Playing Guitar like a Pro: Lead, Solo, and Group Performance

Course No. 7800
Professor Colin McAllister, D.M.A.
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
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79% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 7800
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Learn practical music theory, including sight reading and tablature
  • numbers Study and practice the signature techniques of over a dozen guitarists whose styles have shaped guitar music over the decades
  • numbers Don't just play-perform, with the exclusive backing tracks for several lessons
  • numbers Hear the stories behind the great guitarists and understand why they have become so influential
  • numbers Gain valuable insight into musical genres and what defines them

Course Overview

Musicians have been performing for the public since time immemorial, inspiring people all over the world with their creativity, knowledge of theory, and subtle nuances that set them apart from the crowd. Embark on a wondrous trek around the world, through time, and into the hottest musical scenes in the last 100 years as you open your eyes and ears to the magic of playing guitar like a master.

This course provides a treasure trove of knowledge for both the guitarist and the music enthusiast who’s never picked up an axe. Dive in and learn the storied history of this diverse catalog of virtuosos onstage and off. Unearth the secrets of some of the world’s most influential rockers, including Eric Clapton and David Gilmour; then bone up on jazz pioneers like Django Reinhardt and Antonio Carlos Jobim. From the origins of bluegrass to the rich sounds of Joni Mitchell, explore over a century of music from artists spanning the globe. Whether you are a musician looking to play like the greats or a music fan wanting to enrich your experience of favorite performers and songs, you will treasure the experience of Playing Guitar like a Pro, and you’ll hear your favorite bands in a whole new light.

Hone Your Guitar Skills

No matter your preferred genre or skill level, Dr. McAllister has you covered. Adopt intermediate-level techniques like right-hand arpeggios, crosspicking, slurring, funk-style chord strumming, and slapping harmonics, and improvise them over the provided backing music tracks to truly make them your own. This course hands you a substantial toolbox full of ways to improve your rehearsals, live shows, and in-studio recordings.

As he walks you through each of the vital performing techniques in the course, Dr. McAllister makes use of several learning methods to ensure that you absorb everything you need to for improving your instrumentation. Throughout the course, for the hands-on or audiovisual-based learner (as many guitarists are), he performs on his guitar alone and with his band for a thorough demonstration of technique. Then, after showing you how it’s done, he provides backing music tracks in each lesson so you can practice what you have learned with the band! Further, Dr. McAllister explains every technique and playing style as you learn them, accompanied by onscreen notation and tablature.


Play like the Rock Stars

Dr. McAllister centers each lesson on one or two specific guitarists who excel at specific techniques—and you can choose which ones you want to master, and in what order. These real-world examples show the successful application of each discussion, inspiring you to apply the techniques that made the greats so great. The featured guitarists include dozens of well-known names whose trademark sounds are ripe for the picking. A few of these include:

  • Eddie Van Halen’s lightning-fast, two-handed tapping adds flair to any rock, metal, or even jazz solo. Conquer it for yourself and learn about KISS’s Gene Simmons scouting Eddie and his band at a nightclub in the 1970s.
  • David Gilmour of Pink Floyd specializes in string bending. Sometimes he bends his string slowly, lending a bluesy and ethereal quality to his parts; other times he does so quickly, using vibrato to liven up otherwise monotone sections of solos. Acquire this strategy and you’ll improve your solo game faster than you can say, “We don’t need no education.”
  • Wes Montgomery was widely known throughout the jazz circuit for his octave-based melodies and his odd habit of hitting the strings exclusively with his right thumb, earning him a distinct sound that’s yours for the taking.
  • Celedonio Romero will inspire you to infuse classical influence into your musical arsenal—Dr. McAllister studied with Romero’s sons when he attended the University of California, San Diego. With techniques like rasgueado (using your fingernails to strum), and pizzicato (in which you rest the outer edge of your right hand on the strings and pluck with your thumb), your playing will overflow with texture and sophistication.

Each genre of music represented in Playing Guitar like a Proalso benefits from multiple subgenres explored throughout the course, which complement each other nicely and help widen your range. If the older jazz stylings of Wes Montgomery and Django Reinhardt aren’t enough, then you may appreciate the contemporary sounds of John McLaughlin’s jazz fusion and Pat Metheny’s technical jazz-blues combinations. Similar examples follow for rock, classical, and folk.

Radically Grow Your Music Appreciation

Did you know that Eric Clapton’s practice of simultaneously playing both lead and rhythm guitar parts mixed together was inspired by Jimi Hendrix? After Hendrix sat in with Clapton’s band Cream at a show in London in 1966, Clapton practiced to learn the amazing technique for himself. While Eric Clapton’s most obvious influences may have come from early 1900s Chicago and Delta bluesmen, after hearing the details of this story from Dr. McAllister, will you ever watch his landmark MTV Unplugged concert the same way again?

