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326 of 329 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid instruction material
Fingerstyle is an obscure genre. It baffles many guitar buffs since there are hardly any established tutorials. I've been obsessed with this style ever since I heard the likes of Robert Johnson, Doc Waston, Leo Kottke etc.

Having scanned the web I purchased three books -

Beginning Fingerstyle Blues - Arnie Berle (the one in question)

Art...
Published on November 20, 2004 by Raj

versus
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not my favorite way to learn the blues
I bought this book when I began learning fingerstyle, because of all the positive reviews. I can see how it could help you learn blues guitar, as it is organized in a very step-by-step manner. But I ultimately found it boring and stopped working with this book about 1/4 of the way through. Almost the entire book is comprised of exercises rather than songs--I guess you...
Published on October 13, 2010 by John M. Miller


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326 of 329 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid instruction material, November 20, 2004
By 
This review is from: Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books) (Paperback)
Fingerstyle is an obscure genre. It baffles many guitar buffs since there are hardly any established tutorials. I've been obsessed with this style ever since I heard the likes of Robert Johnson, Doc Waston, Leo Kottke etc.

Having scanned the web I purchased three books -

Beginning Fingerstyle Blues - Arnie Berle (the one in question)

Art of Contemporary Travis Picking - Mark Hanson

Art of Solo Fingerpicking - Mark Hanson

It only makes sense to compare these books since in addition to money, we are investing time. Choosing the right book would save you lot of time, and much exasperation. Beginning Fingerstyle Blues is one of the finest guitar instruction tutorials I've come across. The instruction is lucid and the approach very logical. The book takes you step by step through fingerstyle blues building up your right hand ability (and confidence) to the extent where you can play and sing (oh yes!) the blues with relative ease, only after 12-18 months of dedicated practice. 12 months is a fairly short period as fingerstyle tunes can get rather complicated. I've always been impatient when receiving instructions and tend to skip a section or two so as to reach the end ASAP. But this book kept me engaged throughout as it made me believe that everything was achievable, as long as I tried and didn't deceive myself. I rate it five stars, for the instruction and for keeping me hooked throughout (after all learning should be fun!). Like the others have said it also contains 5 full pieces at the end to add to your repertoire, which clearly is a bonus.

The books by Mark Hanson are equally profound in content and tutoring. Mark's books score a point or two above the rest of the fingerstyle books as he (Mark) gives very clear instruction regarding right hand placement, how many fingers to use, pinky finger placement, whether or not to use thumbpicks/fingerpicks and many other finer points which you will require answers to once you immerse yourself in fingerstyle guitar. There are awfully few competent sources who can give you these answers. You will not find these details in Beginning Fingerstyle Blues. It left me confused initially but thanks to Mark's books I figured the right way out.

Many of you may be confused about which books to buy so that you do NOT regret in 12 months time; after you have put in your best and expect returns. Having owned 8 fingerstyle books and 4 fingerstyle instruction videos, I strongly recommend Beginning Fingerstlye Blues and The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking. If you cannot buy both books for any reason, pick either and buy the other in a year's time. You will not need any video instructions if you have these two books. These two are the very best out there and I don't see any books better than these, in the fingerstyle genre. They both share common grounds such as:

