Fingerstyle Videos/CDs


Contemporary Fingerstyle Guitar

Homespun Videos



Slide Guitar Fingerstyle
Beginner Videos
Book Reviews Fingerstyle Book Reviews


All the videos reviewed in this section were from when VCR tape were the common format.  The videos however may still be available in a streaming format.


Contemporary Fingerstyle Guitar

Video IconAdventures in Fingerstyle Guitar
The Techniques And Arrangements of Laurence Juber
Video 1, Standard Tunings
70 minute video, includes Standard Notation/TAB booklet
Skill Level: 5

Laurence Juber Video CoverAs a long time subscriber to Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine and Acoustic Guitar Magazine, I have read about and heard the music of Laurence Juber.  As a result of that exposure to his music, I have become an avid fan.  I was quite excited to get this video and to get what I believe is as close to individual instruction from one of the top contemporary guitar players of the 90's.

This tape is tape 1 of a two-tape series.  All the compositions he discusses on this tape are in standard tuning.  The second tape in the series deals with his compositions in alternate tunings.  The TAB booklet has the music for his intro piece "Maisie" which he doesn't discuss on the tape (but is easier relative the others), and the TAB for all the music he does go into detail on: "Solo Flight", "A Bit of a George", "In Your Arms", "To New Amsterdam", and "Martha".

I would like to make a couple of observations about Laurence's compositions.  Besides being brilliant compositions, they seem to carry a flavor and style that show the degree of classical training he has in his background (he admits to some lute playing in his background).  Also quite apparent was the large degree to which he uses rest strokes when playing single note melody lines.  This type of right hand technique is very common amongst classically trained guitar players.  I never learned it myself until I took classical guitar lessons in college.   I found it interesting to see this technique employed to such a great extent on a steel string guitar and the added strength to the melody it provides.  What's important to note is that without the video, this little subtlety would have been missed.

There were other important techniques that he employs in his compositions that are not evident in just looking at the TAB.  Before watching the tape, I tried to play "In Your Arms" from just the TAB.  There is a one measure section that uses what he calls "cascading harmonics".  I interpreted the TAB completely wrong and only got it correct after watching him explain it on tape; this is the power that these video have over regular TAB books.

The last observation is that most of these tunes move far up the neck, taking substantial advantage of the extra room his cutaway Taylor provides.  So if you want to play his music, you should note that at the very minimum, you'll need to have a 14 fret guitar to play them; although I don't believe you'd be able to play "To New Amsterdam" or "Martha My Dear" without a cutaway guitar.  There is no way you could play most of these on a standard classical guitar (12 frets to the body).

Video IconAdventures in Fingerstyle Guitar
The Techniques And Arrangements of Muriel Anderson

85 minute video, includes Standard Notation/TAB booklet
Skill Level: 4

Muriel Anderson Video CoverI have been a fan of Muriel Anderson since receiving a Narada Fingerstyle CD (highly recommended by the way!) for Christmas which had two of her tunes on it.  Since then, I bought her Music book/CD (Hometown Live) and was excited to get her video.  I must say that the video is far more useful than the book/CD because there are so many subtle techniques she uses in her playing that just can't be properly captured in standard or TAB notation.  Having her show you how she plays each piece makes all the difference.

On this tape she provides detailed guidance on how to play 5 different tunes; "The Liberty Bell", "Foggy Mountain Breakdown", "Peanuts Theme", "Rosalee", and "Angelina Baker".  In addition, the TAB booklet offers both an easy and complete versions of her Peanuts Theme arrangement which makes mastering this piece much easier.  She also offers advice on proper nail care, posture and guitar position, and right hand technique.  She closed the lesson with her performance of "Nola", a piece that has become a signature piece for her.  This piece, by the way, is in her "Hometown Live" music book. Like all these videos, I felt like I had a private lesson with a widely recognized master of acoustic guitar.

The thing that comes across in her playing is the degree of dynamics and emotion she puts into her music.  This is most evident by watching her play "The Liberty Bell" were she attempts to simulate the instruments in a piece that was written for a brass band.  As she goes through it, she explains all the subtle techniques she uses to bring about the various instruments she's attempting to emulate; from flutes to tubas.

