The pick of the bunch

There’s something indefinably magical about the intricate, chiming sounds of a finger-picked acoustic guitar.

It’s something I’d always longed to learn and yearned to do well, but it always seemed too far out of reach – both figuratively and, as far as my permanently tangled sausage-fingers are concerned, literally.

I’ll never be in the Tommy Emmanuel class, but I’m a little closer than before thanks to a few fantastic books courtesy of fingerstyle master Stuart Ryan and – something you can’t say about many guitar tuition books – I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun along the way.

Stuart Ryan’s book of Celtic fingerstyle arrangements, The Tradition

Besides being an enviably gifted acoustic and electric guitarist, Stuart’s a natural teacher, and this makes his books of acoustic guitar arrangements a must for players looking for a (relatively) painless entry to the world of fingerstyle guitar

I started with ‘The Tradition’ (available in physical or ebook forms), a collection of 11 relatively short but infinitely rewarding arrangements of Celtic tunes. Presented with immaculate attention to detail (fingerings for both hands are clearly noted throughout), the complexity of the pieces picks up gently throughout the book so that, with a reasonable amount of practice and patience, you’ll comfortably pick up the skills and gain the strengths needed to tackle the next tune.

They’re all a joy to play, with a nice variety of techniques sprinkled throughout to give you a firm foundation as you increase your fingerstyle skills.

Stuart’s next book, ‘The Heritage’, follows straight on from ‘The Tradition’ with a set of longer pieces gently raising the challenge. Like the first book, it’s paced perfectly to hone your skills without suddenly throwing in any frustrating curveballs – stick with it and you’ll find yourself improving steadily but markedly.

‘Acoustic Legends’ maintains the high standard, this time looking in detail at the acoustic styles of 10 great players – including George Harrison, Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen.

Just in time for Christmas, Stuart’s got ‘The Tradition 2’ on the way – really looking forward to getting my mitts on that one! To be honest, I can’t think of many guitar players – of whatever level – who wouldn’t be delighted if Santa left any one of Stuart’s books under the tree…

You can find out more about Stuart Ryan and check out some of the tunes featured in the books mentioned at Stuart’s website here.

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