eMedia Guitar Method v3.0

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, September 2004, send e-mail
Published by: eMedia Music Corporation, go to the web site
Requires: PC - Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, Me, XP, CD-ROM drive, sound card, VGA+ display, 16MB of free RAM, 22MB of free disk space; Mac - Power PC, Mac OS 7.5.3 or greater, built for Mac OS X, CD-ROM drive (1x or faster), 16MB of free RAM, 18MB of free disk space
MSRP: $59.95

eMedia Guitar Method v3.0 is a well designed guitar teaching method that allows just about any beginner to learn a llthebasicsoftheinstrument.The software includes 165 lessons covering basic fingering, scales and exercises, chord strumming, playing melodies, fingerpicking, general technique training, tuning and all of the fundamentals associated with guitar instruction. Seventy songs from a diverse range of sources are included and supplemented by 51 videos featuring instructor Kevin Garry, Ph.D. The package also includes an animated fretboard feature, multi-track audio and variable-speed MIDI tracks so that you can speed up or slow down the tempo of any song or exercise. An automatic tuner helps you interactively tune your guitar and a digital metronome, recorder, Internet song guide and 250 chord dictionary fill out the rest of the package.

I used to play guitar and I used to be pretty good. Made a few bucks with my voice too, years ago. Had a good band and made a tiny splash. Time however, catches up with everyone. I've been busy with a lot of things besides music over the past few, um, decades, and as a result my guitar chops (along with the keyboard chops and the pipes) have suffered dramatically. So when Dave Kurtiak at eMedia sent us Guitar Method v3.0 I actually sent it to my son for review (he of the budding professional music career: great band, great composer, good guitar player, terrific pipes, good pianist). But my son was too busy and basically told me to get off my sorry butt and take the lessons myself. So I did.

The process was (mostly) fun, although it seems to me that all this was a lot easier back in the 'day'. The software installed and ran well on my Pentium 4/2.8GHz computer (1GB RAM, lots of hard drive space, Sound Blaster Audigy 2 sound card, Klipsch speakers), which was nice but far less important than the old bugaboo of having to actually sit down on a regular schedule and practice, practice, practice. The fact that most of the song library consists of oldies but goodies didn't hurt. In fact, the library covers rock, blues, classical, country and folk, all of which is nicely recorded. Specifically, I found lots of old hits including Knockin' on Heaven's Door (Dylan), Little Red Rooster (Rolling Stones/Doors), Rock N' Me (Steve Miller Band), Dreamboat Annie (Heart), and a raft of modern and classical standards including Scarborough Fair, La Bamba, Midnight Special, Ode to Joy, Minuet, Greensleeves, House of the Rising Sun and dozens of others. Whether or not all this is in your particular strike zone is secondary to the fact that the selections, as in all music learning systems, are meant to provide a range of material that covers all of the fundamentals and general styles of guitar playing and music composition. Like any good teaching library, this one was chosen because large segments of the population are broadly familiar with most of the melodies. You do better with familiar melodies than with unfamiliar ones.

eMedia Guitar Method is organized into ten chapters. The software starts off with all of the basics from holding, stringing and tuning the guitar, progressing through single notes, chords and complete melodies to deeper technique and music reading. The full motion video totals about three hours altogether and you'll find that the accompanying fifty+ video instructions provide great support for every third or fourth lesson. It took me three months to get through all the lessons, grabbing time here and there during evenings and weekends. It was time well spent and it forced me to pick up the guitar again. I'm glad I did. The software worked well and rejuvenated my interest in guitar and music in general.

Cons: Some minor installation issues on an older Pentium II running Windows 98SE which were resolved by updating the audio and video drivers. Sometimes difficult to understand your progress over weeks and months of sessions with the software. Learning at your own pace is a two-edged sword because on one hand there is the relaxation that comes with a non-threatening approach to music education, and on the other hand there is the absence of any pressure from a live teacher which can often be useful. The animated fretboard feature is one of those things that's useful in concept but in execution isn't as helpful, the main reason being that the visual orientation of the image onscreen is never a duplicate your position, making it hard for many people to correctly orient their hands and fingers. You have to practice wherever your computer is located, so make sure you schedule practice time carefully.

Pros: Onscreen video instruction by guitar teaching expert Kevin Gary is excellent, and uses a friendly approach designed to get and keep your interest. Gary provides encouraging comments and performance tips and tricks which really help move your beginner te chniquealong.Builtinautomatic tuner and metronome functions are thoughtful and extremely useful. Beginners and perhaps even some intermediate level players who are self-taught can get a lot out of this software. The software includes a digital recorder which lets you record your efforts and play them all back for assessment. I really liked the choice of full audio or MIDI accompaniment because choosing MIDI also lets you speed up or slow down the tempo to suit your skill level. At this price, you get a comprehensive package for about the cost of two lessons from a real live teacher. Recommended.

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