The video proved itself to be totally invaluable when she explained how to play the harmonics intro to "Rosalee".  The way in which she plays a D chord in artificial harmonics was something I'd never seen before.  She uses the back of her palm and a strum stroke that traverses the chord form.  This is something that needs to be seen demonstrated to appreciate it; I don't think you can textually describe it effectively.   I found it to be an amazing technique and something that, once mastered, could be used in my own music. 

Muriel plays a standard classical guitar, so all these pieces should be playable on any type of nylon string or steel string guitar.  The skill level of this tape is set at level 4; which is a little easier than Juber's tape, although I think The Liberty Bell is probably more of a level 5 piece.

Video IconAcoustic Guitar Instrumentals
Arrangements In Alternate Tunings
Taught by: Martin Simpson
Video 1 of 3
75 minute video, includes Standard Notation/TAB booklet
Skill Level: 4

Simpson Video Cover (3769 bytes)I attended a Martin Simpson concert recently and was left with sense of amazement at how he can extract such beautiful tonal quality from his guitar.  He plays what appear to be relatively simple pieces without a great deal of ornamentation or fancy guitar work, but is able to convey a tremendous sense of musicality from simple lines.  I was so enamoured with his music, I bought one of his CDs and now I have the opportunity to learn more of his playing techniques through this video.

This tape is one of a 3 part series delving into Alternate Tunings.  Martin is extremely well versed in the theoretical details of the tunings he discusses.  This tape discusses the Dropped-D tuning and Altered G tuning (CGDGCD).   Because Dropped-D is so similar to standard, he effectively correlates it to theoretical concepts normally talked about in standard tuning such as the CAGED chord form patterns as it applies to Dropped-D.  As one who frequently plays and arranges in Dropped-D, I found extremely useful. 

Martin discusses 3 tunes in Dropped-D (Rosie Anderson,The Shearing's Not For You, and Bogie's Bonny Belle) and 3 tunes in the Altered G-tuning (Pretty Saro, Long Steel Rail, and Santa Cruz.  These are all Celtic style pieces, so if you aspire to play in this style, you'll love these tunes.  In fact this tape might also be placed in the Traditional category.

The one thing I found most interesting was how he arranges a piece and the techniques he uses to obtain those tonal qualities I found so compelling in listening to him in concert.   He explains very effectively on the importance of where on the fretboard you choose to play a note for the best tonal effect.  I fully expect the other two videos to be equally enjoyable and educational.


Traditional Guitar

Video IconCeltic Instrumentals for Fingerstyle Guitar
Taught by: Al Petteway
Video 1 of 2, DADGAD Tuning
70 minute video, includes Standard Notation/TAB booklet
Skill Level: 3

Petteway Video Cover (2670 bytes)I don't have a lot of Celtic music in my repertoire; mostly because time has not allowed me to explore it.  But I've always liked the sound of this style and was excited to have a little "specialized instruction" by one of the most prolific performers of the style: Al Petteway. 

The tunes presented in this video are all in the DADGAD tuning and seem appropriate for the skill level the tape is rated at (3).  But another reason they are easier is because of the extensive use of the open strings in an Alternate Tuning such as DADGAD.  There just isn't as much left hand fingering required or desired in Alternate Tunings.  But the music presented is wonderfully melodic and just plain fun to play.  My favorite piece is a Petteway composition called "Chesapeake".  It has all the stylistic wrappings of a Celtic piece but Al extends it to three sections instead of the normal 2 which allows him to explore more musical ideas in the piece.  The other tunes on this tape are "Sligo Creek", "Rise Up My Love", "New Year's Day", and "On Christmas Night".

If you want to learn music in the Celtic style, it is important to get a grasp of how hammers and pull-offs are employed to get that characteristic sound.   As Al goes through each piece, he talks about these stylistic aspects, and seeing it executed allows you to visualize what needs to be done to "get that sound".


Fingerstyle Blues

Video IconBlues by The Book, Fingerpicking Blues
Taught by: Roy Book Binder
Video 1
75 minute video, includes Standard Notation/TAB booklet
Skill Level: 3

Book Binder Video CoverThis tape is the first of a two-tape series.  I found this tape to be one of the more fascinating and entertaining of all those I have because of wonderful laid back personality of Roy Book Binder and the stories he relates about Rev. Gary Davis and the time he spent with him.  First of all, he has a plethora of blues licks that he weaves into his songs almost at random.  As he plays each section, he never quite knows what's going to come out.  

