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My No-BS Sam Ash Music Institute Review:


If you want to improve your guitar skills and are a fan of learning online, I think you will probably find something you like at the Sam Ash Music Institute. It is called SAMI on the website and it is a large collection of online video guitar lessons taught by several different teachers. There are other sites on the web that have tons of lessons, but most of those require the student to search for the skill or style that he or she wants to learn. That whole approach can be pretty hit-or-miss and is likely to leave big holes in a musicianís education. The SAMI system is different because the first thing a new student does after registering for the course is fill out a skills survey. This is where you report the knowledge that you already have and decide what your goals as a guitarist are. SAMI takes the information you put in and develops a personalized step-by-step guitar course just for you.

The advantages of an approach like this should be obvious. You can skip over things you have already mastered and get right to the styles and methods you want to learn. You donít need to waste time going over boring exercises that are too easy for you. If you really want to be an acoustic player, you neednít spend a bunch of time learning about things like amps and pedals that are only of interest to an electric guy. I think there is still a pretty good possibility that you will miss out on some important skills, though, especially because your idea of ďmasteringĒ something like a pentatonic scale, for example, may not be the same as a professional musicianís concept of mastery. But, you are likely to find some worthwhile information at the SAMI site.

Basic Skills:
The guitar lessons at Sam Ash are high quality video presentations that demonstrate and explain a variety of guitar skills. The instructors at the site are available for live chats with their students and can offer suggestions and support for those who may be struggling. You can also get questions answered by calling the toll free hotline or sending an email. The ďheadĒ teacher is Rick Napolitano, a guitarist and instructor who has been offering online lessons since 1999. He says that he has seen a real growth in the number of people who are interested in learning guitar in recent years. Part of that may be due to the popularity of the Guitar Hero video game, and part of it is because of the wide availability of broadband connections these days, making video lessons a possibility.

SAMI has a stable of regular teachers that all have their own areas of expertise. Adam Ross is the expert on speed picking techniques, Don Lappin explains modes and how to use them, and covers a lot of necessary music theory as well. As a member of the institute you will also have access to full-length streaming video clinics taught by pros in all forms of guitar. You can find new mini-lessons on lots of different topics done by guest instructors that are posted several times a month on the website.

Styles Covered:
If you have a favorite style of guitar that you want to learn, you will find it at SAMI. Lessons are available in Blues, Rock, Metal, Jazz, Acoustic, Country, Ska, Funk, and many others. You will also find lessons that help you re-create the sounds and songs of your favorite artists. There is a whole section of the site that is searchable by artist, and contains hundreds of songs played in the most popular styles. From AC/DC to Van Halen, all the guitar players you admire are represented.

Bonus Items:
A SAMI membership gives you access to several cool online practice tools. The first is called the Jam Box, and it allows you to pick a style, key and tempo. The band starts to jam and you can jump in with your own licks and riffs. The site also offers a tuner that helps you get your guitar sounding its best. There is an online metronome that you can set at any speed to keep your rhythm steady and hear how fast a particular song should be played. The last aid is a chord and scale generator that will make old-fashioned chord books obsolete.

The folks at SAMI offer a free three-day membership to their site, which is probably long enough to get an idea of what kinds of things you can learn there. After the trial period, a membership is $29.95 a month and can be cancelled at any time. I think that itís a big disadvantage of the method that you have to practice in front of your computer all the time. After all, one of the best things about playing guitar is the fact that it is a portable instrument. But, if you want to learn from a lot of different teachers in a lot of different styles, the membership may be worth its price.


My top pick for guitar lessons, however, would have to be Learn and Master Guitar. It is a DVD series that is systematic and useful for all types of musicians. You donít have to do any searching because everything is laid out for you in an organized manner. Steve Krenz, the teacher, is adept at playing and teaching every style that you could want to learn, and you can be sure that you have not missed any fundamentals with this course.


To your success,

Crazy Dave


...I'm off to the Guitar Licks!


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