Often, knowing what went into the writing, recording, or performance of a song changes how we listen to it or what we hear when it plays. While you may or may not relate to the technical and performance-based stories, the history and context for your favorite musicians and songs will open your eyes to a whole new level of appreciation. The disciplines perfected by these legends become easy to notice in their own—and other bands’—songs.

Aside from the techniques themselves, Playing Guitar like a Proalso offers stories similar to that of Clapton and Hendrix for virtually every musician studied . Learning about these skills trains our ears to hear music in a way most of us are unfamiliar with. Connect the Grammy-winning song “The Girl from Ipanema” with its Brazilian jazz and samba origins, then listen to it again and understand why it is one of the most important songs of the early 1960s bossa nova movement. Or, explore the sounds of Rush, who have been called “The Canadian Led Zeppelin.” The changing time signatures and power arpeggios commonly used by their guitarist Alex Lifeson influenced future generations of progressive-rock groups.

You’ll also discover why certain musicians are so distinct and recognizable that you will know a song by them before they start to sing. For example, Dr. McAllister reveals why only Eric Clapton sounds like Eric Clapton, why Wes Montgomery’s recording of a song is impossible to mistake for anyone else’s, and why you can pick a Pink Floyd guitar solo out of a lineup—even if you haven’t put on one of their records since Nixon was in office. This enlightening course reveals the mysteries of professional guitar for performers, but it also evolves the listening ear of anyone who experiences it. Fortunately, refining our ears and brains with the understanding of this beautiful art form never ruins the special relationship we have with our record collections and six-string heroes. Contrary to learning how your favorite magician does his or her tricks, this peek behind the curtain is as enriching as it is rewarding. If you’ve ever wanted to go back and hear your favorite song again for the first time, this is your chance.

