on November 15, 2008
I teach electric and acoustic guitar professionally, and all my students are required to have a copy of this book. The book is now in its second edition, having been completely re-designed with new photographs and artwork. The text and typographical problems of the first edition have been eliminated.
I like this book because it produces measurably better results for my students. Many of my students consider themselves "hard to teach" because they have non-standard cognition, unusually large or small hands, or physical injuries that make it hard for them to play. Since I offer a money-back guarantee to all my private students and don't reject a student simply for having a condition that makes learning the guitar difficult, my financial interests depend on me finding and using the best possible techniques to ensure my students make measurable, predictable, and repeatable progress. I truly can't afford to rely on the talent of my students and to let the students with less natural aptitude fall through the cracks. So far, this book and other books by Jamie Andreas have been my ace in the hole.
Using the techniques and exercises in this book, particularly the Foundation Exercises and the Basic Practice Approach, I've been consistently getting results no matter how "hard to teach" or "untalented" a student may appear to be. Each student still learns at his or her own pace and there's a relationship between the amount of effort a student puts in and the results she (or he) achieves, but based on my teaching experience the methods in the book do yield measurable, predictable progress for everybody. This is what makes the Principles approach a reliable pedagogy: it provides a conceptual framework for instruction and doesn't rely solely on the natural aptitude of the individual learner.
The book discusses how the human body learns and remembers physical movement, and it shows how to exploit the body's own learning process ("muscle memory") in order to train new movements quickly and efficiently. Everything is presented in the context of the body and on maintaining as much relaxation as possible. Written from a very analytical perspective, the book is well received by people with a math, science, or engineering background.
Trying to learn guitar solely from books isn't something I recommend, however my students who are highly verbal, syntactic learners tend to do well when reading the instructions for an exercise and then doing it. The more visual learners benefit from doing it the other way around: demonstration, then explanation as to "why" something works. They generally use the instructions in the book as a memory aid when practicing at home, because otherwise they tend to skip steps. Even the students who truly don't learn well from books (due to diagnosed dyslexia, ADD, etc.) benefit from the pictures and the step-by-step Basic Practice Approach chart.
To someone who has had the benefit of competent instruction, a few of the concepts and exercises in the book may appear to be "common sense" because they will be taught by any competent teacher. Examples include the necessity of sitting up straight and maintaining as much relaxation as possible. However, the book is marketed to beginners, and nothing about playing the guitar is natural or obvious to someone who is completely self-taught and who doesn't have the benefit of a teacher or another guitarist in the family. Were these "obvious" and "common sense" elements to be skipped or glossed over, as they are in many method books, the book would not be suitable for beginners.
The exercises in the book focus on rudimentary foundations that are even more basic than the chord and arpeggio exercises found in most method books. This means that the book is not style-specific. It is just as useful for a rock guitarist as it is for a finger-style folk player. The book does contain both finger-style and pick-style development exercises, although most of the pictures are of acoustic guitar players.
The average ten-year-old is capable of reading and understanding the book, assuming a certain level of proactivity. However the book is very dense content-wise and there's a lot of information in it. So I generally assign just a few pages at a time and introduce no more than one or two exercises per lesson. I then immediately show the student how the exercise applies in a playing situation.
I use the book for three reasons:
- to provide a basic technical foundation suitable for any style of guitar,
- to show how the body learns, so as to better exploit the body's natural tendencies, and
- to present a series of exercises designed to take advantage of how the body learns, thereby producing consistent and reliable results
Each exercise is illustrated and described in minute detail.
To work through the entire book, doing all the exercises and discussing each tool, technique, and concept, takes the average beginner student four to six months assuming half her (or his) time is spent on repertoire and half is spent on technique. A more advanced student who perhaps has experience on a different instrument may progress through the exercises more quickly.
on July 4, 2007
I think this book is excellent and a must-use (not must-read, more on this later) for any beginning guitarist or for any experienced guitarist who are finding it hard to play better, especially the self taught. There are thousands of books, dvds, cdroms, and internet sites that will bombard you with chords, scales, songs, etc. that will tell you WHERE to put your fingers and WHICH strings to strike. But they almost always don't give a hint on HOW to train them to do it the best possible way, or just barely mention it without stressing it enough in the best cases.
