Finally, after plugging away for 18 months on Barrett Tagliarino’s Guitar Fretboard Workbook, I’ve completed exercise #59, the last in the book (except for a “final project” he leaves you with at the end), I can report on my experience with it. I would say that thanks to this book, my guitar-playing has improved more in the last 18 months than it has in any comparable period since I bought my Sigma acoustic guitar in 1977. Speaking for myself, Mr. Tagliarino’s objective in writing this workbook—helping me gain much greater understanding and mastery of the guitar fretboard—has been achieved.
I’m a hobby guitarist who belongs in that vast category usually termed “intermediate”. My training on the guitar consists of periods of instruction with four different private teachers for periods of between a month and a year each, and whatever I was able to pick up from those few people I’ve played music with over the years. In this I’m probably like the great majority of guitarists, and my knowledge of the instrument is accordingly patchy. Indeed, my knowledge of music theory is probably better than most guitarists at my level of ability due to the fact that I had a friend who shared a lot of what he was learning when studying composition, plus I just like theory of any kind and seek it out.
Still, did I know exactly what an F-sharp minor 11th chord was, and could I construct it from scratch? Did I know exactly how to use the terms “major”, “minor”, “augmented”, and “diminished” in their various contexts? If I knew where the root note was on a string, could I quickly locate, say, the 6th for that scale? I can do those things now, and much else besides.
Of course, over the years I had learned to play many things up the neck of the guitar, and had learned many chords and some scales. But what this workbook does is to complete that knowledge gained piecemeal, render it systematic, and synthesize it into a unity.
As with any workbook, what you get out of it depends on what you’re willing to put into it. The author makes use of a teaching technique that he has developed over years of personal instruction. It involves reading, writing, speaking, and playing. You not only do written exercises, but you speak out loud what you’re learning, and you say it while you’re playing it as well. This multi-channeled learning approach causes you to advance faster.
I took my time, and would recommend that you do the same. When I found the content of a chapter to be new or overwhelming, I would stay with it and keep playing the exercises. It’s not about getting through the book, it’s about mastering the material; so be willing to paddle slowly.
I suppose my dominant impression of this book is that it filled in gaps in my knowledge. I knew quite a few of the things the author was teaching, so I was able to move through those more quickly. But even within those things I thought I knew there were gaps. I feel I have a much more seamless, complete knowledge of the instrument.
Does that mean I play like Mark Knopfler now? No. But I have a greater calm and confidence in what I’m doing. And I’m able to do things like notice, in another guitar songbook, that a chord marked as diminished is actually a diminished 7th. Holy crumbs—I’m becoming a musician!
Dollar for dollar, this is the best money I’ve ever spent on guitar instruction.