Duck Baker,
Fingerstyle Blues Guitar 101
(Mel Bay, 2004)

Fingerstyle Blues Guitar 101 is an attempt to teach some basic -- and not so basic -- blues licks. If you listen to Duck Baker, you learn that blues comes in many forms and has many influences, and that's not a bad thing. The book and the CD that comes with it are excellent partners. And Duck takes the time to explain some finer points. If you don't have a real live teacher in front of you, this is the next best thing. And just because it's a 101 course, don't think you can pick up a guitar for the first time and join in. It's a little more complicated than that.

The table of contents contain headings such as Blues in E, An Idiot's Guide to Theory, Turnarounds, Blues in A, Blues in C and Blues in G. An Idiot's Guide to Theory is broken down into major scales, chords, the dominant seventh and upper interval chords, and it's written in plain talk about some important background information.

In the introduction there's a little talk about how it's easier to talk about the structure of the blues, but harder to define the parameters. Baker goes on to say, "One purpose of this book is simply to provide a whole lot of new licks that can be used in old contexts." He believes music needs to be able to change in order to live, to paraphrase one of his statements.

Good music is good music, and the tunes chosen for this quality booklet all have a special sound. Except for a couple of oldies with variations, most of the compositions are by Baker. "The Jackson Stomp," "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" and "Sister Kate" are joined by Baker's "Seven Point One," "Still Staggerin'" and "The Mighty Midget."

Baker does some great work describing finger movements and offers lots of encouragement and practical reasons to keep trying the more difficult pieces. About "Deep C Blues," he says, "It's worth plugging away on a piece like this one even if you never get it down, because just trying it will do a lot for your dexterity. ... Once you get used to things like this, it's not really that bad."

On the CD Baker's playing is light and clear. The pages in the book indicate the number of the track on the CD for one-stop shopping, and there are both tabs and notes for each tune. Baker really tries to break these lessons down and make them really easy to understand.

If you've got the urge to speak a little blues, with some dedicated effort on your part, this book can put you on the road to accomplishing that digital pleasure.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 19 March 2005

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