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33 lectures
 |  Average 23 minutes each
  • 1
    Lesson 1—Hot Lava: Van Halen’s Two-Handed Tapping
    Dr. Colin McAllister begins his second guitar course with one of lead guitar's most extravagant techniques: two-handed tapping. Using an original composition inspired by the legendary Eddie Van Halen, Dr. McAllister teaches this elaborate performance tool hands-on and step by step, in an accessible and easy-to-follow lesson. x
  • 2
    Hot Lava Backing Track—Lead
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 3
    Hot Lava Backing Track—Rhythm
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 4
    Lesson 2—Luna Negra: Soloing like David Gilmour
    Here, Dr. McAllister dissects the unique, blues-influenced soloing style of Pink Floyd's lead guitarist, David Gilmour. Along the way, he'll introduce you to some of the band's fascinating history before outlining two playing techniques: vibrato and string bending. As with the other lessons, it includes backing tracks at the end. x
  • 5
    Luna Negra Backing Track
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 6
    Lesson 3—Barnhill’s Blues: Going Acoustic like Clapton
    Eric Clapton's concert for the MTV Unplugged series is one of the most famous ever played. In this lesson, you're invited to unplug and play bluesy swing rhythms and learn the Hendrix-inspired playing style that balances both lead and rhythm guitar with just one guitarist in order to help fill out the sound of any single-player performance. x
  • 7
    Lesson 4—Grant Green Street: Funk Rhythm and Licks
    Take a trip to 1970s Detroit and master the sound of Grant Green, a funk and blues guitarist for Blue Note Records whose personal life was as colorful as his talent on the six-string. Learn—and learn about—funk-style chord strumming as well as crosspicking, a melodic picking style partly owing its fame to bluegrass. x
  • 8
    Grant Green Street Backing Track
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 9
    Lesson 5—Fantasía Ibérica: Celin Romero’s Rasgueado
    Dramatically switching genres, Dr. McAllister approachably demonstrates staples of classical acoustic guitar, including rasgueado, or playing with the fingernails; right-hand arpeggios, planting the right hand’s fingers on strings to nimbly traverse the guitar; pizzicato, or playing with the thumb while palm-muting with the hand’s outer edge; and tremolo, sustaining a note by finger-picking rapidly and repeatedly. x
  • 10
    Lesson 6—Sunday Drive: Leo Brouwer–Style Classical
    Cuban composer Leo Brouwer’s one-of-a-kind Afro-Cuban classical guitar style provides the basis for this remarkable lesson. Interweaving slow playing with rapid hammer-ons and open-string licks, Brouwer’s trademark sound effortlessly switches from easy performance to challenging and back quickly and deftly—and it may have just the flair your next composition is missing. x
  • 11
    Lesson 7—Manitou Swing: Django’s Gypsy Jazz
    Dr. McAllister leads a masterful study of one of the greatest jazz guitarists in history—Django Reinhardt. Perfect the arts of staccato chords, fast vibrato, sliding, and other “Gypsy jazz” elements, and bring Reinhardt’s 1930s and 40s to life on your own six-string. x
  • 12
    Manitou Swing Backing Track
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 13
    Lesson 8—Anselm’s Caper: Bebopping like Tal Farlow
    Start with George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” or the theme song from The Flintstones, then increase the tempo and add the frenzied playing of Charlie Parker or Tal Farlow. This is the structure for “rhythm changes” jazz. Don’t worry, Dr. McAllister comes through again with examples, theory, and practical use for the aspiring guitarist. x
  • 14
    Anselm's Caper Backing Track
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 15
    Lesson 9—Blue 13: Wes Montgomery’s Octave Melodies
    Journey back to the meat and potatoes of improvisational music—the 12-bar blues structure—and spice it up with additional chord progressions and octave-based melodies popularized by jazz legend Wes Montgomery. Fine-tune your thumb strumming and master the style of this legend. x
  • 16
    Blue 13 Backing Track
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 17
    Lesson 10—Moto Perpetuo: Andy McKee-Style Workout
    Andy McKee’s percussive use of the body of the steel-string guitar, coupled with his right-hand tapping and slapping harmonics, defies categorization. The first guitar sensation on YouTube, boasting 100 million views, Andy’s lovely and unconventional playing led him to open for Prince. Learn several of his innovative techniques today and how to “play outside the box.” x
  • 18
    Lesson 11—Way Beyond: Intervallic John McLaughlin
    Broaden your musical horizons with this lesson inspired by John McLaughlin, a prominent jazz fusion guitarist who featured on Miles Davis’s "Bitches Brew." Dr. McAllister uses McLaughlin as evidence to enlighten the viewer about cross-rhythms, interval-based music, and changing time signatures. x
  • 19
    Way Beyond Backing Track
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 20
    Lesson 12—Sketch for Barbara: Pat Metheny’s Influence
    This lesson focuses on the modern jazz waltz, utilizing arpeggiated improvisation and cross-rhythms in the vein of Pat Metheny. Metheny is known for his blend of highly technical yet swinging play style in jazz and blues, adding a distinct flavor to each genre—especially during the changing musical scene of the 1970s and ‘80s. x
  • 21
    Sketch for Barbara Backing Track
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 22
    Lesson 13—Cinq de Blanc: The Police’s Quintal Harmony
    Thanks to guitarist Andy Summers, most songs by The Police are instantly recognizable. His focus on fifth intervals and reggae-style playing gave the band their signature sound, and hits like “Message in a Bottle” and “Every Breath You Take” give excellent context to this study and insight into your own songwriting. x
  • 23
    Cinq de Blanc Backing Track
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 24
    Lesson 14—Tarsus: Power Arpeggios of Alex Lifeson
    Unleash your inner progressive-rock beast with this Rush-inspired exercise of shifting time signatures, power chords, and crosspicking. The intrinsic and dynamic qualities of the prog-rock subgenre are laid bare here in an easy-paced, digestible format for you to ramp up your technical game. x
  • 25
    Tarsus Backing Track—Lead
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 26
    Tarsus Backing Track—Rhythm
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 27
    Lesson 15—Samba Sonrisa: Playing Brazilian Style
    This lesson covers the lovely subgenre of Brazilian-style bossa nova. Bossa nova, which includes “The Girl from Ipanema,” surged in the early 1960s thanks to guitarist João Gilberto and pianist/composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. They developed its smooth acoustic plucking and syncopation into a cool, slowed samba irresistible to master guitarists. x
  • 28
    Lesson 16—Cumulus: A Tribute to Joni Mitchell
    Dr. McAllister teaches the viewer how to make use of open D tuning and switch between strumming and playing slur-based melodies, enabling him or her to emulate Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. “Cumulus” gives you the opportunity to adapt the full, rich sounds of the legendary artist and the 1960s-70s folk movement. x
  • 29
    Lesson 17—Gog Magog: Bluegrass and Flatpicking
    It’s quicker than a fighter jet and more intricate than an Agatha Christie murder mystery, but you’ve got this! Apply everything you’ve learned so far from this course about hammer-ons and pull-offs (or “slurs”), open notes, speed, and precision to tackle a lightning-fast—and seemingly intimidating—American musical creation: bluegrass. x
  • 30
    Gog Magog Backing Track
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x
  • 31
    Lesson 18—Whisper Creek: American Folk Music
    Ballads of America’s downtrodden. Post-Dustbowl hardships. Empty bottles. It may not seem flashy or glamorous at first glance, but the viewer crosses the finish line with this snapshot of a nation, a people, a time. Complete your journey of guitar edification with folk music—that most humble, somber, and sincere of American working-class genres. x
  • 32
    Bonus Lesson: Echo Park
    American Surf Guitar. Revisit the early 1960s sound of surf rock by freshening up on the rapid picking and steady 16th-note rhythms that dominated the beach. Dr. McAllister shows you how to play like Dick Dale and The Beach Boys, while enlightening you about everything from the Rendezvous Ballroom fire to Brian Wilson's nervous breakdown. x
  • 33
    Echo Park Backing Track
    Practice playing along with this backing track. x

