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The West Music Blog
The West Music Blog presents articles, press releases and other information of interest to our local and worldwide customers.

Blogs by Melissa Raap

Let’s Get “Classy”: Class Guitar Trends and Resources
By Melissa Raap
4/5/2011 3:36:00 PM  

Recently, I decided it would be a good idea to educate myself on the current trends and products available for class guitar, since this is an area that I am very unfamiliar with.  I was actually surprised by the variety of resources and books available for this subject!  I came across a couple of really great non-profit organizations that help teachers get started on teaching group guitar, and that also have many great free resources available for current teachers right on their websites.  Check them out at and

Many message boards that I looked at in the process of my research had posts from class guitar teachers saying that they are forced to use books meant for individual students, because there are no class/group guitar materials out there. This is simply not true! Yes, it is true that sometimes the books meant for individual guitar students (like the Hal Leonard Guitar Method or Essential Elements for Guitar) might be best-suited for a particular teacher and their class guitar group, but there are a wide variety of other materials available to choose from in the print music world. Below are just a few options take a look at.  We have some of these books in stock at our West Music locations, but if we don’t, we can always quickly and easily special order any these for you! Just stop into one of our retail locations and we’ll help you out with anything you need to get started!

Essential Elements for guitar

Hal Leonard Essential Elements for Guitar

Guitar Method 1Guitar Method 1

Jerry Snyders Guitar School

Jerry Snyder's Guitar School

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Tags: Melissa Raap, Guitars, Guitar, Guitar Class, Guitar Resources, Guitar Books, Classroom, Class, Hal Leonard, Alfred, Kjos, Melbay, Guitar Books, Guitar Resources, Classroom Resources, Classroom Books, Class Resources, Class Books
Categories: Classroom Furniture & Equipment, Guitars & Folk
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Top o’ the Mornin’ To Ya!: A Brief History of Irish Music
By Melissa Raap
2/16/2011 4:18:00 PM  

Irish music has always been an important part of both rural and urban life for the Irish people. Much of the music sounds the same today as it would have two hundred years ago. Irish music is a diverse genre of folk music which has many regional variations. Most traditional Irish music was written to be used for dancing, but there is a significant tradition of ballads as well.  Some of the traditional instruments used in Irish music include: fiddle, bodhran, wooden flute, tin whistle, and the Irish harp.  The accordion, guitar, banjo, and bouzouki (a large mandolin) are also quite common. These instruments have all become popular in Irish music within the last 100 years. 

The time signatures and styles of tunes commonly found in Irish music are: single jig (12/8 time), double jig (6/8 time), reel (4/4 time), hornpipe (swung 4/4 time), slip jig (9/8 time), and occasionally versions of polkas (2/4 time), and mazurkas or waltzes (3/4 time). All of these tune styles have corresponding traditional dances.

It is a common misconception that Irish music was hugely influential on American bluegrass music. These genres came from Appalachia, from which there was never a substantial amount of Irish immigration (most immigrants there were Ulster Scots: Scottish and English). Irish music did, however, have a significant influence on the 1960s folk revival. That influence went both ways - many American artists influenced Irish artists during this time period as well.  In the late 20th century, it was commonplace for young musicians to merge their traditional folk genres with rock and punk.  Irish musicians were at the forefront of these folk-rock pioneering groups. Irish punk groups like The Pogues and Flogging Molly have opened a window into Irish music for a new generation of fans.


Putumayo Kids

Putomayo Kids

Celtic music has long been known for both its danceable jigs and reels and its tranquil, beautiful melodies. For its latest release, Putumayo Kids focuses on the softer side of Celtic music, harvested from the rich musical traditions of Ireland, Scotland, eastern Canada and beyond. Celtic Dreamland features songs that are perfect for the slumbering child, meditating mom and dad or the weary worker desperate for a little quiet relaxation. The album joins the successful Dreamland series alongside Dreamland: World Lullabies and Soothing Sounds and Asian Dreamland. Click here for more information and sound samples!


Here at West Music, we recognize the importance of Irish and Celtic musical influence.  In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we have put together an awesome selection of Irish and Celtic music for you to experience and enjoy. We have music for all kinds of instruments: piano, guitar, band and orchestral instruments, tin whistles, and even for accordion! Come on in to your local store to see for yourself!  Here’s just a few of the great titles you’ll get to pick from:

Irish Whistle Book Irish Favorites Irish Songs for Guitar Irish Favorites for Accordion
Irish Pub Songs Favorite Celtic Songs Celtic Woman Celtic Dreamland

Historical and musical information was gathered from 

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Tags: Irish Music, Irish Folk Music, World Music, World Folk Music, Native Music, Bluegrass Music, Putomayo Kids, Celtic, Celtic Folk Music, Celtic Music
Categories: Guitars & Folk
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Links to Solo/Ensemble State Lists
By Melissa Raap
1/31/2011 4:56:00 PM  

