Back in May 2008 I reviewed a book called ‘The Guitar Lesson Companion’ by Susan Palmer, since then Susan’s books have been used worldwide by guitar teachers and students so Susan set about creating a second volume as a continuation of the first book divided up into three parts: Part One: Music Theory, Part Two: Improvisation and Part Three: Chords, stylistic studies and scales. All the examples are in standard music notation by the way so if you can’t read music I suggest you look at Volume 1 first.
Part One mainly deals with scales, explaining how they are constructed with some worksheets to complete which will help guitar students learn the major key scales, triads and 7th chords. There are also a whole load of worksheets to help you identify intervals such as fifths, sixths and sevenths and whether they are major or minor. Following these are some worksheets that help the student identify Major, Minor, Augmented and Diminished triads before moving on to an extensive section about Modes. The Modes section explains not only modes of the Major scale but also modes of the Melodic and Harmonic Minor scales too so it gets pretty technical in places but the layout and explanations are clear and concise. This section of the book concludes with a look at the Diminshed, Dominant Diminshed, Whole Tone scales with some explanations about application and of course you can practice what you are learning using the jam tracks on the included CD.
Part two covers Improvisation which has a number of backing tracks and notated chord changes along with a list of scale patterns that can be used with each, Susan provides worksheets for the scales that are going to be used so that you get used to working out exactly what notes are in each scale and how to notate this on paper including the chord tones before launching into a solo. All of the examples are also accompanied by scale box pattern diagrams in various positions on the fretboard too for a quick reference. Each subsection is a different key so that you get used to improvising in every key rather than sticking to the safe keys that us guitarists love to hover around.
The final part of the book begins with a section on chords and a very useful exercise of notating triads in various positions of the guitar neck using standard chord box diagrams, so for instance you are given the root, 1st inversion and 2nd inversion patterns of a Major triad starting on the 6th string and then have to write out the Minor, Augmented and Diminished triads, a very useful exercise. Susan then builds on these basic triads by introducing chords for big band and swing jazz music including minor and major 7th triads, major and minor 6th triads and diminished 7th triads. The worksheets in this section are to help you visualize chord patterns in every key all over the neck, something which most guitarists wouldn’t have a hope in doing but following this simple method will help you commit this information to memory.
This book is called a guitar lesson companion for a reason, yes you could work through this yourself but the chances are you are going to get lazy and cut corners so it is going to be much more beneficial if you work through this book with a guitar teacher who can not only explain some of the more complicated concepts but also make sure you are working through the book at a pace that allows you to really take everything in.