Song Express has produced an entire series of instructional DVDs for guitar. Because the DVDs are nearly identical in sound and picture quality and contain some common additional features some portions of the reviews are identical. For further review of the DVD series, please refer back to the review of Austin Blues For Guitar Volume I
After an examination of various blues guitar styles in earlier volumes, Party Tunes For Guitar, Volume 1 takes the viewer out of the technical and into the fun! Of all the DVDs put out by SongXpress, this one is the best for beginners.. The songs included on the DVD are La Bamba, Louie Louie, Shout (immortalized in "Animal House") and Twist and Shout. All four songs are taught by the same instructor, Tommy Anthony. While not quite as good a teacher as his counterpart, Dan Warner, for the purposes of this DVD, he gets the job done. Again for each song, Anthony takes the viewer through tuning, the intro of the song, the main riffs and the verses of the songs. The DVD uses onscreen tablature to supplement Anthony's instruction and again his incremental approach to the songs, breaking them into parts, prevents the viewer from feeling too overwhelmed by the songs.
As with other volumes, once again the big question: does this DVD work? Here, the answer is almost unfalteringly yes! None of these songs are overly complex or require the kind of speed picking and precision that the Surf Guitar DVD required. While of the four songs, the viewer is likely to be the least satisfied with Shout, just because on its own, the guitar doesn't really convey the song, though it is pretty fun to play. The level of instruction is pretty good, although for one song, there was a somewhat lesser known chord which was widely used in the song but not explained. Nevertheless, for someone who has barely touched a guitar before, this is the one DVD in the series that may very have them doing decent renditions. Further, if one is willing to go through the video a couple times, this DVD puts these songs within the range of mastery. In addition, learning the songs along with the instructional DVD truly helped me learn to play the song using the right fingering techniques rather than what is easy or convenient. As I have stated before, overall, such development can and does inevitably carry over to other styles of guitar playing as well.
Like the other DVDs of this series, one of the best features of this DVD is that it offers, in effect, an instructor with infinite patience, as a viewer can go back again and again until they feel comfortable that they have gotten it right. The viewer is also aided by a DVD that is quite easy to navigate, as the viewer can go directly to the song of their choice and then to the opening, the intro, the main riff, and the performance section just by advancing the chapter. As a confidence builder, these features will allow a beginning guitar player to really get good at these songs and to learn the more complex parts with a couple extra run throughs that will allow the viewer to get all the way from start to finish on these songs.
Perhaps the least important feature of this DVD, the picture is presented in full screen projection. Neither the colors and texture of the picture nor the tablature on screen appears sharp and well defined, but this should not present any sort of impediment for the viewer who is simply seeking to learn a bit of surf guitar. There is some shimmer which occasionally occurs on screen and pixelation may be perceived as well.
The sound transfer on this DVD is in Dolby Digital 2.0. While one never feels surrounded by the music with which one is playing, the sound quality is sufficient to clearly hear the notes and any distinctions between them. While the sound quality of the DVD makes this a poor DVD to use to show off the clarity of one's home theater system, the sound is more than adequate to get the job done, and there is no need for adjustment of volume throughout the DVD, unless one wishes to turn down the song to hear their own playing.
The DVD does have a decent amount of supplemental materials, most of which are fairly useful, however most of them have previously appeared on other DVDs in this series. There is again a separate tuning section amongst the Special Features which contains a standard tuning of a guitar in which each properly tuned string is struck, allowing the viewer to adjust his strings until they sound identical. While this may not be the easiest way to tune one's guitar, (I recommend a small electric tuner), it does as good a job as can reasonably be expected, and can be helpful for anyone who simply wants to tune up their guitar. The DVD also contains a listing of additional instructional titles which are available, showcasing many different styles of guitar. In addition, the DVD contains drawn out chord patterns and tablature for each of the four songs as a ready reference for someone who simply wants a refresher or to practice proper chord formation. While these are nice to have, the chords and tablature appear so small on the screen that they can be difficult to rely upon.
There are three added instructional features on this DVD- the first being a run through of barre chords which previously appeared on the Surf Guitar DVD (running through the 96 available barre chords on the guitar, the instructor demonstrates how to do major chords minor chords diminished chords and seventh chords up and down the neck of the guitar); and the second, a run through of some regular guitar chords, using more complex finger patterns and wider variations. Finally, there is a fairly short section on fingerpicking styles that may be a bit difficult for both beginners and even intermediate players but will help to develop speed, accuracy and proper picking posture with repeated viewings- all essentials in the development of a guitar player. Actually, all three of these features serve to expend the repertoire of the guitar novice well, and are somewhat easy to follow.
While a more advanced guitar player is less likely to make great leaps forward with this DVD, all four songs are fun to play and this DVD can be a real confidence builder for those just learning to play. If one's guitar playing hasn't taken them to a level where they already know these songs, this is definitely worth checking out, but rent it if you can cause you will be cranking out a credible version of Louie Louie in no time!