Tommy Emmanuel,
Fingerstyle Guitar Method
(Mel Bay, 2004)

Fingerstyle Guitar Method by Tommy Emmanuel contains only a few short pieces, but inside those are some interesting tidbits and pointers to follow. And Tommy speaks directly and clearly to you on the CD that accompanies the booklet.

The contents of the book include chapters called Holding Position, Fingerstyle Notation and Learning to Read Tabulature. One chapter called Dictation Notes with Tommy Emmanuel talks about getting started on fingerstyle. He brings up topics such as tuning, nails or no nails, and choice of thumbpick. Under the latter, he adds a lot of brief but pointed information on practice, playing chord changes, foot tapping and hand resting positions.

The first spoken part (the CD) begins with "Tom's Thumb," a series of exercises that gives a good groove. The first tune he teaches after this is "Freight Train." He says he often uses this one first when teaching because "the melody is on top of the chord."

Two more pieces follow and are in the instruction booklet in notes and tabs, "Mr. Guitar" and "Dixie McGuire." Each piece starts off quite simply and progresses with some cool moves.

As a bonus track Tommy demonstrates different ways of playing bass. In the notes he recommends a listen to the original Chet Atkins album Alone, and especially the version of "Me & Bobby McGee." Strangely though, the spoken notes are transcribed by Deyan Bratic, and that's quite clear in the large byline on the inside cover. I wonder a bit about it because the sentence is written as if it were Tommy Emmanuel and Bobby McGee playing on the album. He also writes "heal" instead of "heel" when describing a part of the hand, but none of this really affects the value of the booklet and the instruction, so it's a small quirk.

The book and CD give a good look at the Tommy Emmanuel style and sound. Good exercises and several useful demonstrations are a big part of the package. The CD works well and the booklet has a useful thumbpickers' chord chart on the last two pages. The lessons start out on a very basic level but quickly move on to interesting features.

At $15.95 U.S. the booklet looks a bit slim, but I think the information you'll find here is condensed but intense, so it's probably worth it.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 30 April 2005

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