This book is completely on the other side of the spectrum. You won't find a single chord, note, song, etc. I can only recall the author barely mentioning a C chord once. But you will learn how to practice the exercises found in other books, and how to spare you a lot of problems when trying to reach higher levels of playing from the beginning of your learning process. You won't learn to play guitar using this book alone. You need either another book or, better yet, a teacher. If you are using a book or an interactive method (that's what I am personally using) to learn the guitar, do yourself a big favor and get Jamie's book.
This book is not to be read from beginning to end and then put aside. Maybe the first time. But then you must use it constantly, reviewing the material several times, and jumping from section to section depending on the particular problems you are encountering at some point understanding why you are doing the exercises and then actually doing them, otherwise you won't benefit from it. It is not a compilation of exercises, as the author doesn't wan't you to just go blindly exercising your muscles, she wants you to understand why they must be done so you can commit to them. They are also not to be done mindlessly, the author asks not only for your physical effort, but your mental and emotional effort too. If you think you are capable of putting this effort into your playing and if you WANT to do it, then buy this book, otherwise don't bother.
on December 7, 2009
I have a recommendation that will save any aspiring guitarist a lot of time, money and frustration. Maybe you spent a lot of time and money like I have on various guitar instructional materials - books, DVD videos, Internet lessons and downloads, etc. and still are frustrated and disappointed with your lack of progress like I was. Sometimes even beginner lessons with an instructor are not as productive as they could be. The problem with all the content material is that it is woefully lacking in specific guidance about how to practice that will develop the physical ability to get the results you want to actually be musical.
Playing the guitar is first of all a physical activity and we need guidance and specific instruction to develop the physical dexterity, strength and control of our fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, breathing, etc. that are required to play and play well. If you feel your practicing is not getting you anywhere then you are not practicing correctly and may be doing more harm than good. You may become frustrated and discouraged, develop bad playing habits and think the guitar is not for you. Actually, as simple as it sounds, you just need to know how to practice to get good results.
I'm a beginning guitar student and write from that prospective. All those content lessons tell you what to do but not how to do it. If you can't control your fingers and cause them to do what you want them to do you need to know and follow the Principles of Correct Practice for Guitar as developed by Jamie Andres. As a beginner I highly recommend the book and DVD with that title. It is the only instructional material I have found that explains and demonstrates the physical aspects of learning to play the guitar. We need the knowledge, skills and exercises to develop the correct use of our fingers and hands that are contained in the Principles of Correct Practice. It works for everybody regardless of experience or so called "natural ability". Get this book. You will be glad you did.
on July 27, 2011
I haven't written a review on Amazon before and typically when reading reviews of products I skip the long ones! This, unfortunately, is a long one. But my appreciation of this book is such, that I felt compelled to write a review and also to write one that was thorough. So, in advance: apologies for the length!
I first picked up the guitar as a teenager about 15 years ago. Throughout the years, I've purchased many guitar books. I was originally self-taught and only recently did some guitar lessons. Of all of the guitar books that I've come across, "The Principles" is hands down the best book I've ever used. All other books I attacked with an initial vigorous enthusiasm that I thought could never be sated. But sated it usually was; and the books sat on the shelves after having only gone through a chapter or two. This book was different. It is the only guitar instruction book that I read from cover to cover - literally. Everything in the book makes sense. Jamie has stripped back everything and opened my eyes to what playing the guitar should FEEL like.
There is (I believe) an important dichotomy to be understood with regard to this book: in a way, I wish I had started learning guitar using this book as it instructs you in the correct way to practise right from the very beginning. However, if I'm to be honest, when I first learned the guitar there was an impatience to want to learn more and more, faster and faster. This - I now realise - is the wrong approach. In order to become a great guitar player (not that I am one!! But I firmly believe that I never could have become one without this book. Now I'm slowly - delusionally? - starting to believe...), it is now evident to me that you must go back to the basics and get them nailed. Then develop your guitar playing slowly, gradually.
This book has renewed my passion for playing the guitar. I bought it about a month ago, finished it very quickly, and am now practising guitar every day. (Previously I would have picked it up once a week, if that...) I even get up an hour and a half earlier every day (well... most days...!) to practise.
