Rainbow Price: $49.95
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this CD-ROM product from eMedia. The program is so thorough and complete, with so many extras. It is designed for someone with no prior knowledge, and seems as though it would be extremely easy to pick up and begin with - very user friendly.
The program consists of six chapters, each divided into several lessons (165 in all). The first chapter starts out with the basics - how to use the various features of the program, types of guitars, stringing and tuning your guitar, finger positioning, chord reading. After you know all that, you get right into the music. You continue learning chords, which are clearly pictured and well described, with one accompanying song and/or exercise to practice. The chords used are always pictured on the same screen. As you learn more chords, the songs involve more chords and there are practice exercises for changing chords smoothly. After every few chords you learn, there is a quiz and an exercise incorporating them. As you get further into the course, there are lessons to educate you in other aspects of the guitar, such as accents, syncopation, double strumming, and notation. By the end of the sixth chapter, you will be able to play over 50 songs of varying styles, including hymns, blues, classics, rock, and other genres. Most of the songs in the lessons are classic examples, such as "Greensleeves," "Amazing Grace," and "Skip to My Lou," but there are a variety of other songs too, i.e. "Downtown Train," "Rock Steady," and "La Bamba."
As if these lessons don't sound wonderful enough, there are many additions worth mentioning. First, three different buttons are displayed on many of the screens. One is a picture of a video camera. When you click on this feature, a box pops up with the instructor and his guitar, and he talks and shows you what he is doing. This provides a helpful visual for some of the harder concepts, such as strumming, new chords, accents, and double strumming. Next, there is a button with a person shown speaking. Clicking this button allows you to hear the instructor offer short tips and practical suggestions. The last button is my favorite. The audio button appears by all of the songs and exercises. When you click this, the music is played through slowly so that you know what it sounds like and you can play along with it. The chords flash red as they are played so you can follow along. Sometimes the instructor suggests ways to embellish this feature, such as playing in rounds with the audio clip. Yet another added bonus is an animated fret. When you play the audio clip, a picture of the fret pops up, and the strings and fingers of the chords are highlighted as they are played so you can see what your fingers are supposed to be doing as you play. There is also a chord dictionary in case you want to see all of the chords or look up a particular one.
Also the program suggests list of songs that you can find on the internet at one site. Each time you learn some new chords, there will be a screen devoted to listing a collection of various songs using only those chords you've learned so far. There are so many additional songs here, I think this was one particularly good addition. If your computer has a microphone, other features will come in handy. You can play your guitar into your computer's microphone and it will record and play back the song so you can hear you play. A new instant feedback feature even highlights notes in green that you play correctly - as you play the song! The microphone will also allow the computer to help you with your tuning. An appendix at the end aids you in a further study of notes, sharps, key signatures, and other little tidbits of information. Is this great or what?
In summary, the sound quality is extremely good, very clear and easy to understand, and the lessons are incredibly simple and well laid out. The program is designed to use in lesson order, but someone who has some knowledge would be able to skip around and use a specific lesson to work on a practicing a particular skill. System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7, 16 MB of RAM and 40 MB of free hard disk space; Mac OSX 10.4 or later, 16 MB RAM, 83 MB of free disk space.