Blues You Can Use – John Ganapes

This book was recommended to me by one of my guitar teachers. It was a supplementary and optional resource to our lessons. I remember getting through few pages and then I left it to collect dust. I can’t remember any reason why I didn’t study it further. I guess it was just another case of my lack in discipline.

The book contains 21 lesson. There is a musical piece with audio recording in every lesson. This is called a Study. On top of that, each lesson has a Scales section and a section for Chords and Progressions.

That being said, I think that the most stellar stuff in this book is written before we even get to the first lesson. The bottom half of the page 5 contains few fundamental tips and pieces of advice about practicing. These words of wisdom can be seen as obvious and anyone could react to them like “well, duh. Of course. Everybody knows that.” Understandable. However, I, for one, quite often don’t pay attention to these obvious things. I just kind of know them and store them somewhere deep in my mind. Somewhere, where I don’t visit often. That’s why I wrote down these tips for myself with a hope that I’ll take a look at them once a month or so.

  • Scales: the book teaches minor pentatonic, blues scale, and major pentatonic. In my opinion, Blues You Can Use really shines in the Scales section. The patterns of minor pentatonic scale are introduced one by one. Not all at once. Furthermore, once you learn first two patterns, the book instructs and shows how to connect them. Only after that you get to learn third pattern and how to connect it to the previous one. And so on. I think this is a great way to learn minor pentatonic fingerings over the whole neck without getting overwhelmed. Another cool thing is that book tells how to practice scales and includes different exercise ideas to practice them. This is a huge step up compared to other resources which bluntly state “practice scales”.
  • Chords and Progressions: the book teaches most important chords used in blues and few variations of the 12 bar blues progression. By the way, the chords used here aren’t only standard dominant 7th We get to explore few more colorful sounds.
  • Studies: Ok, I am basically a metal guitarist. This could be a reason behind my feelings that blues is grandpa music and I’ll be a blues player when I’ll have arthritis in my fingers. Meaning, I thought that blues is simple and untechnical music to play. Well, this book showed me just how foolish I really am. Let’s begin with saying that I was able to basically read through these musical pieces up to the lesson 8. It means that I felt like a superior being until I encountered the Study in lesson 9. From there, I had to work on every single one musical piece. Some were not so difficult to me but some simply kicked my ass and required a fair amount of effort to learn them and to play along the record. Even though I learned them all, I have to admit that I cheated here and there. To be precise, I used some slides instead of bends. Heck, there were some big and fast bends that I’m not used to. Actually, I don’t even bend that much in general so this book provided me with a nice opportunity to implement more bends into my playing. Anyway, I’d like to conclude that blues has its challenges. It is definitely not a music that requires no skills to play.

After all the nice things I said about Blues You Can Use, I have to state that I didn’t really learn that much from this book. It would have been a perfectly fitting resource at the time my teacher recommended it and I would have been benefited greatly from it. Anyway, I had fun playing these musical pieces. As stated previously, I also wrote down the tips given on fifth page. I value them more than anything in this book.

I think this is an awesome resource for people who already have some amount of dexterity in their fingers and are ready and willing to learn pentatonic scales and some blues. This book should suit a player who is somewhere between beginning guitar journey and having one year of experience under the belt. (Maybe up to two years of experience. It depends on few factors like seriousness, dedication, goals.)

All in all, I have only positive words about Blues You Can Use.