Richness of Content: Steve Krenz and Legacy Learning Systems aim to teach guitar players of all levels through this expanded, self-paced DVD lesson set. The Expanded Edition of Learn and Master Guitar comes with 20 DVDs, complete with the 10 DVDs of lessons from the original version, as well as bonus workshops for expanded practice on various areas of play, and jam-along tracks that allow you to practice with another musician. Everything comes housed in a nice binder package, and is very easy to store and take back out as you want to learn at your own pace.
The lessons work similarly to any other self-paced course or learn-at-home course, which is becoming more and more common with self-paced learning at traditional universities. First, you watch the lesson on the DVD, and then you try playing along to on-screen exercises, or working on exercises in the included lesson book. The pacing is good, and the DVD menus are very clear as to what lessons are available on each DVD.
The lesson book itself is not setup like a typical textbook. Rather it consists mostly of exercises and diagrams from the DVD lessons, but without the background explanation you get from watching the DVD's. This is still a helpful part of the system, but it's not meant as a replacement for watching the lessons themselves.
The bonus workshops are a nice touch; the original workshop lessons already helped to provide useful practice to your everyday routine. The bonus workshops take the lessons further, giving you an opportunity to stretch your knowledge of each key area. The Jam-Alongs are a fun touch; while some may find them cheesy, they are actually a great tool, and very similar to what should happen in a good guitar lesson. First an instructor shows you something and describes how it works, and its importance. Then, you try it and the instructor critiques you. Finally, the two of you actually play together, or you play to a recording or backing track, forcing you to think on your feet, and play at a useable tempo. This mimics that experience quite well. // 9
Style: While a DVD can never give you feedback on your playing or answer your questions, like what happens organically during a live guitar lesson, this is as close as it gets. The instructor has a friendly, straightforward approach and the on-screen lessons and diagrams are clear and concise. Further, course offers access to an Online support and networking forum, where you can post questions to Steve Krenz and other buyers of the course, which in essence gives you access to a virtual classroom. // 10
Overall Impression: The Learn and Master Guitar, Expanded Edition, is chock-full of lessons, practice workshops, and jam-alongs that really improve your knowledge, technical ability and timing as a guitar player. If you've never taken guitar lessons before, or never got that far with them, this series provides a strong, solid foundation for any musician to build upon.
I would have liked to see this progress to more difficult lessons, as a player with 5 or more dedicated years of experience may not find much new material here beyond any scales they might be lacking, or some good fundamental soloing techniques. That said, there always seems to be fundamentals that players skipped during their training, so there seems to be something for everyone here.
One thing that would have made the system easier to follow for an already-experienced musician would have been a Legend as to what lessons were available on what DVDs. I would rate myself an intermediate guitar player, so I know some of what's being taught, but not everything. I could not find an easy way to pick and choose lessons at whim, as the system seems to expect you to learn in chronological order. That said, this is only a one-time problem, as once you figure out where a good starting point is for your ability, you can proceed as normal from there.
A nice touch with the DVD lessons is that instead of showing a dry classroom setting, or an office or empty room, the lessons take place in a recording studio with a colorful ambience and lighting, which makes it more fun to watch the lessons. I remember a teacher who was key in making me stick with guitar in the early days, who had a comfortable place, with lots of cool gear sitting around, and who had successfully created an environment where I wanted to spend more time. This was that same type of thing.
Have you taught yourself a few things, but never got around to formal lessons? Do you have limited free time, and can only learn during odd hours? Would you rather learn at your own pace, tackling one lesson every few weeks or taking a bunch of lessons really quickly? If any of these sound like you, then Learn and Master Guitar is just what you need. // 8
- Shekhar Dhupelia (c) 2010