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There was a time when guitar lessons were conducted in a teacher’s house, and students were charged by the hour to run through “Greensleeves” while their every move was scrutinized. Not anymore. Thanks to the wealth of options opening up for learning the guitar from the comfort of your own home, those days are slowly receding into the annals of history. Gibson’s Learn and Master Guitar is a home-study course primarily contained on DVDs. You can use it to learn at your own pace, and at a fraction of the cost of private lessons. However, it can be hard to make the right choice as a beginner, because you have no way of knowing if something vital is missing. This review will help you determine if Learn and Master is the right course for you.
Gibson’s Learn and Master Guitar comes in three key parts; the DVDs, the CDs and the book. These all work to supplement each other throughout your learning, but essentially tie together so you can learn in a structured, linear fashion.
- 20 Instructional DVDs- The DVDs contain the real meat of the course. There are a total of 10 DVDs which contain the 20 lessons, all shot in HD and providing around 20 hours of instruction. There are also another 10 DVDs which contain companion workshops for each lesson. The lessons give you the raw knowledge you need, and then the workshops offer additional exercises you can do to master the techniques.
- 5 Jam-along CDs – You also get your hands on five jam-along CDs when you purchase Gibson’s Learn and Master Guitar. They have just under 100 tracks in total, and each one is a professional-quality recording made of real instruments, not a simulated concoction created by a computer program. The songs are played in slow, medium and fast speed, so you won’t be overwhelmed when you first start playing along. Jamming along to the CDs helps to improve your musical ear, gives you a chance to apply the lessons you learn and provides an avenue for showing off to your friends.
- Lesson Book – The book is the main companion to the DVD. If the video lessons were the only thing offered, you’d have to sit in front of your TV every time you wanted to practice. The book contains all of the exercises from the DVDs in print format, so you can use it as a reference if you just want a run-through of the exercises. It also contains useful things like chord charts for common chords, which are great for reference while you’re still learning. You also can download an additional 190 page ebook, which supplements the content included in the workshops.
The lessons are taught through DVD videos. They are high-quality, and use multiple camera angles to ensure you can always see what’s going on. Any notation you need is displayed on-screen, and the relevant pages in the book are referenced within the video. Although the lessons are around an hour long, the menu enables you to navigate to a specific section within one of them. This is helpful, because otherwise you’d have to trawl through content you’ve already watched to get onto a new section.
If you’re considering ordering the course, you should check out a sample lesson first. You can rest assured that you’ll be able to follow things easily, but it’s worth having a look at one to be sure you like the layout. Steve Krenz makes is a clear, entertaining and natural instructor, but again it’s worth checking to make sure you like his teaching style. Unlike subscription-based services, there is only one teacher, so if you don’t like him after you buy it you’re pretty much stuck.
The course builds the student up from the very beginning. The first lesson covers the absolute basics, like learning the names of the strings, tuning your instrument and playing your first notes and chords. The subsequent lessons build the student’s knowledge up gradually, going from simple melodies through to chords, and then moving on to more advanced techniques and genres. The course is designed for somebody who has never picked up a guitar before, and it guides learners through to an intermediate level.
Gibson’s Learn and Master Guitar has everything you need. After you’ve learned the very basics, the course focuses on simple techniques, gives you a good grounding in music theory and shows you new chords. The lessons initially focus on pairs of strings (e.g. “notes on the 1st and 2nd strings”), but in actuality the learning is focused on the theory concepts you learn in the process and how they relate to guitar playing. Don’t worry though; you don’t get thrown in the deep end straight away. All of this builds up from the absolute basics. By the time you reach a lesson, you will be ready for it.
For Intermediate and Advanced Players
Intermediate players are also catered for in the series. If you’ve just got a basic grasp of the instrument, Krenz will introduce you to strumming patterns, scales, more complex techniques and new styles of play. The course covers the blues, rock, country, jazz, fingerstyle, R&B, funk and classical, which is sufficient for most guitarists. There are lessons on lead play and rhythm play, and electric and acoustic guitars. Along the way you also learn a lot of useful information about guitars, although as this is done by Gibson it is slightly self-indulgent – you’ll learn what to look for in a guitar, but only get to look at Gibsons.
Although the course is great for beginners and has a lot to offer intermediate players, advanced players are better off getting something different. You might learn about some genres you aren’t too familiar with, and have a refresher session on some of the basics, but you won’t get too much out of it. Likewise, it might be beneficial for intermediate players to consider a course that would take them further with the instrument.
Ease of Use
The course is extremely easy to use. It’s all arranged for you, so you just follow the lessons through sequentially, and pick up wherever you left off. You can get by without using the book, but ideally you should have it with you as an additional reference when you learn. Needless to say, you won’t have any trouble navigating around the course or keeping up with what’s going on.
Community and Support
When you purchase Gibson’s Learn and Master Guitar, you get access to the student support forum, which is frequented by other learners, instructors and Steve Krenz himself. This means you can get any additional support you need if you’re having trouble with a particular lesson or technique. You can currently take a look at the forum for yourself, to see what it has to offer.
The course costs $149, which you can also pay in three separate installments if you prefer. It’s worth noting that this price is more than a year’s subscription to JamPlay, and only around $20 more than a year with Guitar Tricks. Both of these services offer a lot of content, so they’re worth checking out before you make a decision.
You can get your money back within 60 days if you aren’t satisfied. They don’t require an explanation, so if you aren’t happy with the course for any reason, you have around two months to get a full refund.
Gibson’s Learn and Master Guitar is undoubtedly the best DVD course available, and it is an excellent course for absolute beginners. It has less to offer more advanced players, but it can also serve as a great refresher course. Unfortunately, when compared to online, subscription-based websites it falls down because of the volume of content they can offer. You always have the same set of DVDs, but websites add new content by the month, and are similarly priced.