Review: Essential Fretboard from StevieSnacks.com

Anthony Stauffer of StevieSnacks.com has been providing free blues guitar lessons in the style of Stevie Ray Vaughan since 2007. He started out by providing free lessons on YouTube and later progressed to providing premium guitar lessons that cover a number of specific topics related to playing Texas-style electric blues. For example, his most recently released premium lesson series covers the techniques employed by one of Stevie’s greatest influences, Albert King. Some of Anthony’s other lesson series include Essential Fretboard, Essential Theory, The 5 Essential Blues Boxes, 5 Boxes Essential Licks, Essential Techniques, among others.

A hallmark of each of these lesson series is Anthony’s attention to detail and quality. It’s clear that he has put a lot of time into designing and creating these lessons. I don’t know about you, but I’ve purchased a number of lesson DVDs that appear to be nothing more than an artist sitting in a room playing while someone else comes in later to transcribe it with no real thought to how the lessons are laid out. Watching the artist play can be fun, and maybe you can get some licks out of it, but it really doesn’t qualify as instruction, in my opinion. Anthony’s lessons are the opposite of that. They are clearly thought out to cover the topics within each series without a whole lot of unnecessary fluff.

The series I want to focus on in this review is Essential Fretboard. In this series, Anthony provides a roadmap for beginning blues guitarists learning the fretboard. Basically, this series provides a fretboard map that illustrates the essential chords and soloing shapes for playing blues and blues-based music. If you’ve been playing blues-based music for a while, then much of what’s included here will be review; this lesson series is intended for beginning-to-intermediate-level guitarists. However, I think this lesson series includes a lot of great information for those new to playing blues music.

The Essential Fretboard series includes thirteen separate video lessons, broken down as follows:

1. Introduction
2. Building the Fretboard Map
3. E Form Bar Chords
4. A Form Bar Chords
5. Partial G Form Chords
6. The 5 Essential Boxes
7. Backdoor Pattern
8. Sliding Box 1
9. Triangles
10. 7th Chords
11. 9th Chords
12. Shuffle Patterns
13. Putting It All Together

The lessons are, for the most part, delivered in three distinct sections: theoretical illustration, practical demonstration, and exercises. In the beginning of each lesson, Anthony discusses the theoretical application of the concepts, but this doesn’t mean that he introduces a lot of music theory (this is a good thing). After illustrating what the lesson is about, he shows you what he is talking about by demonstrating the concepts on the guitar. He follows this in most lessons with some exercises that you can follow to apply the principles that he has taught in the lesson.

In addition to the video lessons, there are several supplemental materials. Backing tracks are included so that you can play along with the examples. Additionally, Anthony has included PDF files containing tabbed exercises and diagrams of the fretboard.

I really like Anthony’s teaching style. He is thorough enough to cover the concepts that he is teaching, but does not get mired down in the technical details like some other teachers can do. And, because Anthony plays and enjoys the style of music that he’s teaching, you can get a real sense that he’s enjoying himself in the videos, which makes for a more relaxed and enjoyable video.

I’d also like to point out a little something that isn’t necessarily related to the lessons directly, but which I think is almost equally important. You’ve probably seen other online teachers that try to sell you the “secrets of the pros” or some snake oil that will magically make you a better player. I’ve visited those types of sites before, and I always feel like I need a shower afterwards. Anthony doesn’t do that, and I appreciate that. Instead, Anthony’s site is geared simply towards providing information about his lessons and highlighting the latest free lessons. He even provides a flowchart to help you figure out which lesson series is right for you.

Over the years, I’ve taken a number of different types of lessons, including in-person lessons, lessons from books, and video-based lessons. While in-person lessons will give you the most feedback, I’m coming around to really liking video-based lessons. I’m more of a visual learner, and it’s nice to be able to rewind a lesson to revisit a particularly tough section. Fortunately, we live in an age where video-based instruction is as easy as opening up YouTube and typing “guitar lesson.”

Of the myriad online guitar lessons that are available, Anthony’s lessons at StevieSnacks.com are some of my favorite due to his approachable teaching style and well-thought-out lessons. If you’re looking to learn SRV-style blues guitar, I highly recommend Anthony’s lessons. If you’re just getting started with learning blues guitar, then I can specifically recommend Anthony’s Essential Fretboard series. You can view details about the Essential Fretboard series on StevieSnacks.com, as well as view some sample videos to see if the lesson series is right for you.

Comments

  1. Chad says

    Hey, Josh. Thanks for posting about these awesome lessons. Anthony is a top-shelf guy, teacher and player in the SRV style. I have played air-guitar for as long as I can remember (at least the past 30 years) and just last year finally got serious about learning the real thing. Just like I like to cook the food I like to eat, I have always wanted to learn to play the same music on the guitar that I like to listen to. Anthony’s lessons do just that–they’re great. I bought the Essential Fretboard series and the Basic 12 Bar Blues series. They are both excellent lesson series and I recommend the Essential Fretboard first, then moving to the 12 Bar Blues series.

    Another cool feature of his series (at least the two series I have) is the link he sends you when you first order them (prior to the DVDs arriving, which arrived lickity-split anyway). He gives you a link to download all of the videos right to your iTunes library, which I did and now have all of them on both my desktop and iPad to watch when I’m traveling or not able to load the DVDs in any player.

    Specific to the 12 Bar Blues series, I love how simple he makes it (because it actually is a quite simple way to play some great music). I have taken 7+ years of piano and have at least a dozen different so-called “12 Bar Blues” books, etc. I’m certainly not a music major by any stretch, but none of the other sources I’ve found get anywhere close to the simplicity, enjoyment and clarity that Anthony shows in the 12 Bar Blues series. I was playing well-timed shuffles and other moves in the 12 bar system in less than 30 minutes–no kidding.

    The Essential Fretboard series is a great foundation to learn the geometry of the fretboard in a visual/audible way, full stop. It’s simple, repeatable and, most importantly, fun. Learning blues guitar is not work or labor under Anthony’s system and, no, I have not been paid to say any of this and I don’t know you (or Anthony) except via this blog and his website.

    He nailed it and I’m very glad you posted about him and his series. The free online stuff is great, his reviews are great and his pay-to-play DVDs are even better. Anthony is a true gift to aspiring players.

  2. Josh says

    Chad, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad that you found Anthony’s videos as useful as I have.

    “It’s simple, repeatable and, most importantly, fun.” – I agree, and that’s a good, succinct way to summarize why I like Anthony’s lessons.

  3. Jose says

    I have taken a private lesson with Anthony and he is top notch. Great guy, great lessons. I always look forward to his new lesson series. It’s great to see this review, his lessons have transformed my playing.

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