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Berklee Guitar Theory
curated by Dr. Kim Perlak

Berklee Press (2023)

Become a more musical guitar player! This book will help you learn and use chords, scales, and other building blocks of music from a guitarist's perspective. It applies concepts of music theory directly to your instrument, using the time-honored teaching approaches of the Berklee Guitar Department. These applications facilitate creative, expressive playing and writing in all styles and directly map to the Berklee Guitar Department proficiency evaluations. Players at all levels will find a clear, organized approach to the materials and musical examples in a variety of styles, provided by Berklee's guitar faculty. You'll learn to: Master the fingerboard by understanding how strings and frets relate to scales, intervals, and chords; Understand and use the most important types of scales and modes; Construct chords and voicing possibilities based on the essential building blocks of harmony; Choose chord voicings that are ergonomic, intuitive, and expressive for every unique playing situation; and more. 

Berklee Essential Guitar Songbook - compiled by Kim Perlak, Sheryl Bailey, and members of the Berklee Guitar Department Faculty

Berklee Press (2023)

Learn some of Berklee's favorite, most popular guitar music. This collection includes some of the most popular songs and repertoire taught by the Berklee Guitar Department faculty. The music is taught and performed in their Guitar Sessions summer programs, global initiatives, online, and on campus. By learning this music, you will experience a diversity of styles: classic rock, blues, country, singer/songwriter, jazz, jam band, funk, progressive rock, funk, classical, and contemporary improvisation/microtonal music. Each piece is selected and introduced by some of Berklee's most popular faculty members. This collection will help you become a well-rounded player and prepare you to participate in Berklee's guitar programs. 



Classical Technique for the Modern Guitarist

Berklee Press/ Hal Leonard (2016)

Learn the essential techniques for playing classical guitar.

These exercises and demonstrations will help you to develop ease of motion, efficiency, coordination, tone, control over dynamics and color, melodic connection, and harmonic balance, while preventing injury. Techniques for each hand are discussed in isolation and then combined, with exercises drawn from the “Chaconne” by S.L. Weiss, which is also included in its entirety. Whether you are a classical or improvising player, you will find a clear, concise outline of the basic hand position and timing, with dozens of illustrative photographs and detailed descriptions. The online audio recordings demonstrate the techniques and their effects.

You will learn to:

  • Play with healthy, comfortable posture that gives you a free range of motion, closely examining relationship between your body, arms, hands, and fingers

  • Shape, hone, maintain, and repair your fingernails to provide the best sound, whether you use real or fake nails; and create your own fake nails from ping-pong balls

  • Use right-hand techniques, such as alternation, string crossing, arpeggio patterns, and tremolo

  • Play with a variety of articulations, tone colors, and dynamics

  • Play left-hand techniques such as: barres, slurs (hammer on and pull off), and vibrato

  • Warm up, practice, and perform


Clearly and meticulously written, Kim Perlak’s explanations of classical guitar techniques and principles invite investigation by guitarists of all genres (acoustic, steel string, electric). Kim has developed a useful and secure technique for the right and left hands that stems from years of patient observation as a guitarist, performer and teacher. Her thoughtful and logical reasoning encourages each guitarist to build upon her examples and develop personal exercises, all the while offering the ‘why’ behind each of the techniques being practiced. Whenever I sit and talk guitar with Kim, I always learn something. Sitting down with this book gave me exactly the same feeling.”

Guy Van Duser, Professor of Guitar at Berklee College of Music, Arranger of “The Stars And Stripes Forever” for Solo Classical Guitar Performance, originally recorded by Chet Atkins


“Classical Technique for the Modern Guitarist is a much-needed addition to the current literature. Friendly for the beginner, advanced student, or teacher, Kim does a wonderful job explaining the techniques that will lead to success as a classical guitarist!”

Adam Holzman, Professor of Guitar and University Distinguished Teaching Professor, University of Texas at Austin, award-winning and critically acclaimed Classical Guitarist and Recording Artist


“If only I’d had this book when I first put down my pick and started bumbling my way into fingerstyle! Kim Perlak could have saved me years of effort. She has a great understanding of classical technique, accompanied by an unusually humane grasp of how humans learn. Her approach is welcoming—rigorous yet not rigid. Moreover, it is well organized, comprehensive, and crystal clear, which is not easy to accomplish, given all the subtle details of technique. Kim’s enthusiasm is contagious. If you pluck or want to pluck, get this book!”

Tuck Andress, Critically acclaimed Performance and Recording Artist in the duo Tuck & Patti


“A must-have for classical guitarists and those who want to learn about it. Insightful, instructive, detailed…. Kim Perlak makes it easy to understand how classical guitar technique should work to make the path to mastering the instrument much more enjoyable. Highly recommended!”

Berta Rojas, Critically acclaimed Classical Concert Artist and three-time Latin GRAMMY® nominee


“Dr. Kim Perlak offers an excellent overview of the fundamentals of classical guitar technique. Clearly written and easy to read, she presents a logical and systematic approach for guitarists of all levels and styles. Students who work with this resource will encounter numerous concepts to improve their playing. From basic left-hand and right-hand technique to the care of fingernails, Classical Technique for the Modern Guitarist is a must-have for every guitarist.”

Dr. Stephen Robinson, Professor of Music at Stetson University, award-winning and critically acclaimed Classical Guitarist and Recording Artist


“Kim is a master guitarist and a master teacher. She has a deep understanding of the relationship between technique and sound production, between touch and tone. Her book “Classical Technique for the Modern Guitarist” is a fantastically clear and detailed map of the techniques that every guitarist needs that wishes to have a wide expressive range on their instrument. It is a book for life.”

David Tronzo, Professor of Guitar at Berklee College of Music, Musician Magazine “Top 100 Guitarists of the 20th Century”


Doctoral Treatise

“Finding a Voice in the American Classical Guitar Vernacular: The Work of Andrew York, Benjamin Verdery, Bryan Johanson, and David Leisner”

Full text: 205 pages. 

Copyright 2008, Kimberley Perlak

From the Abstract:
The purpose of this study is two-fold. First, it examines the process by which American guitarists “find an American voice” within a chosen stylistic dialect. Second, it defines the specific musical vocabulary — technical, interpretive, and aesthetic — of the American guitar vernacular and studies the way it is integrated within the parameters of the classical style. To do so, it examines the lives and works of players who were among the first to embark on such a process within their professional community, setting their artistic perspectives within the broader context of American guitar culture. In a broader sense, this study explores how our relationships, collaborations, and perspectives as players both reflect the American experience and shape our national sound on the guitar.

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