Voggenreiter Books For Musicians
YOU MAY NOT KNOW THIS, but publishing books for musicians is an industry dominated by two or three companies. Their books are sold all over the world to musicians of all kinds: beginners to has-beens, harmonica buffs to techno-boffins.
But although, between them, these companies manage to offer a creditably wide range of titles, many of them are presented in the same - rather dull - format. So though they may contain a lot of useful information, they aren't always as easy as 'Janet & John' to dip into of an evening.
Enter a small but successful West German publishing company by the name of Voggenreiter. Compared with the multi-nationals they are tiny, but their catalogue is growing all the time, and their approach to book packaging is novel (no pun intended). They have just started publishing English translations of some of their most successful titles, and it seems all new titles will appear in both German and English editions.
A couple of Voggenreiter's latest books fell on my desk the other week. The first of them, 'Heavy Metal Guitar', is, as you'd probably expect, an introduction to Heavy Metal guitar playing. Beneath its condescending jacket notes and its utterly dreadful cover graphics, it's a gem of a book for any ambitious axe-thrasher struggling to play much louder than George Formby.
Not that playing loud is the main thrust of 'Heavy Metal Guitar'. After all, any idiot can turn an amplifier's volume up, and almost any idiot can destroy a perfectly good speaker shortly afterwards. No. The main point about this book is that it teaches you the basics of "the Heavy Metal sound" in terms of notes, rather than volume. That said, there are no notes in the book at all, in the sense that conventional musical notation gives way to TAB and chord boxes throughout - which many inexperienced guitarists find easier to get to grips with than all those dots, dashes, and quivery bits.
The book is split into three sections, and the first of these deals with HM guitar basics like equipment, tuning-up, simple rhythms, and the whammy-bar. Then it's onto the second section and a blockhead's guide to the various sounds and techniques employed by the Masters of Metal: AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Kiss, Iron Maiden, and the rest. Among the useful tricks discussed here are muting the bass strings, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and tapping. The final section covers the all-important question of how fast you can play your newly acquired techniques, though it does remind you that in Heavy Metal, as in most other styles of music, speed is no substitute for feeling or "musicality". Also included at the book's tail-end are some helpful bits and pieces on forming a band, home recording, practising parts from other people's records, and generally taking steps in the direction of Metal Megastardom.
Accompanying 'Heavy Metal Guitar' is a flexi-disc of some of the exercises, all recorded on basic equipment and eminently copyable - though as the book points out, it helps if you record the disc's contents onto a cassette so that you can play the pieces over and over again with the minimum of hassle. Alternatively, you could take advantage of a ready-made cassette which is offered at extra cost by Voggenreiter - this contains full-length versions of the exercises on the disc.
'Heavy Metal Guitar' is about as down-to-earth a tutor book as you'll find, and if you can get your mind round the dodgy graphics and occasionally patronising English (though I suspect the latter is more a result of cack-handed translation than anything else), you can't fail to get something valuable out of it.
Much the same can be said of '1000 Keyboard Tips', which at 256 pages made about twice as big a dent on my desk as 'Heavy Metal Guitar'. This massive book is intended to be almost all things to all keyboard players, so if you're a concert pianist anxious to investigate rock riffs or a computer whizz keen to discover exactly what MIDI is all about, or anything in between, you should find something of interest.
Here's just a sample of the topics covered: key signatures, major and minor chords, harmonies, Latin rhythms, blues scales, arpeggios, composition, MIDI master keyboards, and improvisation. There's even a "keyboard dictionary" listing everything from adagio to white noise.
Sadly, '1000 Keyboard Tips' has a bit of a jack-of-all-trades feel to it. True, the information is all there, but packing so many little gems of knowledge into such a small space (and believe me, 256 pages is small for all this lot) means the book's presentation, one of the friendliest aspects of 'Heavy Metal Guitar', inevitably suffers. If you know what you're looking for, fine. But as an all-purpose keyboardist's encyclopaedia that's fun to browse through when 'The Match' reaches the half-time interval, '1000 Keyboard Tips' doesn't quite cut it.
I like these Voggenreiter books, though. They're friendly, rootsy, freshly packaged, and never incomprehensible. Bit like PHAZE 1, really.
INFO: International Music Book Distributors, (Contact Details)
Review by Dan Goldstein
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!