As the title of the book says, "The Beatles For Acoustic Guitar", provides guitar transcriptions of songs in which the Beatles used acoustic guitar(s). In some cases, they also include electric parts, such as the solo for "Nowhere Man" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". This book is billed as having authentic transcriptions with notes and tab, and for the most part, it does. It's also important to point out, that this is the "Revised" edition, so be sure this is the copy you get as there apparently are some differences between this and the original edition put out in 1993(otherwise, why revise it). The book also includes the vocal(w/ lyrics), plus harmony parts. The book can be divided into primarily 3 parts:1.) Songs in which the acoustic guitar is used merely as an accompaniment or a strummed part to a song that also includes electric guitars, bass and drums and/or keyboards,and whatever else e.g.. "Nowhere Man", "Can't Buy Me Love", "While My Guitar...etc. 2.) Specific acoustic guitar parts,e.g. "Norwegian Wood".. that also exist as part of a larger ensemble, and 3.) solo accompaniment to a song, e.g. "Blackbird" and "Julia". In some cases their are more than one acoustic guitar part and the book does try to give you all the relevant parts,e.g. "And I Love Her". I'm also going to make some comparisons here, to Wolf Marshall's book, "The Best Of the Beatles For Acoustic Guitar", also a Hal Leonard publication, with a lot of the same songs transcribed and some that aren't.
Ok, we can cover 7 or 8 of these songs fairly quickly, in that they fall into the first category as songs with primarily "strummed" acoustic guitar parts. These songs include, "Can't Buy Me Love"(with elec. solo and elec. accomp.), "Bungalow Bill"( this one includes the flamenco guitar part heard at the beginning of the song)"Help!"(w/ descending elec. guitar part of the intro included and descending elec. parts in the chorus, but, they leave out one of the vcl. parts in the intro to 'Help!'; too bad),"Hey Jude", "I Should Have Known Better",(w/ elec. guit. accomp. and solo given with acoust. strumming pattern above), "Nowhere Man", with the strummed part(played by John) written out in music notation and tab as well as the elec. guitar fills and solo played by George,"Things We Said Today"(stummed and elec. accomp.) and "While My Guitar...", which includes the guitar solo played by Eric Clapton. As far as the acoustic guitar parts go in these songs, the rhythmic notation is usually given above the vcl. line with the chord changes, and chord diagrams sometimes given at the top of the page below the title. Why the editors do not put chord diagrams for every song I don't know. Perhaps once given they assume you can refer to a previous song, but that's inconvenient. They need to include them for every song. You can check the legend at the end of the book to understand how certain notational symbols are utilized for notation and tab e.g. note bending, grace notes etc. It is definitely a requirement that you know how to read music with this book, even with the tab, as the rhythmic figures are needed to execute the patterns. Unfortunately, they are not always given. The legend is ok as far as it goes, but you might need to augment it with another book on notation, that's up to you. Although the first reviewer seemed to do fine and he/she hadn't been playing that long, so use your best judgement. The strumming patterns notated above the songs just listed seem accurate enough as they convey the style and 'feel' of the songs. They could have gone a little further with the strumming rhythms on some songs like "For You Blue", which, after the intro only gives you John's slide part, but making no further indications for George'e strumming, which could have been helpful. Saying continue as w/ Rhy. 1 doesn't always get it. Some indications for pick direction would have been useful and articulation as well. It's important to remember that these parts are improvised to a degree and it's doubtful they would play these parts(strummed parts) exactly the same way every time. But, you've certainly got enough here to get the idea. And, you need to check for accuracy, as music printing often leads to mistakes, but, i don't think there is anything here that is terrible. And you need to make sure and check for capo placement.
The second catagory, deals with songs with specific ac. guitar parts as part of a larger ensemble. I'll list these and discuss one of them(Norwegian Wood):"Across The Univ..", "For You Blue", which includes George's acoustic guitar intro, and John's slide guitar part(see above). The slide part requires you to re-tune the guitar to a D7 chord, which is given above the beginning of the song along with chord diagrams for the slide part. Again, why they don't include chord diagrams for George's part is a mystery. Plus, "Girl", and "Here Comes The Sun",( I've played thru this and it is accurate, but I have one complaint; the ac. gtr. part for "Sun" is played out of a D position and capoed at the 7th fret, however, the music notation is in A, the actual sounding key of the song. I suggest transcribing this part in D, since that's how it's played, and then say capo 7th fret to get the sound George gets when he plays it. The book says capo 7th fret but notates it in A. Open position D, is clearer. See the Wolf Marshall book listed above, (where he does what I suggest.) Also "I Will"( very good),"I'm Looking Through You"(good), "If I Fell"(some pick directions here would have been helpful, but as long as you let the guitar ring, as they suggest, it should be ok, 'Long, Long, Long"(good),"Lovely Rita", "Michelle", very good(but make sure the capo's on the right fret), "Revolution"(from the 'White Album'), "Rocky Racoon", "Two Of Us", with both acou. gtr. parts and George's electric fills, "We Can Work It Out", and "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away", both faithfully transcribed. Unfortunately,"I've Just Seen A Face" was not included in this edition, which is too bad, but you can check it out in the 'Wolf Marshall" book, where it is accurately transcribed and discussed. "Norwegian Wood' is pretty faithfully transcribed, with sitar parts , but transcribed for ac. guitars( if ya' don't happen to have a sitar layin' about) and a 4th gtr. part for 12 string acoustic. There are hammer- ons in John's part which are shown and need to be executed, plus the combination of closed vs. open strings which adds to the exotic nature of the song have to come through. Again, this song should be played out of a D position, capoed at the 2nd fret. They tell you that, but the music notation is in E, the sung key. They say treat the tabbed notes as beginning on the 2nd fret as open position, but, why not just show it in open position to begin with, like they do in "Julia"? There is some pick directions indicated here, but they could have gone a little further with it, especially since the song is in 6/8 time and not the more trad. 4/4. Also, some accents,too, would help, as John uses a very aggressive strumming technique, which varies according to what and how he tends to emphasize. But, all in all, this is a good introduction to the song. It was the first song I learned to play many years ago and I still love to play and sing it. If you want a fuller sound, you can tune the low E string down a whole step to a D and play it that way. They don't tell you that, but, if you're playing it by yourself it helps fill out the sound.