The principles are there. They're in this book. It has broken everything down into slow and simple. In my (revised) opinion, this is the best way to learn the guitar. New to the guitar? This is the way to learn it. An intermediate player? (As I THOUGHT I was...) This is the way you SHOULD have learned the guitar. Either way: buy it - you won't regret it.
on October 26, 2005
Okay, my original review was written in October of 2005 and it is now August of 2006. As I indicated that I would do, I read the book again. I still don't see a lot of value in it. Let me save you some money. You can read the whole book if you wish but basically all it tells you is to pay attention to tension in your muscles as you play/practice (duh...), use a mirror to check your posture (good suggestion), practice new material or techniques slowly before attempting them at full tempo (start with no tempo and just get the motions into muscle memory without concern for the rhythm.), and pay attention to any tension (Wait, I already said that!)...
Sorry, even two stars is a stretch. The exercises are similar to ones you can find most anywhere. They are just stretches and dexterity exercises. If you are a rank beginner, you should fire your guitar instructor if he/she does not give you these amazing secrets of guitar proficiency within the first month. Your instructor should also be able to provide you with progressive exercises to work on technique for whatever you wish to learn how to play. If not, again you should fire them. For that matter, there are other books that address the same information in far less painful detail.
The one kudo that I have to give the author is that he does not (to my memory) ever profess to have "SECRETS TO INSTANT GUITAR SUCCESS," or similar, as do so many of the books and Internet courses. He does deliver what he promises. I found nothing that was actually INCORRECT or bad practice in the whole book. It is just one painful, boring, long, and poorly written book that covers a very small amount of information that is very deeply buried in a lot of words. He DOES tell you that it is a lot of work and requires a lot of time. He is quite right about that. Another point would be that if you are the type of person that likes every little detail to be explained to you and you have a lot of patience when reading instructional material, this book may be what you are looking for.
My original review follows, unedited:
Because of it's award-winning status within the acoustic guitar-playing world, I have read this book THREE times! I have flagged and tried each and every exercise in this book. I have not found that it improved my playing or practice to any significant degree. It is boring, poorly written, and never seems to actually make any particular point. It just rambles until it runs out of steam.
The exercises are so deeply buried in the small, dense print that you have to read every word in the book just to find an exercise that you may recall wanting to use.
The entire book seems more appropriate to a classical musician than a contemporary guitarist. The same stale mindset seems to permiate the entire book. Frankly, I think that if one were to take the book as written and follow the advice to the letter, it would be a year before I could play "Jingle Bells" in a manner that would be consistent with "Correct Practice."
I have to temper this negative review with the statement that I still have doubts about my assessment of the book. It has won awards and has too many "fans" to be as bad as it seems to me. I am going to make one final attempt to read the book. This time I will focus less on the text and more on the exercises that I feel are relevant. The last time I read it, I had the foresight to put page flags on each page that had an exercise. At least I will not have to suffer through the ramblings of the entire text just to find the exercises again.
The author spends an inordinate amount of time on the subject of "tension." While, after reading the book three times, I DO find myself much more aware of tension when practicing, I think that pointing out the importance of being more aware of tension need not be such a painful read. Still... that part of the book was helpful. The bottom line is that every piece of useful information in the book could probably have been condensed into one fourth of the verbiage, or LESS.
on November 13, 2006
Although I agree with some of the negative comments on the quality and style of the writing, I find that the information in this book is very sound and useful. Personally, I have been using the techniques presented in the book for four years, and have enjoyed a much higher level of playing as a result. However, if you have already achieved a high level of playing, as well as an efficient method of eliminating excess tension while playing, this book might not be what you need.
It is important to understand that everyone plays the guitar differently. Each individual approaches the guitar with his or her own experience and knowledge, and the diversity between players is infinite. What might be arduous or boring to one person may be exciting and refreshing to another. This book, to me, was very exciting in that, although I had been playing for about thirteen years, I had hit a brick wall in speed and development. I didn't understand my own ignorance of excessive tension or my own inferior methods of preparation, and this book unlocked those doors for me. Although the author is mostly a classical guitarist, I have found the book to be useful for other styles, such as rock and jazz, as well. I believe that this book can be applied universally to any guitar style.
