eMedia Guitar Songs Vol. 1
When you have three people who all want to review a product, what can you do? Well, if you’re the publisher of My Mac Magazine, you let all three write a review and combine it into one big review. And why not, since that can only help you better decide if eMedia Guitar Songs Vol. 1 is something you want to spend your money on!
From beginner to pro: three reviewers!
For this review, John Nemerovski, Mike Gorman, and taking a break from the popular PC Weenies and writing his first ever review, Krishna Sadasivam, all write the review.
Mike is a new guitar player, Krishna is an intermediate player, and John is an old hand with an “axe.” What will each think of the product? Read on, and enjoy! (And let us know if you would like to see more reviews done in this way!)
We start with Mike Gorman, beginner player
My Mac Magazine
I ran out and bought a beautiful guitar about five years ago. It’s a 1970s Gibson Explorer with a nice cherry-wood starburst finish. I went for a Gibson, as it is the guitar of choice of all my rock-heroes (Al Jourgensen, James Hetfield, Angus Young…)
Beautiful guitar, it is. Unfortunately, it has a LOT of dust collecting on it right now. You see, I was convinced I was going to finally become that rock star I always dreamed of becoming, and so I bought an “axe” to go along with the whole vision I had thought up for myself. Problem with becoming a rock-god is that you have to actually LEARN to PLAY the guitar.
Now I’ve tried everything over the last few years to learn: I had a friend who CAN play try to teach me some songs, I bought numerous videos, cassettes, books, magazines, and everything else in between on the topic of learning how to play. After 5 years of frustration, I have just given up, and that beautiful axe is just collecting cobwebs in the corner of my studio.
Part of the problem is that I don’t have a whole lot of time to concentrate on fingering exercises and learning to read music. Another part is I’m so damn impatient and I want to be a rock star right NOW. Finally, not one of the guitar courses I bought really walked me through anything substantial, nor taught me enough each lesson to make me see improvement!
That was until I got a hold of eMedia’s Guitar Sons Vol. 1. Guitar Songs is an interactive CD-ROM that teaches guitar unlike any other tutorial I’ve seen. The CD is composed of a “Juke Box” containing 20 classic rock songs. You select which song you’d like to learn out of the “Juke Box.” Once a selection is made, Guitar Songs first talks you through the picking style of the song, gives a few tips and pointers, then you go over the major chords found in the song. The illustrations of each chord show the proper fingering.
The next window has the sheet music at the top of the window. On the bottom of the window is the neck of a guitar from YOUR vantage point (i.e., you are looking down on the neck from above, a great perspective for learning to play. It’s been hard for me to see what my video guitar teachers are doing when looking at them dead on.)
Ok, this is where Guitar Songs gets cool: click on the play button and the song starts playing through. While it plays, the notes on the sheet music light up IN REAL TIME as the song progresses. At the same time, the neck of the guitar lights up IN REAL TIME, to show you, note for note, the fingering of the song the entire way through. The fingering is color-coded for each of your fingers, and is very clear. It also shows you the proper direction to stroke each chord.
So after playing a few songs all the way through just to watch Guitar Songs do what it does (it’s very cool to watch!) I gave it a go. After a few hours of fun, I must conclude this: although this CD has some “beginner” songs on it, I think it is better categorized as an “intermediate” tutorial.
Don’t get me wrong… I was actually playing along with a few of the songs (heck, it even made Carlos Santana’s “Oye Como Va” seem like cake.) The problem is that all this CD can teach me is the 20 songs on the CD. You should understand that this Guitar Songs is simply a “Learn Hit Songs Easy” tutorial, and it doesn’t try to say it’s any different from that. Just can’t look to this for any long-term music theory lessons. Therefore it’s perfect for the intermediate guitarist who has the theory background, has done some major finger exercises, and now wants to PLAY.
In conclusion, I have to say this is an excellent, even incredible, product. In fact, I liked it so much, I am planning on buying eMedia’s other product, “Beginners Guitar” TK, so that I can grow into Guitar Songs Vol. 1 and then later you can all go see me play Giants Stadium (I plan on having Metallica open for me, so it should be a cool gig.)
The intermediate guitarist, Krishna M. Sadasivam
My Mac Magazine
Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Alvin Lee (of Ten Years After) are my three all-time favorite guitar heroes. In fact, it was shortly after discovering Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland” album that I began having the notion that I, too, should try my hand at learning to play the guitar.
Fast-forward 5 years later to the present. I’ve armed myself with a Fender Strat, an amp, and a few pedals. Disappointingly, I still can’t play anywhere close to the level my heroes could. Largely self-taught, I cut my teeth early on guitar tablature from various guitar magazines and the Internet. I’ve also tried guitar videos, and found them frustratingly difficult to follow. In my mind, there had to be a better method of learning songs. Enter eMedia’s Guitar Songs Vol. 1.
