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Comparison and Contrast of the Mel Bay and Hal Leonard Guitar Methods

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    As I continue to pursue towards my undergraduate degree in music education, I stumbled across Professor Kunkel and his Guitar class for music education majors. The material for the class includes an acoustic guitar and two method books for guitar. The first book given to us was Mel Bay’s Guitar Class Method Volume 1. The second book was Guitar Method Book 1 by Hal Leonard. Each book has many similarities and just as many or more differences. I will compare and contrast the direction Mel Bay and Hal Leonard intended for a beginning guitarist or guitar instructor should go.

    As I open Mel Bay’s book and begin to read there is a page that explains the purpose of the book itself. He makes it a point to let us know, before we delve into the fundamentals of guitar, that there is a creative side to playing the guitar that should be used a foundation as we begin to learn. On the next page he covers the different types of guitar. The guitars shown are the classic, standard folk, jumbo folk, 12-string, arch top, solid body electric, and acoustic electric. On the adjacent page each guitar is explained in great detail.

    In Hal Leonard’s book there is an immediate diagram of the steel string, nylon string, and electric guitars and the different parts of the guitar. Both books explain the different parts of the guitar but the Hal Leonard book gives you an explanation of 3 different types of guitar. Mel Bay’s book also introduces the different types of strings you should buy as well as which guitar is right for you. He makes sure that you are comfortable before you begin to learn. Hal Leonard doesn’t do much to introduce you to guitar.

    After teaching you the different parts he shows you playing position and then the very next page he covers musical symbols. Already I believe that Hal Leonard’s method book is intended for people who have some type of understanding of the guitar. Mel Bay’s book is strictly for beginners or a person who plans on teaching beginners. After the introductions to guitar we are now ready to get into the actually notes on the guitar. Mel Bay decides that chord strumming is how students should start off.

    There a couple diagrams explaining the first two chords he believes should be learned which are the G and D chords. Mel Bay frequents diagrams as each new chord is introduced to the student. Hal Leonard begins his book with teaching you the different notes you can play on each string all the way up to the 3rd fret. After learning the notes on each string then he begins to explain different chords. The difference between Hal Leonard’s chord section and Mel Bay’s is Hal Leonard explains how to switch from chord to chord.

    That is very important because I myself struggle at times switching from chord to chord. Each book frequents large print diagrams for each section allowing you or the student to never forget what you are working on. Hal Leonard’s edition of the Guitar Method is great for students who already have some experience with guitar. Once you open the book you are already expected to know proper technique when playing the guitar since there is nothing in the book that actually teaches you.

    It can still be considered a beginners book since the rhythms at the front of the book are simple and filled with slightly recognizable melodies. With that, it allows you to use your ear as well as what you know to get through each exercise. Mel Bay’s edition of the Guitar Method is good for students who are just learning to play guitar. Like mentioned before, he starts out by letting the student know that the guitar is intended to be an instrument played with a creative mind.

    That way it makes the new student feel at ease about learning a new instrument. From there is explains how to hold the instrument and the proper way to strike the strings when playing. This book also frequents large diagrams to keep you interested and to help you along the way. I would recommend both books to anyone planning to teach a guitar class. I personally prefer Mel Bay’s book because it acts as a guide through its entirety and allows you to feel comfortable when reading through the familiar melodies.

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