There’s no point in hiding it – I love Rock. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy other genres, but still – one of the reasons I started playing guitar is to be able to play the songs that I love, most of which could be considered as Rock, Blues-Rock, or Country-Rock and Rock-n-Roll. Therefore, in addition to music theory, sight reading, and more classical content, part of my guitar practice routine is to also give enough attention to improving my Rock skills.
On a mission to find the best Rock guitar book
If you’ve read some of my articles before you may have noticed that I just love guitar books. I think books are such a great way to learn new things, and their cost is negligible relative to their value. Of course, not all guitar books are great, but there are a few which really stand out. One of them is the Berklee book which I discussed at length already, but to be honest, as far as Rock music is concerned, it’s not the best book to get you up to speed quickly.
I’d been looking for a good guitar book that is 100% focused on teaching the unique techniques that are required for Rock – arpeggios, pentatonic licks, advanced string bending. But not only that. I was hoping to come across a teaching method that would be effective and fun, because many of the books and tutorials I’d come across were just too overwhelming or boring, with no clear guidance on how to take things step by step and keep myself motivated throughout the learning process. Until I found what I was looking for: Troy Nelson’s Guitar Aerobics.
A lick a day keeps the doctor away
The book’s subtitle is “A 52-Week, One-lick-per-day Workout Program for Developing, Improving and Maintaining Guitar Technique“. I think this is a fantastic concept. It’s easy to cover a ton of overwhelming content in a book and then avoid the obvious question – “Ok, how on earth does anyone go about absorbing all this information step be step”. But not this book. Troy Nelson did a great job here laying out a yearly plan with specific exercises for each day of the week. I don’t think it’s really mandatory to use it in such a strict way (I won’t tell anyone if you cheat – promise), but it really shows that a lot of thought has been put into making the exercises short enough and concise enough to make your learning very gradual so you don’t get demotivated.
So what do I love so much about this book? Well, as I alluded to, the book contains over 350 short licks. And when I say short, I mean one liners. Most of them are either directly tagged as “Rock licks”, or indirectly applicable to Rock (e.g. Arpeggios, Rhythm). Short licks are so powerful because you can memorize them quickly and stop bothering about the tabs or notes (the book includes both). Once memorized, you can focus solely on the playing part and I just love that concept. There is also a complementary audio track for each lick if you want to hear what it should sound like – very useful for advanced Rock techniques like string bending which are always tricky to express in musical notation.
An arsenal of Rock licks at your service
In Rock, licks are like short phrases or words, if you will, that you have to use in order to build more complex phrases, like solos. So another great thing about this book is that most of the licks are immediately applicable to your own playing. You can put them in your “bag of tricks” and use them when you’re improvising. You’ll also find out, as you make progress, that playing your favorite Rock songs becomes easier now that you’ve got many of the most common techniques already mastered. To be honest, some of the exercises in the book are so good they made me wish I’d found out about this book much earlier.
Part of the secret of this book is that every new lick is just a tiny bit more difficult (or different) than the previous one (or the one from the week before). This way, you make progress very gradually, with small increments each time around, which is very rewarding. With other books you quite often have to go back and re-learn stuff that you’ve already learned. With Guitar Aerobics you don’t have to, because progress is very linear and consistently so. I feel that this approach really maximizes the effectiveness of my practice time.
To summarize things, here is my advice to you – if you’re serious about improving your playing technique – get this book today. The cost if negligible compared to the value you’ll be getting out of it. You’ll thank me later, trust me. Especially if like me, you’ve been looking for that one book that will really get you covered in terms of playing Rock, getting those fundamental licks down, and help you memorize them efficiently for later use. This book will also keep you motivated during the process because you’ll constantly feel that you’re getting better (thanks to the small increments in difficulty across the book).