I was both very excited and skeptical about reviewing this product. After all, strong claims have been made by various guitar software developers that their product is “the ultimate tool” for mastering the guitar. Does this program live up to its claim as “the easiest way to learn hit songs?”
Guitar Songs Vol. 1 (henceforth GSv.1) comes with a CD-ROM and a set of instructions on how to install the product. Thankfully, installation onto my Power Computing PowerTower 180e was a breeze. Simply insert the disc into your CD-ROM and run the installer. You can launch the program from your hard drive, but the CD-ROM must be present in order to use the product.
Upon launching the program, the user is presented with a jukebox, containing 20 songs. Different genres are represented: rock, blues, country, folk, and classical. For the purpose of the review, I spent my time in the “rock” and “blues” sections.
GSv.1 includes a built-in tuner. It is highly recommended that you tune your guitar before playing along with the songs. If you aren’t comfortable with “tuning by ear”, use an electronic tuner.
Plug Your Ears!
Selecting the song from the jukebox allows the user to listen to the intro portion of the recorded track, with guitar, drums, bass and vocals. The user can then “go to song” to learn more about the track. Each track contains a picture and brief biography of the group/artist in question. This adds a nice touch, especially if the user is not familiar with the musicians. Next, chords for the song are given, in standard chord notation. I recommend that extreme beginners print out the chords to accompany the software and practice them before proceeding to the song. The “meat” of the track consists of the sheet music, with appropriate annotations indicating strumming technique and chord changes.
The real beauty of the program is the option to listen to the backing drums and bass accompaniments. Alternatively, you can listen to the full track (with vocals, guitar, and drums). When listening to either selection, the user is presented with a guitar neck on the bottom of the sheet music. The finger positions for the chords highlighted on the fretboard are displayed on this guitar. This allows you to look at the screen and play along, without having to have an extra piece of paper with the chords on it. As an intermediate player, I find this feature very helpful, especially on the harder (more obscure) chords.
The flow of the program is in a HyperCard, meaning you can go forward or backward between the various pages with no problems. Another handy feature is having the ability to record your playing. The amount of recording you can perform is limited to the amount of RAM in your system. Beginners might find the recording feature useful in reviewing their playing technique.
The program itself ran smoothly, with a slight (but annoying) skip when the CD-ROM accessed the next page of sheet music. This might be less so on systems equipped with faster CD-ROM drives (I have an 8X model).
Does the program perform as advertised? Yes (mostly). I don’t know if this is “the” easiest method to learn how to play a guitar, but it is definitely “one” of the easiest methods. The target audience for GSv.1 would be novice players that already have a few chords under their belt. Some of the songs are easy enough for a beginner to work on, but expect to log some serious hours practicing some of the other songs. The key to maximizing your potential out of this disc is to constantly practice with the songs. What this program will not do is the actual practicing itself. Fortunately, GSv.1 is a fun program to use. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some practicing to do!
And now, the Axe man himself, John Nemerovski!
My Mac Magazine
I have been playing and teaching guitar for 37 years now, which is longer than many of you readers have been alive. Learning guitar takes a mixture of talent and time to learn, by both traditional and new media methods.
My enthusiasm for the eMedia Guitar Songs CD is not as bubbly as is Mike’s hearty praise. I’ll explain.
The software installed easily on my 68k Performa, adding 18.5 MB to my hard disk. I printed out the Read Me two-page file, which was helpful. After a Restart, I launched the new application, with the CD providing most of the multimedia content.
A thorough Tutorial greeted me the first time using the program, with good text and pictures. The lessons included well-presented comprehensive basic guitar and music information. Newcomers to guitar should consider printing out these pages, and studying them away from the computer, in the company of their guitars.
I played around with the metronome and tuning features, and had problems with the former, which the Help menu’s advice did not solve. Many of the smaller windows only close with a mouse click, rather than with command-W from the keyboard.
The heart of this ambitious package is a bunch of songs; complete with sung lyrics, guitar, rhythm section, and both tablature and conventional musical notation. Each song begins with a fascinating description of its history, then a chart of the chords being used, and a tablature diagram of any special characteristics.
Navigational buttons allowed me to hear the song sung and played along with the “written” version and the moving keyboard. The concept is alluring, and made me want to investigate the earlier instructional CDs in the series.
The songs are broken into one-screen chunks, for ease of learning. I’m not sure if it’s me, my older computer, or the software, but I was not able to get the songs to flow from section to section. I became frustrated, and should probably make a fresh start with a G3, right, Mike?
Navigation throughout the entire application was difficult for me to grasp. The Help contents were extensive, but sometimes did not open the correct item. Overall, I missed the “browser” aspect that so many newer programs utilize. I suppose I could have endured most of these inconveniences, but I never would have been able to learn any of the songs.
I urge the eMedia Corporation to continue producing high-quality instructional media, but ask them to test everything on older, slower computers, using older, slower musical Macintoshers.
MacMice Rating: 4