Musician, educator and guitar instructor Andrew Lovato estimates he's taught well over 1,000 people to play over the last 30 years.
"This translates to about one out of 80
people," he says, referring to Santa Fe's populace.
That experience and devotion to the guitar—something he says that, along with his hometown of Santa Fe is his overriding passion—spurred him to write and release a new book, his third, titled The Big Book of Blues Guitar: The History, The Greats And How to Play. Equal parts musical knowledge, chord charts and love letter to the six string and the blues, the book is as much a journey in playing the guitar, from the first chord formations to advanced theory, as it is a story about nurturing a lifelong relationship with the instrument.
"Dogs and guitar are the two greatest gifts to mankind," he tells SFR.
Lovato's love of the guitar began at age 12, when he met his first teacher, Wally Graham.
"He not only taught me how to play guitar at an early age, but he sort of built a fire in me that wasn't just about the guitar—it was about being creative and artistic," Lovato says.
Said fire never materialized into an onstage career, but Lovato's musical trajectory was never really about the performance aspects in the first place. Mentorship and instruction, he says, were the goal.
"[Graham] kind of guided me as a young teenager into the world of creativity, and it was such a gift in having a mentor who could uncover what was inside of me as a musician," Lovato says. "That inspires me, that's my inspiration for wanting to carry this torch. My real love comes from showing somebody how to do it themselves and creating that sparkle in their eye."
With that in mind, The Big Book of Blues Guitar doesn't aim to be yet another boring theory compendium full of dry chord formations and applications presented in a protracted and unreadable manner—a quick scan of Amazon would yield tons of those if you prefer, but Lovato's publisher, Santa Fe's Terra Nova Books, was instrumental in making sure the book was beginner-oriented.
"My editor is a beginner guitarist, and as I was working on the manuscript, he would look over it as a first time player," Lovato explains. "I would ask him 'does this make sense to you?'"
Does the book have charts for learning chords? Absolutely. But, Lovato says, "I wanted to be able to be understood from the perspective of a person who might not have a technical background."
And fear not, tech-heads—The Big Book of Blues Guitar does cover technically advanced ground. Still, it's more fleshed out and palatable for the newcomer. As a professor of communications at Santa Fe Community College, teaching is Lovato's forte, and he explains concepts through the book's step-by-step process, which runs in tandem with information about the historical aspects of the blues. This includes players who shaped and continue to shape the genre. Through blurbs on the likes of Chuck Berry, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Howlin' Wolf, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Page, Taj Mahal and tons of others, Lovato pays homage to the greats, showing the reader how the genre has evolved alongside information about how to potentially join them in the pantheon of blues shredders.
This means that in addition to exploring the "how" of the blues guitar, Lovato is every bit as interested in providing the "why."
"[The] reason a certain structure of notes we hear in combination with each other gives us certain feelings," he says. "To understand why those notes work the way they do with each other, so they can paint a picture of how music works."
"Music is a very elegant kind of physics," Lovato adds.
The idea of learning the guitar might sound like learning physics: a pipe dream of unattainable magic that can't possibly make sense. But then, Lovato doesn't believe the guitar is quite as indecipherable as advanced math.
"The guitar is such an accessible instrument. You can take it anywhere," he says. "It can add a whole dimension to your life."
Andrew Lovato Signing and Jam Session:
3-6 pm Friday Dec. 13. Free.
Borrego's Guitars and Music Supply Co.,
1686 St. Michael's Drive,