Solo/Ensemble season is upon us yet again, as I am sure you are well aware.  Choosing a solo or ensemble piece to perform is sometimes difficult, and you might not know exactly where to start in your search.  Several states actually publish lists of pieces that are appropriate choices for contest, and these are great places to start looking.  Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas, and Florida are few of the larger, more popular lists. West Music carries some of the pieces on these lists, but there is no way we can carry them all---there are simply too many.  However, if you find a title on one of the lists that you like, we will gladly do our best to special order it for you. Just stop into your local West Music store, and one of our sales associates will assist you. Go ahead and follow these links to get some great ideas for solo/ensemble this year:





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Tags: Solo/Ensemble, Solo, Ensemble, Solo/Ensemble Season, Solo Season, Ensemble Season, Resources, Links, Music Resources, Music Links, Solo Resources, Solo Links, Ensemble Resources, Ensemble Links
Categories: Music, Books & Resources
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A New Method Series for all of the Skeptical Guitarists Out There…
By Melissa Raap
1/18/2011 2:57:00 PM  

West Music has decided to bring you a new and exciting option for learning to play the guitar.  Skeptical Guitarist is a great new method series by Bruce Emery from which you can learn to play: even if you know very little about music. This series utilizes tablature instead of the traditional notes on a staff, so anyone can learn to play quickly and easily. Not only is this series fantastic for beginners, but it’s great for seasoned players learning to play in specific styles, like blues or jazz. Even the guitar-heads here at West Music are excited about this one! You can find titles from this 11-book series at our stores in Coralville, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids/Marion, Quad Cities/Moline, and Ottumwa; you can read a little bit about three of the books in the series below. Happy strumming!

  1. Guitar From Scratch - The Streamlined Edition - This book is intended for guitar teachers and their students, in both group and private settings.  The information, condensed from other titles in the series, is presented here in a more direct manner with less detailed explanation.  The text has been stripped down to the essential information, so the teacher has room to put his or her own personal stamp on the material.  This book uses chord diagrams and tablature to get the student playing easy material ASAP: chords first, some strumming and finger picking, then on to melodies, bass lines and scales, and even introducing 12-Bar Blues and some basic blues improvisation.
  2. Guitar From Scratch - Guitar from Scratch is aimed at the rank beginner (you know who you are!). It’s all about chords: their individual personalities, the mechanics of playing them, and how they relate to other chords belonging to the same key. After getting the left hand (fretting hand) under control, we turn to the right hand to explore the easiest and most common strumming and finger picking patterns.  Even if you’ve been playing for a while, you might want to check out this one. 
  3. Blues Guitar From Scratch - This book starts off with how to play blues accompaniment, known as comping, by working the Blues Shuffle and Guitar Boogie patterns into the Twelve Bar Blues chord progression in the Keys of A and E.  Then it’s on to the use of the Minor Pentatonic Scale in blues lead playing, first in Open Position and then around the neck using five different Box Patterns, or pockets of notes, that follow the C-A-G-E-D System of chord and scale layout. The less commonly used Major Pentatonic scale is discussed and put into practice up the neck. Finally, we look at slide guitar technique, first in Standard Tuning, then in Open Tunings.

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Tags: guitar method, guitar book, Skeptical Guitarist, Bruce Emery
Categories: Guitars & Folk, Music, Books & Resources
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My Solo/Ensemble Piece Won’t Be Here On Time! What Can I Do?
By Melissa Raap
1/18/2011 2:49:00 PM  

Solo/Ensemble season is upon us once again!  This is a busy time for West Music, our vendors, and for you the customer as well as you prepare for contest.  This solo/ensemble season, your pieces might be scheduled to come in too late for contest.  We here at West Music don’t like this scenario any more than you do.   So, if this is the situation you run into this solo/ensemble season, here’s what we can do:

  1. West Music can figure out if your piece is backordered or permanently out-of-print
  2. If it’s backordered, ask your sales representative to get a Permission to Copy letter from the store Print Coordinator or from the Store Manager. This is the legal way to go about making a copy of a piece, so you can still play it at contest.
  3. If it’s permanently out-of-print, you will need to contact the vendor’s copyright department.  Due to copyright laws, we CAN NOT give permission to copy for these pieces.  Alfred and Hal Leonard both have links on their websites to fill out a form for permission to copy.  If your pieces are through different publishers, you will need to contact those publishers directly in order to get the form.  It usually takes 5 days to get a response, so please be aware of this when contacting any publisher.

So, if you are one of the few unlucky ones this season whose piece is backordered or out-of-print, now you will be able to say, “Hey, I read that blog!” breathe a sigh of relief, and know exactly what to do.

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Tags: Solo, Ensemble, Solo/Ensemble, Solo/Ensemble Season, West Music, Sheet Music, Printing Sheet Music, Sheet Music Guide, Sheet Music Help
Categories: Music, Books & Resources
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