When watching this tape and the way he shows you his licks, I just imagine that he is showing me these licks in exactly the same way the Rev. Davis showed them to him.  He frequently isn't sure which chord he's playing and avoids much of the theoretical aspects of the licks and just; "shows you how to do it".

In the TAB booklet, each tune is presented in both easy and more complex versions.  This I found useful because I could get the basic progression down in the easy version and then use the complex version to add the fancy licks that adds the character to the piece.

The tape covers three blues tunes in detail; "C Rag on the Black Dog Blues", "Hesitation Blues", and "Ragtime Instrumental Medley".  The medley was a 4-part medley including "Buck Dance", "Devil's Dream", and "Merle Travis".  The medley is the only one that doesn't offer the easy/complex versions.  All the tunes are in standard tuning and in the keys of C or Am which is appropriate for the Level 3 rating it carries.

If you want to learn piedmont style blues in a way that the blues have been handed down for generations, this is the series to get.   After you're through, you'll have mastered some great old blues tunes and feel like you've had a lesson from Gary Davis himself.

Video IconThe Blues Bag
Expanding Your Repertoire And Technique
Taught by: Happy Traum

One of the best blues books I ever owned is "The Blues Bag" written by Happy Traum.   These tapes are based on this book.  I had been playing "In The Evening When The Sun Goes Down" for many years and even have re-arranged it so I could play it in Open-D.  I also played "Bad Luck Blues" for years and both of these are among my favorite blues tunes.  But of course I had to learn these from just the TAB alone, I didn't have the benefit of some personal instruction by Happy himself ... until now.   It took me a long time to master Bad Luck Blues (and be able to sing the lyrics at the same time), so I was very interested to see how Happy played it, and what tips he had to offer on this tune and all the others.   

All the tunes in both tapes are presented in the same manner as the book: vocal accompaniment section and an instrumental break; which of course is how these tunes are meant to be played.  Most blues tunes use minimal guitar ornamentation while the lyrics are being sung, and use "filler licks" between verses.   Somewhere between verses, an instrumental break is played that duplicates the melody.  Then the rest of the verses are sung.

The Blues Bag book originally provided mostly just the chords and lyrics for the vocal section, leaving it to you to find the appropriate accompaniment.   With the video, Happy demonstrates an appropriate accompaniment, but also emphasizes the need to try different things and to seek your own approach.

These tapes are at level 3 and they assume you have some fundamental knowledge of the guitar, finger-picking and basic chord forms. 

Video IconThe Blues Bag - Video 1
60 minutes, includes Standard Notation/TAB booklet
Skill Level: 3

The Blues Bag Video Cover (3559 bytes)On this tape he discusses Boogie style blues, blues in the key of G, and blues in the key of C.   He also demonstrates a number of licks, bass-damping technique, bass runs, and turn-arounds that can be applied, mixed, or matched to any of the tunes.  In fact he showed how the boogie rhythm could be used as an accompaniment in at least two of the tunes.

Having a copy of the book, I was familiar with all the tunes on this tape already.  The thing Happy seems to stress most on this tape is that the blues is a very free form style.  Arrangements are not meant to be rigidly followed, but used only as as rough structure under which you use your own licks, preferences, and techniques to weave "your sound".

This tape covers the following tunes: "Boogie-Woogie Blues", "Careless Love", "C. C. Rider", "Step It Up and Go", "Move to Kansas City", and "New Stranger Blues".

Video IconThe Blues Bag - Video 2
60 minutes, includes Standard Notation/TAB booklet
Skill Level: 3

Blues Bag 2 Video Cover (3622 bytes)This tape has some of my favorite blues tunes and two of the ones I had selected to be part of my performing repertoire.  If you aspire to play the blues, any one of these (or all of these) would be excellent choices.

One of the complaints I had about the Blues Bag book was that it only provided the first verse to "In the Evening".  It took quite a bit of digging to find the remaining verses to that song.  On the video, Happy sings the rest of the verses... I needed this video 20 years ago!

The tunes covered on this tape are: "You're Gonna Quit Me Baby",  "Bad Luck Blues", "Diddy Way Diddy",   "Wandering", and "In The Evening When The Sun Goes Down".

Besides the tunes themselves, Happy provides more licks, turnarounds and progressions.  But now he includes the very important keys of A and E.

