Berklee College of Music, the premier music college in the U.S. for students of popular music, uses a curriculum comprised of 10 guitar method books to move new guitar students from amateur to pro. Here’s what they use.
If you want to play commercial, popular music professionally, and you want to learn how in a university setting, Berklee’s where you go. They’ve turned out some famous names, like John Mayer, Steve Vai, and Kevin Eubanks. And they’ve turned out legions of lesser-known, yet highly accomplished working musicians.
Their guitar department is deep, and you can pursue many specializations, but the core guitar curriculum for incoming students is the William Leavitt guitar method.
The Leavitt method covers melody, rhythm, harmony, and includes example solos and duets. The method gets deep into all parts of guitar pedagogy, including:
- Melodic studies
- Chord and arpeggio studies
- Exercises for picking and fretting hands
- Chord Voicings
- Lots, lots more…
If you want a serious, organized, and proven curriculum for learning guitar, you can’t beat this series of books.
Berklee College of Music’s 10 Essential Guitar Books
1. A Modern Method for Guitar – Volume 1
A beginning-level book presenting a comprehensive range of guitar and music fundamentals, including:
- melodic studies
- chord and arpeggio studies
- special exercises for both hands
- accompaniment techniques
- a unique approach to voice leading using moveable chord forms
2. A Modern Method for Guitar – Volume 2
An intermediate level book that continues and builds upon the study of melody, scales, arpeggios, and chords, covering the entire fingerboard. This volume also addresses:
- chord voicings
- rhythm-guitar techniques
- play-along duets
3. A Modern Method for Guitar – Volume 3
Features advanced playing tips and techniques relating to scales, arpeggios, rhythm guitar, chord/scale relationship, chord construction (with special attention to the melodization of three note stuctures), and chord voicings.
A Modern Method for Guitar: 123 Complete
All three of the “Modern Method” books listed above have been compiled by Berklee Press into a single volume, titled “A Modern Method for Guitar: 123 Complete”.
While buying the books separately will cost about $50 on Amazon, this compilation is closer to $25. So it’s a worthwhile deal if you intend to purchase all three.
Buy the compilation on Amazon >>
4. Berklee Basic Guitar – Phase 1: Guitar Technique
Guitar technique and reading skills are developed through two-, three-, and four-part ensemble arrangements of both traditional and newly-composed music. To round out your training there is also an introduction to chord playing.
5. Berklee Basic Guitar – Phase 2: Guitar Technique
A continuation of Phase 1, this volume includes solo, two-part, and three-part ensemble arrangements of traditional and newly-composed music for beginning to intermediate students or classes. Skills are developed through delightful arrangements of music by Bach, Foster, Leavitt, Schumann, and others.
6. Reading Studies for Guitar: Positions One Through Seven and Multi-Position Studies in All Keys
A comprehensive approach to developing practical sight-reading skills for guitar. This collection of highly effective studies will greatly improve reading and technical ability, covering positions 1 through 7 in all keys. Also includes scales, arpeggios, written-out chords, and a variety of rhythms and time signatures.
7. Advanced Reading Studies for Guitar: Guitar Technique
For serious guitar students who want to sharpen their high register reading skills and take their playing to the next level. Building upon the fundamentals introduced in William Leavitt’s Reading Studies for Guitar, this workshop introduces studies in all keys, using positions eight through twelve, and utilizing all major, minor, and symmetric scales. Individual studies consist of scale passages, arpeggios, intervals, and notated chord sequencing in various time signatures.
8. Melodic Rhythms for Guitar
A thorough presentation of rhythms commonly found in contemporary music, including 68 harmonized melodies and 42 rhythm exercises.
9. Classical Studies for Pick-Style Guitar
Featuring over twenty compositions, this material is designed to acquaint intermediate to advanced pick-style guitarists with some of the excellent classical music that is adaptable to pick-style guitar. Features an outstanding collection of solos and duets, including pieces by Carcassi, Carulli, Sor, Bach, Paganini, Kreutzer, and Clementi.
10. A Modern Method for Guitar – Volume 1: Book/DVD-ROM Pack
This is actually a re-packaging of the first book on our list, but it includes a series of DVD lessons from Larry Baione, chair of Berklee’s guitar department.
If it seems intimidating to jump into a bunch of books with no human to guide you through, then this would be a great option to have a seasoned teacher visually get you up and running with the method.
Jazz Improvisation for Guitar: A Melodic Approach
by Garrison Fewell