1. Both cater to absolute beginners - you can manage even if you cannot change chords confidently

2. Both focus on Travis Picking (alternate bass with melody) which is quintessential to fingerstyle guitar

3. You will be a fairly advanced fingerstyle player after having successfully completed either book

In my opinion no book is bad. You will get to learn something or the other from every book. But there are very few that are jewels - these two books undoubtedly are. There is a reason both these books have been rated 5 stars; they work wonderfully well and the results they provide are truly fulfilling.
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110 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy This Book, December 13, 2001
By 
Big Dave (Boise, Idaho) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books) (Paperback)
This is an excellent introduction to playing acoustic blues guitar because;
1. It assumes virtually no knowledge of the instrument to begin with.
2. The exercises are gradated, slowly adding additional chords and keys and more complex picking patterns.
3. The exercises are designed to teach you to move your thumb independently from your fingers. This gives you that great "wow, it sounds like two guitars!" effect.
4. The accompanying CD, while not always perfectly indexed to the book (I think it must have been a cassette first), allows you to hear a very skilled player playing the exercises and pieces.
5. The culmination of the exercises is a collection of five real pieces, including songs by Robert Johnson and Willie Brown. These pieces are stylistically different from each other and require you to stretch a bit beyond what you've learned in the exercises, with the result that together they make a nice little blues repertoire.
Decide today to (get better) on the guitar -- buy this book.
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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction book to learning fingerstyle blues!, June 27, 2000
By A Customer
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This review is from: Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books) (Paperback)
This is a great book because it breaks down the process of learning acoustic (fingerstyle) blues step-by-step, and shows you how to play the blues in the old Mississippi-blues and other related styles. It starts off with beginner techniques such as learning how to play an alternating bass, combining the thumb with the fingers, playing chords with this thumb/finger picking pattern, maintaining a steady rhythm, playing different beats, and moves into more complicated playing involving melody and blues notes, fretting hand techniques, picking hand techniques, different chord shapes, vamps, and singing the blues. The end of the book then contains 5 blues pieces: M&O Blues, Beekman Blues, Big Road Blues, 32-20 Blues, and Black Rat Blues.
The CD is a great accompaniment, because it allows you to hear the examples in the book, and really *listen* for that blues feel.
I highly recommend this book!
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Toward intermediate blues playing.., October 18, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books) (Paperback)
This is an excellent introduction to intermediate blues playing for beginning fingerstyle guitarists. Unlike many books, this one takes you slowly through the basic techniques you need to build ability. THis is good, because this music can be complicated to play - it should take time to learn. The book, by going in small steps, is engaging. Also the CD is very releaxed and contains complimentary commentary to that in the book - very much like a teacher sitting in the room with you. I only had two complaints. One is that the book did not use the full rhythmic TAB notation, instead relying on the standard notion which runs in parallel with the TAB (all exercises are given in both TAB and standard). The second complaint was that the "blues note" was not introduced until the middle of the book. Thus it took about 6 weeks for me to work up to the blues sound, rather than the straight 'folksy' sound. Not bad in retrospect, but it felt like a long time. I expect to complete the book in another month or so, when I fully expect to be able to play the Robert Johnson and other tunes at the back of the book. Its a fun book, worth every penny.
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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven but very valuable, June 1, 2001
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This review is from: Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books) (Paperback)
This book and CD has its ups and downs. The CD, for one thing, is a problem. The guy rambles and rambles and rambles, and the content on the CD is poorly indexed to the book. The content of both the book and the CD also tend to zoom from simple to quite difficult, back to simple, and so on.
But in spite of these not inconsiderable flaws, I knew within an hour that I really liked the book anyway. I have picked up lots of good ideas. The book would be good for raw beginners through fairly experienced intermediates. Beginners should understand that fingerpicking is like learning to ride a bike; you're going to fall down and skin your knees quite a few times before you manage to ride even to the end of the block. I think this book does a good job of explaining that, and giving beginners tips on how to get started.
Intermediates will find lots of really cool, fun stuff to play. The songs at the end of the book (five complete songs) are the icing on the cake, because by then you've already learned lots of other good stuff. The style of the music ranges from shuffles to "sweet" blues like John Hurt stuff, and some "harder" or "meaner" blues. Overall, a very good mix of the music. You can tell that the guy picking the music knows his stuff and understands that he has to present a solid balance, a good sampling of fingerstyle blues. That's sadly lacking in some books.
And intermediates should also note that there is, in my opinion, some VERY challenging stuff here for them. Well, I suppose that an advanced player wouldn't think so, but an advanced player wouldn't buy this book. There are some pieces here that will stretch your fingers, give your wrist a workout, and force you to learn some difficult maneuvers. And that's good! So the book won't just give you lots of "treading water" music that won't take you anywhere. If you're an intermediate, you'll pick up some things that start moving you along to the advanced level.
One other positive point--there is a LOT of music in this book. Some books seem like they end no sooner than they get started. Not this one. Admittedly, there is a fair amount of material in the middle of the book that is kind of repetitive, but the point is to start simple, then go a little more complex, and then a little more, and so on. So I don't fault the author for that. It's better than going from an extremely simple picking pattern straight into a heavily-syncopated pattern that leaves the beginner bewildered.
Just be prepared to deal with the endlessly rambling monologue on the CD, and be prepared to skip through the book and the CD to find what you want.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not my favorite way to learn the blues, October 13, 2010