If you are thinking of getting these tapes, I would recommend you get them both.  Together, they provide an outstanding overview of the blues in general, a compendium of blues licks to add to your improvisational toolbox, as well as a set of tunes that can be added to a performing repertoire.


Slide Guitar

The first time I heard Kelly Joe Phelps play the blues, I was addicted to this guy's music.  In my opinion, he's one of the best slide players of the 90's.  Listen to the Real Audio cuts below and judge for yourself.   Kelly Joe's slide technique and expressive vocals will reinvigorate your love for the blues.

Kelly Joe plays lap style slide on a standard acoustic guitar with the strings raised up 1/4".  I've always played bottleneck style, but after watching this video, I can see some significant advantages to lap style; the ability to easily form partial accompaniment chords by laying the slide over the bass strings, and unconstrained access to the upper fretboard are key advantages of approaching the strings from the top.   On this video Kelly Joe carefully goes through all the main aspects of playing guitar this way.    He covers the basics including information on the Open D tuning, scales, muting techniques, and how to use capos on guitars set up for lap style.  He also clearly demonstrates a great slide technique he calls "pushing" to add tension to melody notes.  In addition, he discusses "implied rhythm" and harmonic techniques to keep the music from getting "locked down" as he calls it.  These last topics clearly show he has a strong command of music theory, reflective of his Jazz guitar background.

Kelly Joe covers, in detail, the traditional gospel song "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder," his funky minor-key blues "Black Crow Keeps Flying" and the classic folk song "Irene Goodnight" (as you've never heard it before!).  He finishes up by performing "Go There" (which is also provided in the TAB booklet).   The one thing not provided was the lyrics to the songs.  But since the songs are performed in their entirety on the tape, one simply has to listen to the tape and write them down (it would just be nice if that weren't necessary).  One other thing that IS provided, that I haven't seen on other tapes, is the scales he talked about in TAB for later reference.

Video IconMike Dowling, Bottleneck Blues and Beyond
110 minutes, includes Standard Notation/TAB booklet
Skill Level: 3

I first heard Mike Dowling's music on "A"-net Station which features cuts from various CDs including his "Swamp Dog Blues" CD.  I became instantly enamored with every aspect of his music and went out bought the CD.  But being a long time bottleneck player, just listening to the music wasn't enough.   I had to learn more about his techniques and got this video as well.   I can tell you, this one is quite special and I learned a lot besides having the TAB for some great new material; the tunes he demonstrates are ALL excellent and every one would be a good addition to any repertoire.

First of all, its obvious to me that Mike is as good a teacher as he is a musician.  Throughout this video (which runs for 110 minutes) he had thought through what he wants to say and how.  As a result, every point is clearly presented and demonstrated on his old National Style 'O' resonator.  He covers a lot of material on this video including bottleneck playing in general, damping techniques, fretting chords while wearing a slide, and subtle vibrato techniques; all of which I found very useful.  In addition, Mike goes through a bunch of licks, chord forms, turnarounds and techniques for playing in Open D; all of which are tabbed out in the booklet.  He also talks about the similarities between Open G and Open D by playing an Open D tune in Open G by moving everything down one string.

He shows how to play "Swamp Dog Blues", Tampa Red's "Boogie Woogie Dance",  "Stranger Here" (in both Open D and Open G), the hauntingly beautiful original tune "Jan's Song", and "Mean Ol' Frisco".  He even plays a quick version of "Amazing Grace"; but you'll have to pick that one up off the video.

All-in-all, I'd have to say that this video is first-rate and would be of great value to anyone who wants to learn to play bottleneck slide guitar; I know I intend to learn every tune in this video, plus pick up a few off the CD.

Also be sure to read the Mike Dowling Interview now on this site.

Visit Mike's Web Site


Beginner Videos

The two videos reviewed in this section are "The Ultimate Beginners Series" from Accent On Music.  This two-video set together take you through a series of gradually more difficult pieces that will allow you to improve your fingerstyle playing.  These videos, in conjunction with Mark's beginning fingerstyle books should get you well on your way to playing in this exciting and versatile style.

Video IconFingerstyle Guitar
by Mark Hanson, Warner Bros. Publications
70 minute video, TAB book included

This video is the first of a two-video set.  It starts by covering a series of basic first-position chords with suggested picking patterns that can be used with them.    As you work your way through this video, Mark takes you through gradually more challenging fingerpicking techniques and interesting chord forms.  You will learn to play simple arpeggio patterns, 3/4 time patterns, alternating bass patterns, and end up with a swing shuffle blues.