The writing style of this book tends to be conversational, as if the author is trying to create a feeling of being in a personal lesson with her. Without the benefit of voice inflection, facial expressions, and other gestures, some meaning will get lost. To me, this is the overall weakness of the book.
on October 9, 2014
I have stacks of books dating back to the early 70's on music and guitar instruction, but this book "The Principles of Correct Practice for the Guitar" is far and away the absolutely best guitar instruction book I have ever owned. This is the book that will teach you how to use all your other books. I first bought the book many years ago and kind of ho-hummed as I read through it. Then I threw it on top of the stack of all my other guitar books and there it sat. Months later, (it may have even been a year or two) I found myself in the pits of frustration and at a hellacious sticking point. My playing had improved only marginally and I could see no way out. with my motivation shot, I began thumbing through my stacks of books. When I got to this one I decided to pull it out and maybe even give Jamies methods a try and see what happened. Well, this meant to actually DO the exercises recommended, in a conscientious manner and exactly as instructed. In desperation I decided to do so and thank God I did! Once I began to actually DO the exercises in a strict manner I got immediate results as I began to unlearn bad habits and dissolve ingrained knots of tension that previously I didn't even know existed. I give this book my highest recommendation. As other reviewers have said, and I totally concur, this is a book that must be USED, and not merely read. There is a gold mine of information in the book that I never realized until I began to put the "principals" to work in a religous and exacting manner. As soon as I put it to USE my playing abilities began to soar and flower in ways I could never have imagined, and it continues to this very day. Any sticking point I find myself in these days becomes an exciting adventure in discovery. A couple years ago I had to purchase another copy because that old original I had became so "dog eared" with pages falling out that it was basically destroyed. This book is a classic in the truest sense of the word and I am convinced that guitar players for generations to come will heap praises on jamie for publishing this innovative and ground breaking work. I can see NO possible reason for a negative review other than #1 They ARE Dave Gilmour (no offense to dave) or #2 because the book was perused and not USED. Hats off Jamie! Great job!!!
on August 14, 2007
Let's clarify a few things:First off someone has a selling price of 89.99 posted which is absurd unless it includes the DVD. You can buy a new copy of the book for a heck of a lot less from the web site.Second, Jamie Andreas is a woman, however for whatever reason, her assistant, partner, whoever often comments on the web site, etc. so it's confusing whether a man or woman wrote this book. The web site is one of the best out there,chock full of good advice. Third many complain the book is geared towards"classical players" partially true, yet there is a section on how to play with a pick. Fourth, while I haven't purchased the DVD, I suspect it's a great supplement to the book. All that being said, yes, it's awfully cluttered at times, perhaps not properly edited, etc but can be a useful practice tool and certainly a book one must continue to read and re- read for maximum absorption. The DVD is quite spendy however I'll assume a visual teaching tool cuts to the chase.
on October 26, 2009
If I had studied this book when I was 16, I'd be performing on the world stage. Instead, I discovered it at 57 yrs. old, and still, I can easily envision myself performing on the world stage. Jamie has provided tools, discipline and a philosophy that no guitar player should be without. Finally, I have glimpsed the soul of the guitar, and its fretboard is slowly bending to my will. The future is bright and its sound is sweet. Thanks Jamie for unlocking the guitar's secrets. Keep up the great work, for I have no doubt that you will give the world some great guitar players. And for those, like me, who will probably not make it to the world stage, I now have the confidence to play what I desire!
on January 9, 2014
I agree with the reviewer who thought this book was a "goldmine" of information. I have been using this book, along with Aaron Shearer's books for classical guitar, for about a year. If you follow Jamie's advice diligently you will improve as a guitar player - but, be patient, it takes a while before you notice results.
Word of warning: Jamie Andreas uses LOTS of words to describe her methods. I have also noticed this on all her videos. She will take 2-3 paragraphs (sometimes 2-3 pages) to explain something that should require only 2 sentences. There are also many anecdotes in the book (as with all her books), which you probably don't really care about. This book could have been written with the exact same info using only about 30 pages.
Again - it's much reading for a little information, but the info is worth gold. Just be patient with the whole process and you should improve as a player.