One of the joys of reviewing is getting a look inside teacher’s brains, and it seems that Mr. Werner and I share a lot of similar ideas on guitar pedagogy. There’s not a lot of text in the method, but there is a lot of music (good sight reading material if you don’t need a beginner’s method!), and, as Mr. Werner states in the introduction, it’s not a self study method. The Guitar Victoria method is meant to be used with a teacher.
It’s All In the Music
The sad fact about modern guitar methods is that most of them have crap music. I was pleasantly surprised with the music in this book. It’s a good blend of pieces by the author (under a funny pseudonym) and classics by Sor, Carulli, and Mertz.
Many of the pieces are written as duos, giving the student ensemble experience and letting them play a cool sounding piece. In the later stages of the book a student would be able to play either part.
Incorporation of Expression Markings
Certain methods (Noad, for instance) are completely devoid of expression markings. Bradford incorporates dynamic and tempo alteration markings and phrasing slurs from the start. He does in a way similar to the approach I outlined here: drastically different dynamics back to back, then moving on to more subtle changes.
My critique only critique with regards to the expression markings is that I want more of them. Bradford does a great job of explaining phrasing slurs, but they aren’t used on pieces by Sor, et al. This would be an editorial decision obviously, and I can understand the arguments for not doing it: matter of taste, etc. But the instructive value of a student seeing phrasing and other expression indications in music that’s usually lacking it would be huge. Image if the same student, having studied the earlier pieces, was then asked to put her own phrasing and expression markings in the pieces! This would be solid preparation for marking up other 19C scores, and developing an interpretation.
Start on the Second String
One of the things I like the most about this method is its approach to teaching notes. Bradford begins with open strings, teaching alternation by bouncing back and forth between the strings. This is great for two reasons: (1) the student gets used to “correct” string crossings for alternation, and (2) the student can get experience with arpeggios. One of the things I do in my own teaching is emphasize arpeggio playing from the early stages.
Another bonus of beginning with lower strings is the compositional possibility of using pedal points in the upper voice and creating more modal, attractive sounds (see point one about interesting music!).
Verdict: Great Method
If you’re a teacher and need some fresh ideas, buy this book. If you’re a early intermediate player and need some sight reading material, buy this book. If you’re a beginner with some basic grasp on music and some technical proficiency, this book would be a great way to continue your study.
This is an outstanding and well thought out method with interesting music and a truly modern approach to guitar pedagogy.