongst fingerstyle players.  I would venture a guess that the reason is because this music is so melodic that its appeal is unavoidable.   

Glenn Weiser's book of Celtic music is a virtual gold mine of 45 great intermediate Celtic arrangements.    If you've seen other Celtic arrangements, you've probably noticed that most are done in open tunings.  The problem that creates with many of these is that to play a bunch of these, you need to keep changing tunings.   So the great thing about this book is that Glenn did all these arrangements is Standard Tuning or Dropped D.   The thing I like about this is that I can create medleys of tunes quite easily because of this tuning consistency.   All tunes provide both Standard notation and TAB, and to help gauge the tempo of each piece, a metronome setting is also provided.   What's also nice is that Glenn provide a little of the history behind each tune and as you read through each one, you get a real feel for the times in which they were written.   If you like Celtic music and your playing is at an intermediate level, you'll enjoy playing the music in this book.

This book is 60% Turlough O'Carolan tunes and 40% other traditional Irish & Scottish tunes.   Here's a MIDI tune of one of the slow ballads that I like: Eileen Aroon, and the well known up-tempo O'Carolan tune: Morgan Magan.

Other Reviews from Glenn's web site
Sample arrangements from Glenn's site (not all necessarily from this book!)

Order a copy directly from Glenn

"Celtic Encyclopedia: Fingerstyle Guitar Edition"
Glenn Weiser, 1999 Mel Bay Publications Inc.

Celtic Encylopedia Book CoverThe Celtic Encyclopedia presents an amazing body of work by Glenn Weiser.   It has over 100 Celtic tunes, comprising the most extensive collection of Irish, Scottish, and Welsh airs, marches, waltzes, hornpipes, jigs, reels, and  harp pieces that I've ever seen.   Together with the "Celtic Harp Music of Carolan and others" book, they represent an astounding collection of Celtic tunes.  Also, there is no overlap between books, so if you were to get both, you wouldn't be buying redundant material!

All these tunes are, like the Celtic Harp book, in standard tuning or dropped D.  Glenn has gone to great lengths to preserve the original keys and diatonic nature of the original Celtic music (harps couldn't play accidentals, so all arranged notes stay "within the scale").  As Glenn so succinctly puts it:

"I often think of arranging traditional music as being similar to jewelry making -- the tune itself is the gem, and the harmonization and fingering are the setting.  To be displayed, the stone needs the setting, and the setting in turn must do justice to the stone."

Turlough O'Carolan's harp music is represented with 21 tunes, along with harp tunes from the Bunting Collection (See Glenn's list of Tunes).    This book will keep your fingers busy for years to come with some of the most melodic music ever written.  If you like playing the Celtic style of music, you will love this book.

Sample arrangements from Glenn's site (not necessarily from this book!)

Order a copy directly from Glenn

"Stride Guitar"
Guy Van Duser, 1983 Mel Bay Publications

Guy Van Duser is one of the most impressive guitar players I have ever heard.  When I first heard his arrangement for "Snowy Morning Blues", I knew immediately I had to learn this tune and more about the stride guitar style itself.  "Stride" is what the post-ragtime style of piano playing came to be called.  The term itself referred to the pianist's left hand, which moved back and forth between bass and chords.  Guy Van Duser has been successful at obtaining very effective fingerstyle arrangements of this style by using alternating and moving bass lines to simulate the left hand of the piano.  

These arrangements are very challenging and are appropriate for intermediate to advanced fingerstyle players.  All but 2 of the tunes are in "Dropped D" tuning (the others are standard tuning).

"Fingerstyle Wizard, The Wizard of Oz for Solo Guitar"
Mark Hanson, 1996 Warner Bros. Publications

I'd been playing my own arrangement for "Over the Rainbow" for a while when I came across this book. I remember getting an e-mail from someone, who was a student of Mark Hanson, telling me how many good books were out there from Mark Hanson.  I new about Mark but until now never had the opportunity to own one of his books. So now I have one, and this one is great.

As the title suggests, the book consists of fingerstyle solos of all the music from the movie "The Wizard of Oz". The book includes a CD with Mark playing each tune. All the arrangements are very well done and fully captures the feel of the music as it was originally recorded in the movie. The music is appropriate for any fingerstyle guitarist reasonably skilled in the fundamentals. Unlike some books which have material only an advanced guitarist could master, these are all tunes that could be mastered. If you have children or perform for children, these tunes will lighten their hearts and bring a smile to their face. They are all written in standard tuning and either the key of C, G, A or E.

My Favorites

"Traditional and Contemporary Guitar Finger-Picking Styles"
Happy Traum, 1969 Oak Publications (now Music Sales Corp.)
This book may no longer be commercially available, check your local library for a copy.

There is more good music in this one book than any other book I own.  If you learn to play most of these to perfection, you will be a very good guitar player.

My Favorites

 "Finger-Picking Styles for Guitar"
Happy Traum, 1966 Oak Publications (now Music Sales Corp.)

Review by Alex Mogieleff.
This book is somewhat of an instructional book in that the pieces range, in order,  from a VERY simple introduction to fingerstyle ("Skip to My Lou"),  all the way to the most difficult piece I ever learned to play ("The St Louis Tickle").  Along the way, it becomes a survey of   some of the (then living) GREATS of fingerstyle guitar, including  Mississippi John Hurt, Tom Paley, Etta Baker, Sam McGee, Elizabeth Cotton, Merle Travis, Doc Watson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Pete Seeger, Dave Van Ronk, and Joseph Spence.

There are good bios of each artist and good introductions to each song, with chord charts and tips on how to play them.  The hard parts, especially, are well explained.   I find that Happy Traum sometimes simplifies his arrangements of songs too much, probably for teaching and copyright reasons.   I noticed this when I compared his TABs of some Mississippi John Hurt songs to those of Stefan Grossman.  ("The St Louis Tickle", is NOT simplified, nor is "Living in the Country"!)  Nevertheless, this is an excellent study book and a good way for someone who is familiar with his/her instrument to start learning fingerstyle and explore its many variations.

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