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The Best Method Book

“What’s the best method book?”

I hear this question a lot. Of course you want the best one! You've just bought or rented your new instrument and you are SO EXCITED to play! You want to find the book that's going to turn you into a rock goddess, or a virtuosic soloist. There are so many books to choose from, but one of them MUST be the best, right? Well – sort of.

Fortunately, there is an easy answer, and it's always the same. The best method book is the one that YOU can learn from! Whether you're buying for yourself or for somebody else, having answers to a few simple questions will help make it easier to choose.


1. What's your learning style? How do you absorb information?

If you're a verbal person, you'll do well with lots of written content – many of the classic method books work this way, like the Suzuki string methods, or Mel Bay's First Lessons series.

Suzuki string methods and Mel Bay's First Lessons series

Check out the Suzuki string methods series here, and the Mel Bay's First Lessons series here!


Are you more visually-oriented? Do you find it useful to have lots of clear pictures & diagrams? Almost every instrument requires subtle adjustments to posture or hand position to ensure you're getting the best possible tone with the least chance of injury. It can be difficult to make sense of those on your own, but pictures can help. There are plenty of method books that provide a lot of visual information, like the Absolute Beginners series.

Absolute Beginners series

Check out the Absolute Beginners series here!


Maybe you're an aural learner? Or perhaps you love video tutorials? Streaming technology has made it easier than ever to include various types of media with your method books, with a download code or website access. Online tools like pdf worksheets, audio for demo or accompaniment, and video tutorials can make your learning process easier and more enjoyable. The new First 15 Lessons series makes excellent use of online tools to support your learning.

First 15 Lessons series

Check out the First 15 Lessons series here!


Some method books are designed especially for the self-taught. They tend to include plenty of extra media for demonstration and are written with the understanding that you may not have somebody on hand to explain things to you. The Play Today! or Teach Yourself to Play collections are ideal choices for beginners who don't have access to a teacher. They move at a steady pace and are careful to cover all the bases.

Play Today! collection and the Teach Yourself to Play collection

Check out the Play Today! collection here, and the Teach Yourself to Play collection here!


2. Do you have any previous musical experience?

Maybe you don't need a book that spends a lot of time on the early fundamentals – you've studied other instruments, or you took lessons or played in band as a kid and you want to get back into it. You're in a perfect position to take advantage of the I Used To Play or Restart series. With a quick refresher in basic theory & technique followed by lessons based on real songs that you already know, these are perfect for reminding your fingers where the notes are. You'll be back up to speed and ready for that open mic or jam session in no time.

Used To Play series and Restart series

Check out the Used To Play series here and Restart series here!


3. What kind of music do you want to play?

The methods we've covered so far will get you started in a general way, but maybe you already know that you're destined to be a shred master, or you're itching to join in with the weekly jazz jam. Maybe you've already got a handle on the basics and you're ready to dig deeper into a particular style. There are methods to cover the details of every style, from bebop to thrash metal. Check out something like the Beginning Jazz Keyboard method, or the Rockschool graded series.

Beginning Jazz Keyboard method books and the Rockschool graded series

Check out the Beginning Jazz Keyboard method books here, and the Rockschool graded series here!


Whatever level you're starting at, one important thing to remember is that playing music should be fun! It can be hard work, but if you never play anything but studies from a method book you're going to get pretty bored, pretty fast.

So whichever method book you decide on, make sure you also pick up a collection of music that you're excited to play! You'll want to make sure it's arranged for beginners – too difficult and you're likely to feel frustrated and discouraged – but that's no problem as there are hundreds to choose from! The First 50 Songs You Should Play series has a collection for all the major instruments, in almost every musical style. Or you can check out some other easy collections, like the 101 Songs books.  Wish you could play with a backing band? Check out one of the hundreds of play-along books available! These are artist and style collections (like this collection of all the hottest Pop & Country) that come with backing tracks, making you the star of your own show. Armed with the right method and one of these collections, you'll soon be playing all your favourite tunes.

First 50 Songs You Should Play series, the 101 Songs books, the Pop & Country Instrumental Solos collection

Check out the First 50 Songs You Should Play series here, the 101 Songs books here , the Pop & Country Instrumental Solos collection here, plus more play-along books here!


There's one other thing I always hear from customers looking for a method book. Usually, I will wind up our chat by asking if they're planning to take lessons, and they almost always answer - “I thought about it but there's no point yet, I'm going to teach myself for a while first and then maybe get some lessons later on...” It doesn't matter which instrument you're getting into, you are ALWAYS going to be better off if you spend some time with a teacher at the very beginning of your musical journey. Even if there was such a thing as a perfect method book, it could never take the place of real life, real time feedback from a skilled instructor. If you're only able to take one or two lessons to get you started, do it! The long-term benefits will be well worth the investment. There's probably a Long & McQuade near you with a lesson centre full of highly qualified teachers; they'll be delighted to get you started on your path to musical excellence.

So get out there, pick your method, play hard and have fun!


Long & McQuade offers a variety of lessons both online and in-person

Long & McQuade offers a variety of lessons both online and in-person. Click here to learn more about our lesson centres or to register for lessons today!


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Krista works at Long & McQuade in Vancouver, BC, and is a Print Music Buyer and Researcher.

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