capsule review

Blues Guitar Legends

If you've ever watched late-night TV, you've probably seen Peter "Show Me The Way" Frampton hawking eMedia's Guitar Method. And although Blues Guitar Legends doesn't have its own inspiring infomercial, that doesn't make the program any less cool.

Pain in My Heart

Blues Guitar Legends is a stand-alone program that teaches you how to play classic blues tracks from such legends as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, and the Allman Brothers, all the way up to relative newcomers such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Robert Cray, and Jonny Lang.

For each song, you get a brief biography of the artist and a lesson on what you need to know -- either the chords used in the simplified version or the scales used in the advanced version (viewable as both musical notation and tablature). These features are great for learning the particular techniques used in each song.

As any experienced player will tell you, however, learning someone else's licks is only a small part of becoming a good blues guitarist. Unfortunately, Blues Guitar Legends doesn't teach you much about the musical theory behind the blues -- or even how to move the various scales up and down the neck. So, you might learn how to play a particular song, but don't expect to join any late-night jam sessions.

Go, Johnny Go!

Blues Guitar Legends provides an animated standard fret board (viewable as left-handed or with upside tuning) that shows the proper fingering, including bends and hammer-ons -- even Duane Allman's slide in Statesboro Blues moves in time to the music. Because the program includes MIDI files of all the parts, you can slow down or even loop tricky sections until you get the hang of them.

And unlike eMedia's other CDs, this one also contains the original recordings, so you can play along with your favorite artists (or just listen to the music on any CD player). As an added bonus, if you own the Pod, an amp and effects modeler by Line 6 ( www.line6.com ), you can follow the included settings for each song to mimic the guitar sounds of these masters -- all with reasonable accuracy.

Some songs, such as Stevie Ray Vaughn's Crossfire , feature lowered or dropped tunings (other than the standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning). Although the program explains how to do this, it doesn't tell you why an artist might choose to tune a guitar this way. Though it might make the song harder to play, it would be nice if the program would transcribe the songs for you -- which would avoid your having to change the tuning on your guitar to get the chords to sound in tune. To help perfect your technique, the program includes a metronome and record-and-playback functions. There's also a tuner that works with a microphone. When tuning by ear, however, it doesn't provide a continuous tone -- you have to hit the button for the note you want again and again.

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