Guitar Hero 101

Andrew Leo Lovato’s love for the blues guitar dates to adolescence, when he checked out a Howlin’ Wolf album from the Santa Fe Public Library. He was intrigued by the name.

“I had no idea what sort of music was contained in those grooves, but when I heard it for the first time, my world changed,” he writes.

Now, in The Big Book of Blues Guitar: The History, the Greats, and How to Play (Terra Nova Books, 2019, 130 pages, $19.95), the professor of communications and music at Santa Fe Community College brings a patient teacher’s voice to teaching the craft to beginners. In the book, he moves fluidly between personal anecdotes, music history, and how-to lessons. He advises on how to choose a guitar, how often to change your strings, and how to tune, as well as other basics. The instructional chapters include sections on playing scales in different keys; techniques including the bend, the hammer-on, and the slide; and playing seventh chords, which he calls “the heart and soul of the sound we call the blues.”

Lovato is both challenging and supportive, such as in the “Guitar Musings” chapter, where he advises readers not to practice only what they already know well, but to work on pieces and skills that are difficult in order to both improve and avoid becoming bored.

“When you are a beginner, your progress can be dramatic, and exciting. However, as you improve, it will come more slowly, and you will have to try harder to see it. That’s just the way it is.”

The Big Book of Blues Guitar: The History, the Greats, and How to Play, by Andrew Leo Lovato, is available from terranovabooks .com.

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