This is Guitar Chalk’s formal review of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra Guitar Anthology song book.
The book was published by Hal Leonard back in October of 2015 and is one of the band’s most complete collections, with 13 songs that are detailed entirely, both in standard notation and guitar tabs.
Like most of Hal Leonard’s songbooks, this one bears the “Recorded Versions” emblem, and reads the following:
Authentic transcriptions with notes and tablature.
This means you’re getting studio-accurate sheet music, identical to whatever you hear on the band’s tracks.
Most of the time, you can’t go wrong with books like this.
They’re well-organized, thorough and 100% accurate.
So we’ll review the book but, more in the spirit of recognizing a great educational resource and band, rather than an effort to critique it.
Trans Siberian Orchestra Guitar Anthology Review: The Basics
Resources Included: Tabs, Standard Notation and Guitar Notation Legend
Number of Songs Included: 13
Chords Included: Yes
In total, the book spans 114 pages of sheet music, not counting the guitar notation legend and promotional material at the back of the book.
The song selection focuses on Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s most popular tracks, almost all of which are recognizable from the band’s well-known Christmas-themed performances.
Most material that is displayed in standard notation is also displayed in a corresponding tab sheet, directly beneath said notation.
All guitar parts (sometimes up to six or seven guitars) are displayed, allowing you to learn both the lead and rhythm portions of the song as well as the layering or complimentary guitar parts.
In some instances, melodic piano arpeggios and note sequences are transcribed in tabs so they can also be played on guitar.
The Book’s Intended Reader
While the book does not have an explicit intended audience, the band’s material dictates that fairly seasoned or confident guitarists are best-equipped to handle the music thereof.
Despite the fact that the book does make TSO’s material much easier to decipher, many of the guitar parts are still fairly difficult.
However, chord progressions are included and there is plenty of material that can be comprehended by those who aren’t necessarily experienced guitar players.
Speaking broadly, this book is ideal for anyone who is a fan of Trans Siberian Orchestra and wants to challenge themselves with some difficult pieces. Even less technical players who just want to learn the chords and rhythm segments will enjoy it.
TSO’s music draws on heavy classical influences, so those trained in that musical discipline might fair a little better with the content.
Jumping In: The Notation and Tabs
Since its founding in 1947, the Hal Leonard Corporation has done a great job of perfecting their sheet music presentation model.
Notation and tab sheets are displayed in a soft charcoal color on a clear white page that’s easy on the eyes. Notes have a nice cushion of space between them, both in tabs and notation, that makes the content feel less cluttered and easier to comprehend.
Song titles are easily spotted in large font, along with chord diagrams and song credits.
Effects, tempo, guitar designation and additional information are all provided within the notation for each song in a smaller font.
Chords can be identified one of three different ways:
- Chord Letter
The chord letters are displayed above notation, matching their proper position in each measure.
Where applicable, lyrics are added underneath the notation.
In some instances, where chord progressions are repeated or the progressions are simple and lyrics are being displayed, tabs are omitted in favor of simply displaying chord letters over notation, over lyrics.
For example, this is done in the chorus section for “Christmas Cannon” which you can see here:
Guitar solos are tracked down to each note and even include the harmonizing guitar portions, like the first solo in “Christmas Cannon” where Guitar 3 and 4 played four measures of a harmonized solo:
We also see similar patterns on “The Mountain” and “Requiem (the Fifth).”
While a few solo patterns are difficult to decipher from tabs alone, this is due to the technical difficulty of TSO’s music and not the way any of the tabs are displayed.
For the most part, following the music along with these solos was surprisingly easy and fluid.
The book makes it easy to take just a few measures at a time before moving on.
At times, when you have multiple guitar parts in the same measure, it can be a bit confusing as to whether you’re dealing with new measures or a second guitar part for the same measure.
On a couple of occasions, I found myself playing through a measure and thinking I was going into the next, without realizing I was actually just playing a different guitar part of the measure I had just played.
This is a typical pitfall for those who might be more used to an informal “internet tab sheet” but, can be easily overcome with a pen and some chicken-scratch note-taking.
Bends, vibrato and other applicable technique are displayed in the book.
This is where the legend in the back can be helpful.
Here are just a few that the book refers to:
- Grace Note Bend
- Unison Bend
- Pre-Bend and Release
- Wide Vibrato
- Shift Slide
These and a number of other technical concepts are explained in the back of the book and show up in the guitar solos.
Even the more basic concepts like hammer-ons, palm muting and pick scrapes are given proper designation.
Each technique has a method of display for both tabs and notation.
Ease of Use
There might be some initial confusion about how to follow the tabs and notation, especially when dealing with multiple guitar parts, as we’ve already mentioned.
For some, the amount of information might feel a bit overwhelming.
However, this is incidental and not a universal problem. All of the information provided serves to offer a more complete and thorough explanation of the music.
Many of the songs are long and there’s simply no other way to display that much music without starting to condense and minimize parts of the song.
Overall, the book is easy to get into and leads you through the music clearly, without ambiguity.
Conclusion and Verdict
Hal Leonard’s songbooks leave nothing to be desired.
With entirely accurate tabs and all of TSO’s most popular songs, the book does its job perfectly, without fluff or needless additive.
It would be nice to have an easier way to read through multiple guitars in the same measure but, the book handles it as well as possible, while still including all parts of the song.
Trans Siberian Orchestra fans and guitar players of most skill levels will find the Guitar Anthology is a fun and practical addition to their collection of songbooks.