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This review is from: Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books) (Paperback)
I bought this book when I began learning fingerstyle, because of all the positive reviews. I can see how it could help you learn blues guitar, as it is organized in a very step-by-step manner. But I ultimately found it boring and stopped working with this book about 1/4 of the way through. Almost the entire book is comprised of exercises rather than songs--I guess you could call the exercises "songs," but for the most part they aren't musically compelling. Only at the end, at a pretty advanced level, do you get something that feels like real blues. The exercises are challenging for a beginner, and they do help build technique, but for me the discipline required to learn the techniques was too much in relation to the fairly weak musical payoff. Compare this to the approach of Stefan Grossman, who also organizes all of his teaching materials (book/CD combos and DVD's) to teach step-by-step buildup of techniques, but who starts right in with versions of real blues songs that are very fun and rewarding to play. If you are interested in learning blues and have a little experience fingerpicking, I highly recommend Grossman's materials (the DVD Fingerpicking Guitar Techniques is a good place to start). If you are brand new to fingerpicking, I recommend Mark Hanson's Book/CD combo The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking. It doesn't focus on the blues (the repertoire is a mix of folk music and blues in its more folky aspects), but it focuses on alternating-bass fingerpicking that you will need for many blues styles (such as Mississippi John Hurt), it begins with very basic techniques and builds step-by-step, and right from the start you are playing real songs. Once you're halfway or so through that book, you'll be ready to tackle the Grossman DVD. This path will get you to the same endpoint as Berle and Galbo, but with a lot more fun along the way.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can do it!, April 3, 2004
This review is from: Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books) (Paperback)
I won't rehash what others have written; just let me say that this is one excellent instructional book.
Buy it, pop in the accompanying CD and listen to the first track. It's beautiful - and if you practice, yes, you WILL be able to play this song and others, pieces you probably thought were beyond your skills, by the time you finish the book.
My personal observations:
- NOT FOR BEGINNERS. The book starts off slow, but you'd better have a good knowledge of basic chords and chord changes before you attempt to tackle it. I'd consider my skills as intermediate when I bought the book (though I had never fingerpicked), and there were some very challenging things for me - things I was able to get through with patience and practice. I fear the total beginner would be lost, though, and probably get frustrated. If you've been playing for six months or more and want to learn fingerstyle, you'll be OK.
- If you buy the book, you'll be cruising along through the easier exercises, and then WHAM, you'll hit a difficult piece that will have you pulling out your hair. DON'T PANIC! You can do it with patience and practice - I did it and I'm no John Hurt. Just remember to go slow - keeping a STEADY BEAT is the important thing, not how fast you play. I found it helpful to plow slowly through the difficult pieces one day, then take a day off. When I returned to the book after a day, it was a lot easier. There's no hurry, after all! We do this for fun! In fact, don't ignore or just blow through any of the exercises. They all have a purpose and many of them are excerpts from the five full pieces in the back of the book. Take your time and practice each one thoroughly. Trust me!
- Here's a secret: At one point, you'll be playing whole-note melody scales with an alternating bass in A, D, E, C, G and B7. The authors will tell you to play the scales in half and quarter notes on your own; they don't tab out some of them. Don't ignore the quarter-note scales! They'll be difficult at first, but I found them to be the key to fingerpicking a nice melody over a bass beat. Make your own tab if you have to, but by all means, practice the scales in quarter notes; it will make your life MUCH easier! I tabbed them out and I use them as a warmup now each time I practice.
That's about it; the authors are very talented and are obviously passionate about fingerstyle blues, and this will carry over to you. You'll have to work hard, but the payoff is enormous. You'll grin ear-to-ear when you're able to play Robert Johnson's "32-20 Blues" in close approximation to the CD!
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent instructional material, July 16, 2000
This review is from: Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books) (Paperback)
This book is very good. This is not an anthology of songs but rather a step-by-step guide to learning how to play fingerstyle blues in the vein of Taj Mahal, Tommy Johnson, Blind Blake, etc. Even if you have little experience with the guitar, diligently practicing the exercises in this book will teach you to play great sounding music. I started in April with just basic 1st position chords and expect to be playing the songs at the end of the book pretty well by September. If you are already an experienced guitarist, it probably takes much less time. The accompanying CD is essential, because it lets you hear exactly what you are trying to achieve.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superlative step-by-step guide, April 12, 2001
By 
Michael P. McGuire (Littleton, CO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books) (Paperback)
I probably own 10-20 instructional guitar books, but this one is the best. It is sequential and the steps are neither too large nor too small. The CD tells you exactly how each example should sound, which was especially helpful to me in dealing with syncopated rhythms. The most useful thing about the book was its program to make my thumb move more independently from the fingers - an essential aspect of fingerstyle guitar. This has carried over in every style of my playing. In fact, although the examples in this book are taken from the blues, I would recommend it for any type of fingerstyle guitarist.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for traditional blues development, December 30, 1999
This review is from: Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books) (Paperback)
Mark Galbo and Arnie Berle have put together a wonderful book here. An absolute must for anyone wishing to delve into acoustic blues. The exercises allow the guitarist to develop the foundation necessary to learn traditional blues styles. The full-song examples in the back of the book are well-rounded, from Robert Johnson's "32-20 Blues" to a wonderful John Cephas tune, "Black Cat Swing."
This is one of the first blues books I bought. I now have a small fortune in blues sheet music and instructional material, yet I still deem this book to be right up there among the very best of the lot.
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Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books)
Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar (Guitar Books) by Mark Galbo (Paperback - May 1, 1993)
$21.95 $16.74
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