byline picby Pappy

Say what you will about instruction books, but I prefer it when they have some writing in them. Given TAB alone, I find myself working slower than if I have some written guidance beforehand. It doesn’t have to be much – an expression of the feel, or tips for which fingers to use for which notes goes a long way toward speeding up your progress. That’s why I love it when Hal Leonard sends me instruction books for review and they’re packed with both TAB and words.

That’s the case with their new book “Stretchin’ the Blues.” It’s a collection of 30 different lessons that aim to build you blues guitar skills and repertoire. Each lesson is prefaced with a written description and little tips and tricks for the technique or licks that you’re about to learn. The descriptions are detailed, going into which specific notes you’re playing (not just fret and string), which I really like. The more emphasis on learning the notes on the fretboard the better.

Some of the lessons in the book are short, with just a few bars, while other lessons cover an entire page. The goal of the book is to increase your blue vocabulary, not to teach you entire songs, so I don’t mind short lessons. When it comes to techniques, I prefer short lessons so I can learn them quickly and then start to experiment on my own without feeling like I’m giving up on the formal education from the book just to “goof off.”

Stretchin the blues

The book doesn’t only come with the lessons though. It also includes a CD to let you know how it should all sound. For the new players, this is an invaluable addition. My first instruction book included one that I didn’t think to listen to until after I completed the first few examples and once I did listen, it was very much like “Ooooh, THAT’S how it’s supposed to be played.” I had been playing it slow and bending the notes way too far because I just didn’t know I was wrong.

This brings up an interesting point as well: This book is not aimed for a specific skill level, it’s only meant to add more tools to your blues toolbox. That’s something anyone and everyone can appreciate and use.

The fact of the matter is that the blues in general is a very popular genre and with popularity come cliché traps that everyone is taught and everyone falls in to, resulting in a homogenous goo of players playing stuff that sounds VERY similar to each other. If you like the blues, want to play the blues, and want to stand out, you owe it to yourself to explore every technique within the genre to see where YOU fall in and what you like, not just what everyone else is playing and this is a fantastic book to put you on that path.

It retails for $19.99 and can be found in your local music stores, or you can order it HERE.