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Ability to download 18 video lessons from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course workbook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 18 lessons on 5 DVDs
  • 128-page printed course workbook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course workbook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 128-page printed course workbook
  • Full-size sheet music
  • Chords and scales
  • Exercises

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Your professor

Colin McAllister

About Your Professor

Colin McAllister, D.M.A.
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Colin McAllister is the Music Program Director at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in Musical Arts at the University of California, San Diego, where he studied guitar with Celin and Pepe Romero, interpretation with Bertram Turetzky, and conducting with Harvey Sollberger and Rand Steiger. Dr. McAllister has taught the guitar and performed professionally as a...
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Playing Guitar like a Pro: Lead, Solo, and Group Performance is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 29.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must power listen I listened to all 24 lectures in one most captivating weekend.
Date published: 2020-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Raises Your Game I purchased this course after sampling it on The Great Courses Plus. I am an intermediate level guitarist and I'm always looking for new techiniques to broaden my range. This course has many. The first lesson had me. The instructor takes you through the steps to learning both the lead and rhythm parts of a famous Van Halen song, including the tapping technique that was Eddie Van Halen's signature. The rest of the course includes other very practical techniques that are perfect for increasing an intermdediate to advanced guitarist's repertoire. There is also very interesting backround information on the different guitar styles and guitartists' biographies. I would not, however, recommend this for a beginner. This same instructor does have another course that would be more appopriate for that level.
Date published: 2020-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful musical journey through time and genres My husband and I went through this course together and enjoyed it immensely, even though we have rather different interests and orientations. (He's a songwriter, casual guitar player, eclectic music appreciator. I like to play classical and fingerstyle, can read standard notation and tabs, and know my basic chords, strumming and fingerpicking.) We both enjoyed the exposure to, and trying our hand at, the various genres, from classical to Django to Pink Floyd. I loved the solo guitar pieces, and plan to incorporate them in my repertoire. We liked learning about the different artists and influences on the styles. Going through this course broadened us musically, and piqued our interest in different artists. There's a lot of material to go through, and it's a great resource to come back to for those lessons that got skimmed the first time around. The lessons can be challenging, and music can go at a pretty fast clip, so some may benefit from lots of rewind and slo-mo. Dr. McAllister is a gifted musician, composer and teacher. This is a well-designed course.
Date published: 2020-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Resource for Learning You can never know enough. This course, as does the previous guitar course " Learning to Play Guitar", offers the student or teacher information to expand their knowledge of the guitar.
Date published: 2020-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy lesson. I bought this course to learn a few Technics, I received more than I payed for.
Date published: 2020-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from lots of good information and solid examples of practice drills .
Date published: 2019-12-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too advanced for me. Will be exchanging. Too advanced for me. Will be exchanging for a novice version of Guitar training.
Date published: 2019-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is less a course, more a resource Most GC products are watched or listened to once and then shelved, I imagine. This is different as it offers a range of guitar tutorials which can be used and re-used, alone or with the accompanying backing tracks. The instructor is laid back but clearly has a very good sense of what an effective teacher needs to do. I looked at the reviews before I purchased this. Some complained that it was too advanced and some complained that it was no better than what one can find on YouTube. Both of these are incorrect IMO. This is not an advanced course. It does not load you down with Dorian modes and the Circle of Fifths. It will not let you jam along to Dream Theater. But on the other hand, if your guitar playing is of the campfire variety [and if you do not possess an electric instrument] then this will be a waste of your time [and of course cash]. Can you find this content on YouTube? Yes, of course. There is an infinite universe of guitar out there. But you have to find it, and you would have to keep searching because most players work in solely one genre. McAllister here offers a wide range of styles in one place, from classical to Van Halen. So, I am happy with my purchase. As I implied, I have not 'completed' the course; I am using it as a resource and quite often watch a segment from my Digital Library when I just want to watch the technique. So this can't be a definitive review but it is I hope helpful.
Date published: 2019-10-27
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