I recently picked up the Hal-Leonard book "Blues You Can Use
" based on recommendations on Amazon. Heaven knows I've bought my share of guitar books over the years, and it's been rare that I've felt like I got my money's worth. I've never found a guitar book that has matched my skills and interests. Sadly, I don't think I'm alone in this predicament. The majority of music books are either aimed at rank beginners (starting with "Go Tell Aunt Rhody") or they are so complicated that unless you're already an advanced player it's hard to get anything out of them. So I have a dozen different guitar instruction books sitting on my shelf gathering dust.
John Ganape's "Blues You Can Use
" is not that kind of book. It's one that's aimed squarely at the intermediate player who wants to learn blues guitar. It's 96 pages and includes a CD with audio files of all of the lessons, many at both slow and full tempo. Unlike a lot of music books, these songs sound like something you'd want to play! Even the first lesson ("Texas Rock") has a Stevie Ray Vaughan vibe to it that sounds incredibly cool.
I found these songs not only fun to play but they inspire you to practice and learn more. The blues encompasses a broad range of genres and the book serves as a good introduction to basic shuffle blues, swing blues, Delta blues and hard rock blues. Songs are in styles reminiscent of artists like BB King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Freddy King, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter and others.
Ganapes covers the basics of 12 bar blues, blues shuffle patterns, major and minor Pentatonic patterns, blues scales, 7th and 9th chords and so on. He spreads out the information across the lessons so you feel motivated to learn and apply the theory and not get bogged down.
There are 22 lessons in the book and the author suggests that most students spend about a week on each one. I moved through the early lessons at a faster clip, but the they definitely become more challenging as you progress. And no doubt some of these lessons will require several weeks to master. So far I'm just over a quarter of the way through the book and I am enjoying things enough to not only stick with the book, but I occasionally go back to practice earlier lessons.
My only criticism is that while the book includes a CD of backing tracks, the guitar part is in both left and right audio channels. If you want to play along to backing tracks without the guitar, you need to buy a separate CD from the author's web site for $12.95. Given that the book is only $20, it's still a good deal.
Ganapes has also created several follow-up books including the more advanced More Blues You Can Use and Blues Licks You Can Use. I plan on checking those out once I get through the rest of the book. If you're an intermediate player, already familiar with basic chords and ready to learn the blues in a structured fashion, I fully recommend this book.