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The Guitar Handbook Paperback – October 20, 1992

4.7 out of 5 stars 175 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The most comprehensive resource available for beginning and experienced guitarists alike, whether acoustic or electric. Completely redesigned and with many more full-color photos than the original, this new edition surveys recent models and profiles current masters, includes an expanded lesson section, and encompasses 10 years of technological change in recording and amplification.

About the Author

RALPH DENYER was a vocalist and guitarist for Blonde on Blonde, a psychedelic rock band that formed in Newport, South Wales in 1967. The group disbanded in 1972.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; Rev Sub edition (October 20, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679742751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679742753
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.7 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (175 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. B. Vick on January 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
When I first started playing the guitar 2 decades ago, a friend had a copy of an earlier edition of this guide and he gave me the book to use while I was getting started. Using the book, and I mean really reading the book thru thoroughly, I learned a whole lot about the instrument itself and the music that could be produced from the guitar and that really helped my performance as I developed on the instrument.
The book begins with guitar innovators, those guitar players who have had a serious impact on the way the instrument is played, etc. This section was actually fun to read and was quite informative about several guitar players who had influenced my own playing.
The following two sections of the book cover acoustic and electric guitars. These sections detail how each instrument (acoustic and electric) are put together, how to set the action, the various types of each style of guitar, how pick-ups are put together, etc. This is a helpful and technical section which instructs the reader on the ins and outs of the make-up of his instrument.
From here, the book moves into actually playing the instrument. It begins with the beginner, teaching good practicing habits, what to practice, improving fingering, chord progressions, reading tablature, tuning, action, right and left-handed techniques, etc. Then this section moves into chords (with photos), three-chord theory, flatpicking and strumming and other various fingerstyles, barre chords, and even how to transpose songs. Inside this section there is also a sub-section on rhythm guitar, setting tempo, time signatures, using chord charts, time values, etc. Essentially everything you would need to know to be a well rounded guitar player is included (including slide guitar).
The final section deals with the maintenance of the guitar.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While refurbishing a used electric guitar (a Gibson Flying V), I needed circuit diagrams and a friend lent me his copy of The Guitar Handbook. After reading a few pages, I didn't want to give it back! The book's brilliance lies in its economical use of language, diagrams and photos. It's as though Ralph Denyer and his editors are telepathic; knowing exactly what the reader needs and wants to know about guitars and guitar playing. Every page is a gold mine, illuminating topics I thought would be boring -- for example, complex music theory. Truly inspirational, the book unveils the once-daunting mysteries of music, including technical vocabulary, and still manages to stay down to earth. Listen to this quote: "Many guitarists--especially those that are self-taught--are suspicious of scales and regard them as an unattractive and unnecessary discipline. This is untrue." I've been rocking for 20 years and now my 16-year-old daughter is teaching me to sight-read music! One word of advice: if you expect to keep your copy of The Guitar Handbook, don't lend it to a guitar player.
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Format: Paperback
Everyone here is giving five stars, but I recently bought this 1992 (revised) edition off amazon, replacing the previous edition that I had 20 years ago which was nicked by one of my friends.

If you really know music, you will see that there are now lots of editorial errors. for example, on the MODULATION page, it says:

"You could change straight from C to G, since the vertical columns show that G is both the dominant (V) in the key of C and the root (I) in the key of C and the sub-dominant (IV) in the key of G.."

I assure you that:

G is the dominant (V) in the key of C
but

G is not the root (I) in the key of C
and furthermore

G is not the sub-dominant (IV) in the key of G..

the author meant:

"You could change straight from C to G, since the vertical columns show that G is both the dominant (V) in the key of C and the root in the key of G.. and C is the sub-dominant in the key of G"

These errors are perhaps to be expected in our age of computer grammar check. If you know your chord theory you can sort that out with a red pen after scratching your head for a while, but if you don't, you are going to be lost.

I also find mislabeled chord diagrams like the seventh augmented fifth fingering on page 127. It says root note on the 5th string but the root is on the second (A) string, and the intervals are labeled upside down. from top 3rd,b7th,#5th,1st? No: 1st,#5th, 3rd, b7th.

What can I say? it is disappointing and again a beginner is going to be stuck here. Nevertheless it is and has always been a great book.

If you are a beginner and purchase it, just keep in mind that there are errors, but if you are buying this to replace your old copy, maybe better wait till a new edition comes out, and I hope the publisher doesn't make the cover any thinner.
6 Comments 65 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
This is probably the best overall book you will find about guitars. It covers quite a bit of material. The details about how a guitar works and how to maintain a guitar are the best I have ever personally read. For example, setting the scale length of a guitar, a very important part of getting a guitar to sound good, is covered in easy to understand terms. It helped me fix some minor tuning issues on my Stratocaster.

This is also an effective book if you are interested in buying a guitar. You will be able to identify problems with most guitars because you will know what to look for. For example, checking for a warped neck. There is a great two page section that gives you the basics about how to look for that kind of defect.

And don't let any of these other reviews convince you that there is not enough theory in here. Granted, if you are brand new to playing or music in general it probably won't make much sense and you will struggle. But if you understand some basic scale and chord structures this book will help you gain a better understanding of how it all works. Odds are that those who do not like the theory in this book either do not like the approach or didn't actually read the entire book.

This book will NOT make you sound like your favorite guitarist. All the great players are great because they practice and the greatest players just have the gift. So do not expect that out of any book or instructor.

Lastly, do not buy the hard cover edition. Get the soft cover/paperback edition. You will want to have this book in front of you when you are working on your guitar or playing it. The only thing that would make this book a 5 star is if you could get it in spiral bound format.
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