One of the things I like most about this video is that the tunes, while composed specifically for this video, are all great fun to play and pleasing to the ear.   Except for the more conventional blues shuffle at the end, they are all very "new age" sounding with a lot of open chord forms that are quite unique.   The first tune "Canyon Canon" is a great composition and one you'll definitely enjoy learning to play.

Mark's presentation on the video was clear and concise and the music demonstrations were well done and easy to follow.  The video uses split screen technology to allow you to see both hands simultaneously.

The only real complaint I have with these videos is the tiny size of the TAB book.  The TAB book is a single fold sheet of paper with the TAB for the songs compressed to fit in a 3.5" x 6.5" space.  The resulting TAB numbering is quite tiny and very difficult to read; the TAB line going through the number makes discerning an 8, 9, 3, 6 or 0 a real challenge.  They should have at least changed TAB conventions and put the numbers between the lines.  Warner Bros. really needs to take a lesson from Homespun in this area.  The upside to this however is that these videos are less expensive than would likely be the case with larger TAB and consequently more expensive packaging. 

This video and Mark's beginner book "The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking" together form an excellent starting point for new fingerstyle players.   You won't get a bunch of theory in either, just some great tunes and techniques to get you started playing with your fingers.  It's also important to note that the tunes and material covered in the book and video are different, so you are getting new information and new things to play in each.

Video IconFingerstyle Solo Guitar
by Mark Hanson, Warner Bros. Publications
70 minute video, TAB book included

This is the second video in the series and the  next step in your exploration of fingerstyle guitar.  This a companion video to Mark's Book "The Art of Solo Fingerpicking". 

This video picks up from the first one by first getting you warmed up with alternating bass and "on the beat" pinch techniques, which has some overlap from the first video.  But that gets you primed to move into more complex tunes that combine many of the arpeggio and Travis techniques learned previously.   Key To The Kingdom is presented that has some picking patterns reminiscent of Leo Kottke; so if you aspire to play like Leo, you ought to like this tune.  Then Mark delves into the blues and expands on the blues shuffle presented in the first video.  Taylor's Ferry will get you moving up and down the neck with some great open chord forms and 12th fret harmonics using some interesting new arpeggio patterns.  Finally a great arrangement to Brahms' Lullaby is presented that you'll really enjoy learning to play.  

The main complaint with this video as with the first one is the tiny size of the included tablature.  Warner Bros really need to spend a little more on providing TAB books that are readable; but then you do have to video there to see what is being played.

This video and Mark's book "The Art of Solo Fingerpicking" together form an excellent next step for new fingerstyle players.   You won't get a bunch of theory, just some great tunes and techniques to get you started playing with your fingers.  It's important to note that the tunes and material covered in the book and video are different, so you are getting new information and new things to play in each.


Video Concerts

Video IconMuriel Anderson's All Star Guitar Night
60 minute video

I found it rather interesting that I have books and/or recordings by many of these artists, but never saw them perform.  It's kind of a sad state that the opportunities to see this type of talent live is so limited.  So I think its great that companies like Homespun Tapes and Vestapol Videos fill that void with recorded performances.  I was pleased to be able to finally see many of the artists whose music I had been listening to and whose compositions I was attempting to learn.

The All Star Night concerts have become a kind of tradition that started back in 1993 after a Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention.    This concert, recorded live at Cafe Milano Nashville in 1996, features incredible performances by Muriel Anderson, Peppino D'Agostino, Alex DeGrassi, Ed Gerhard, Tommy Jones, Laurence Juber, Phil Keaggy, Gayla Drake Paul, Preston Reed, Martin Taylor, and the Richard Smith Trio. 

These performances are a round-robin style of performance, with each performing two pieces of their choice.  I particularly was blown away by the performance of Preston Reed and Tommy Jones.  I wasn't that familiar with their guitar work and was very impressed.  This is an excellent video and thoroughly enjoyable to watch.  What was also note worthy as a player, was that the camera showed close ups of the their guitar I could see what their fingers were doing!   The only problem is, now I have to go out and get even more books and videos!

Muriel has also set up a All Star Guitar Night web site you should check out.  


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