Back in October of 2010, I was contacted by Hal Leonard — the largest music publisher in the world — to see if I’d be interested in writing and recording a “Girls’ Guitar Method” book and audio CD.
Now, the first thing that people ask me when I say I’ve written a guitar method book for girls, is, “What’s different about teaching GIRLS how to play the guitar?” This is a question I had to answer for myself before I started writing this book. As a dedicated feminist, I’ve always been a bit wary of anything musical that’s marketed specifically to girls (e.g., pink, flower-shaped guitars), so I thought long and hard about Hal Leonard’s offer.
I finally came to the conclusion that however much *I* had wanted to be just like the male guitar heroes I idolized, the truth of the matter is, MOST girls that I know and/or teach approach the guitar with an interest in playing songs and accompanying themselves while they sing. These girls pick up the guitar because they’d like to be (or be like) Taylor Swift, NOT like Jimmy Page. So I thought that a guitar book “for girls” should focus on information and skills that aspiring singer-songwriters want to learn (e.g., chords and songs, as opposed to scales or music theory).
When I examined other beginner guitar books on the market, including one specifically aimed at girls, I found no books specifically aimed at budding singer-songwriters. So my goal became to create the best guide to guitar playing that an aspiring singer-songwriter could find.
Now that I knew I wanted to focus on teaching chords and songs in my book, the question was: which songs?
Here’s where it got interesting. I decided to focus my book exclusively on songs that were made famous by female artists. This means that students immediately learn songs by amazing musicians such as Carole King, Alanis Morissette, ani difranco, Sheryl Crow, Faith Hill, Sarah McLachlan, Heart, Joan Jett, The Pretenders, Tracy Chapman, KT Tunstall and other badass ladies (including Ali Handal!).
So now I had a book full of chords and songs by cool female artists. What else could I do to make this book special for aspiring female singer-songwriters? I thought back to what it was like for me as a teenage girl learning how to play guitar. I was filled with self-doubt, worries, and insecurities that took me years to overcome. This book was my opportunity to share advice about what I’d learned through 15 years of trial and error that I WISH I’d been taught as a young guitarist.
I thought about the way I used to compare my image to that of my favorite rock stars (how come I could never get as skinny as my heroin addicted heroes?! How come I couldn’t reach a guitar slung low at my knees like my favorite rock star heroes?!)
So much self-doubt and insecurity! I sought to alleviate at least some of that in my book with encouragement, advice, and inspiring quotes from a wide variety of female musicians. I also included female rock stars’ quotes about practice habits, dedication, and perseverance.
And when I went to record the CD accompanying the book, I included both guitar and guitar-vocal tracks for each example, so students could hear what each song sounds like, both accompanied and unaccompanied.
In addition to scores of partial-song examples, I included five full-song acoustic recordings:
o Not A Pretty Girl (ani difranco)
o Angel (Sarah McLachlan)
o Mean (Taylor Swift)
o Beautiful (written by Linda Perry, made famous by Christina Aguilera)
o Birthday Boogaloo (written by me & Ernie Halter)
So if you’ve ever been curious to hear how I’d sing and play those songs, here’s your chance to hear it!
All in all, I’m extremely proud of this book & CD, and I hope that thousands of budding guitarists and singer-songwriters find it a valuable resource. Now that the book is written, I’m planning on supporting its release with workshops and performances around the country in music stores, music schools and the like. If you’d like me to come to your town, please email booking AT alihandal DOT com
Buy a Signed Copy of Guitar For Girls