The last category deals with songs where a solo guitar is used as accompaniment to the voice. These include, "Blackbird", "Her Majesty", "Julia" and "Yesterday"(sans string quartet). With the exception of "Julia", which is one of John's songs, this category is all Paul songs and they all use some type of fingerstyle technique. "Julia" uses what is commonly referred to as a "travis" picking pattern(after Merle Travis) that John learned from Donovan in Rishikesh, India. The transcription here is dead on, but you might want to look at the Wolf Marshall book for right hand fingering. The thumb part, w/ the travis style is meant to be steady and alternating. The downstemmed notes should be played with the thumb, and the upstemmed notes with the fingers, i=index, m=middle, r= ring(some call the ring finger 'a' for anular). I think they need to be clearer about how this pattern should be executed. I would play notes on the high E with the ring finger, notes on the B string with the middle finger and notes on G/w with the index. The thumb would play the notes on the D, A and low E strings. You can play it however it works for you, but, that's my suggestion. A true travis picking pattern would alternate the thumb on the E,A, & D strings with the middle and index fingers playing the notes on the G, B, & E strings. This means the middle finger would have to jump from the B string to the E string, when necessary. In other words a thumb and 2 finger technique vs. the thumb and 3 finger technique I suggested.
"Blackbird" is just about everyone's favorite Beatle acoustic guitar song and it is reflective of Paul's somewhat unorthodox yet beautifully executed technique. Again, I refer you to the Wolf Marshall book, which augments the faithful transcription given here, with some advice on one way to execute this part. The moving notes are played by plucking the bass notes(downstemmed)with the thumb and playing the notes on the B string,occaisionally the high E(upstemmed) with the middle finger as you move up or down the fingerboard and playing the open G string on the off beats with the index finger to create a subtle drone or pedal point to the accompaniment. Where he lands on a chord(e.g. when he slides to the 12th fret), those notes are strummed or 'brushed' lightly, with the fingertip of the index finger, [i], (fleshy part on the upstrokes, nail on the downstroke) with the bass note repeated with the thumb as indicated in the transcription. Be sure to repeat the bass notes on the strummed parts, as indicated. I actually use the thumb as part of the last upstroke, because that works for me, but, you can experiment to see what works for you. I've tried and did play this as entirely fingerpicked without the 'brush' or 'strumming' technique, but, realized you could get a fuller sound by strumming the chords where the rhythm indicates and it was easier to sing with as well. Paul actually uses only the thumb and first finger to play the guitar part. The thumb plays notes on the low E, A and G(off-beat pedal point), while the first finger plays notes on the B (and high E) and occaisionally the open G on the strums. You can check out any video where Paul plays "Blackbird" and watch how he executes it. The "Unplugged" for MTV in '92 is good, if you can find it(it's on youtube), but there are several examples, including the new video from CitiField in NYC from this summer. Also, the Wolf Marshall book comes with a cd that has a slowed down and at tempo demonstration to check out. The remaining songs here, "Her Majesty", "Rocky Racoon", "Mother Nature's Son" and "Yesterday" all use his basic technique or some variation of it. The key to "Yesterday" is to tune the guitar down a whole step and play the chords out of G major, which means you're actually in F major, the key Paul sings it in,(which they tell you to do and Paul tells George to do on the Anthology). Again, thumb on down stemmed notes and strumming on upper strings with plucked notes as indicated. This may take a little getting used to, to find the easiest way to articulate the plucked and strummed notes. You'll just have to work at it until it feels and sounds right, and this applies to any of the 'fingerstyle' songs here of Paul's. Whatever gets the sound you hear is what you're after, there are no absolutes with this. I've given a couple examples, including Paul's, but, it comes down to what works best for you to get the sound you hear on the recording.
Ok, I'm about done. Whew!!, I know. I believe this is a useful book for musicians wanting to delve into the acoustic guitar parts of these Beatle songs. The transcriptions here should allow you to perform, with some practice, what you are hearing from the recordings. Understand that there are 3 guitar players involved here: John, Paul and George, who all have different approaches to the acoustic guitar and there are different parts that are played with a pick('Norwegian Wood']John], 'Here Comes The Sun'[George] and fingerstyle('Blackbird'[Paul] and 'Julia'[John]. So, there's a lot to sort out. However, this book can save you the time from figuring this all out yourself. Especially, given that some of the parts are buried somewhat in the mix, and are being played with other acoustic parts. The new remasters should help this in that the acoustic tracks sound much clearer to me than before. I gave this book a four, with criticisms duly noted, especially related to consistency regarding transcriptions where the Beatles used a capo, putting in the chord diagrams for every song, and, putting in the rhythmic notation for the strummed parts of every song, not just some of them. I initially gave the Marshall book a three, but I think it's really more a 4 or 4 1/2. The two books overlap a lot, but, they do have some differences, so you might need both, that's up to you. 'I've Just Seen A Face', is one glaring omission from the REVISED edition discussed here. But, it's in the Marshall book, so, check it out there.