The Shearer Method Series Books 1-4
by Aaron Shearer, Thomas Kikta, and Alan Hirsh
Alfred Publishing, Released 2012-2019
I recently looked at Book 4 from this series and was very pleased to receive the complete set from the Aaron Shearer Foundation. I have used the old series for a long time, in particular the Classic Guitar Technique and Scale Pattern Studies but this new series by Aaron Shearer with videos by Thomas Kikta and compositions Alan Hirsh is at a whole new level. The first three books, written by Shearer, are a result of a lifetime of playing and teaching. Book 1 dates back to 2012 but with this year’s release of the new harmony book by Alan Hirsh, the set is even more complete.
This is the most comprehensive method series currently available for beginner to intermediate classical guitar. The books give you a combined 830 pages of advice, theory, exercises, repertoire, and more. Along with the new multimedia supplements, the Shearer method has reached the 21st Century!
What I like about the new series:
- Quicker integration of pieces and exercises embedded within the large amount of text. Text can bog down the learning experience so getting to actual playing faster is a big improvement here.
- Fully comprehensive, they skip nothing. This is good for some students and bad for others but teachers can easily decide/filter for the student.
- Use of the 4th finger on D and G on the top strings. This is essential for students because repertoire requires it and there’s always been a disconnect between method books and repertoire. The transition to repertoire will now be seamless.
- Tons of new educational and perfectly suited repertoire for students to learn various concepts
- Dynamics and musicality exercises early in the book.
- More duets – This is essential for a natural learning of rhythm and musicality. Also more fun to play with the teacher.
- More diagrams – Jazz books have long used diagrams to teach fingerboard knowledge but now we have them combined with reading notation all in one book. Best of both worlds.
- More music theory. Much more comprehensive and integrated into the series.
- Multimedia – The TNT2 Technology allows you to watch videos and listen to audio. The best part is your can speed up or slow down tempos, control the volume for the different tracks, hear only one part of the duets, turn the metronome on and off, loop sections and more.
Overall this is a great series with a modern approach but still includes all the wealth and content that we expect from the traditional Shearer materials. Each book provides vast amounts of content to work through a different aspect of classical guitar pedagogy. Any student who completes all four books is going to feel confident and secure in their skills (especially reading skills).
Criticism? It’s difficult to find fault in such a comprehensive and well structured series. That said, I’m not a huge fan of teaching through books with tons of text and explanation, it can sometimes be rigid and confining. But, for ages 13 and up I think it’s fine as long as there is a good teacher to simplify, filter, and add context to the information. It’s important to look at these books as an educational endeavour rather than a full curriculum. These are great to use during the first half of lessons and/or practice session while leaving the second half for special concert repertoire and fun projects that inspire the student. Books 1 and 2 do include sections titled “Repertoire from the Masters” (Carulli, Sor, Giuliani, Mertz etc), however, the majority of the works are original and concisely fit the educational goals. I’ve learned from teaching my own students that for the first few years it’s best to secure their technique before allowing too many technical oddities appear, that’s the problem with canonic repertoire. The pieces in this series offer the student an opportunity to secure their playing and become confident before diving into other repertoire. The series includes a ton of great pieces in various textures and styles. I still would have liked to see more repertoire from various eras to encourage historical awareness but you have to place this series in the context of actual learning. Use the books for half the session and the student will enjoy a wealth of knowledge, educational content, and some pretty great pieces as well.
An Overview (From the Publisher)
Book 1 – Classic Guitar Foundations – The Shearer Method Classic Guitar Foundations is the first in a series of works that define Aaron Shearer’s approach to playing the classic guitar. The work by this legendary figure, with videos by Thomas Kikta and compositions by Dr. Alan Hirsh, stands out in starting the student to read and play while following a graduated step-by-step curriculum that supports positive habits for efficient study. This innovative method is rooted in a common-sense approach and includes musical offerings in a rich variety of styles, sensitively composed to support technical development. Areas of focus include: optimal hand position, visualization, sympathetic motion, arpeggios, finger alternation, left-hand coordination, and chords. With 63 videos shot in high definition, 74 new solo and duet compositions and arrangements as well as works by Sor, Carcassi, Giuliani and more, 35 recorded tracks with TNT Technology plus the Shearer Online Supplement, Classic Guitar Foundations is not just a book but a media experience.
Book 2 – Classic Guitar Developments – The Shearer Method Classic Guitar Developments is the second in a series of works that define Aaron Shearer’s approach to playing the classic guitar. The work by this legendary figure, with videos by Thomas Kikta and compositions by Dr. Alan Hirsh, stands out in continuing the student’s journey to read and play while following a graduated step-by-step curriculum that supports positive habits for efficient study. This innovated method is rooted in a common-sense approach and includes musical offerings in a rich variety of styles, sensitively composed to support technical development. Areas of focus include: rest stroke, key signature reading, rhythm studies, arpeggios, barring, slurs, ornaments, warm-ups and chord studies. With 49 videos shot in high definition, 85 new solo and duet compositions and arrangements, as well as 16 additional works by Cutting, Sanz, Bach, Mertz and more, 47 recorded tracks with TNT2 technology plus the Shearer Online Supplement, Classic Guitar Developments is not just a book but a media experience.
Book 3 – Learning the Fingerboard – The Shearer Method Book 3-Learning the Fingerboard is the third in a series of works that define Aaron Shearer’s approach to playing the classic guitar. The work by this legendary figure, with videos and audio performances by Thomas Kikta and compositions by Dr. Alan Hirsh, stands out in continuing the student’s journey to now ascend the neck and develop instant recognition of the notes along the fingerboard, while following a graduated step-by-step curriculum that supports positive habits for efficient study. This innovative method is rooted in a common-sense approach and includes musical offerings in a rich variety of styles, sensitively composed to enable technical development. The student will ascend the fingerboard and learn to play in keys and positions through scale forms, harmony and graded musical applications. With videos shot in high definition, 87 new duet compositions, as well as repertoire of the masters including works by Telemann, C.P.E.Bach, Handel and more, all recorded to make 94 tracks with TNT2 technology plus the Shearer Online Supplement, Learning the Fingerboard is not just a book but a media experience.
Book 4 – Guitar Harmony – Guitar Harmony, by Alan Hirsh, is a unique guitar-centric approach, perfect for use in private lessons or the classroom. Students can begin any time, but foundations in technique and music reading are recommended. All concepts are applied directly on the guitar with musical examples taken from Sor, Caracssi, Carulli, and others. Progressively organized in 10 units, this easy-to-use method includes Building Blocks, Triads, Minor, Chord Progressions, Chord Voicings, Seventh Chords, Cadence and Phrases, Secondary Chords, Non-Chord Tones, and Harmonizing Melody.The book includes 9 Aural Training Modules as well as fingerboard interval and triad trainers found in the online supplement (password required). A practical approach to supplement any guitar study!
Shearer Foundation Summer School!
Also check out the Shearer Summer Institute from July 29 – August 4, 2019. Join the ASF with artist and teachers Martha Masters, Thomas Kikta, Kami Rowan, and Alan Hirsh in Zion National Park, for the 5th Annual Shearer Summer Institute. This coming summer marks the centennial of both Aaron Shearer and Zion National Park. In celebration, we’ll be holding special events inside the park.