Learning music should be enjoyable and rewarding. Each student learns at a different pace and in different ways. Lessons are provided in a comfortable and encouraging environment where each student is respected and appreciated.
My teaching methods vary from student to student but always include a general study of music along with learning the particulars of playing the guitar. I always stress that playing the guitar should be enjoyable and requires a continual effort if a student is to move forward. The methods will vary based on the personality and demonstrated abilities of each student as well as experience and level. They will most likely be different for beginner, intermediate and advanced students.
I will often ask a student to think about his or her goals. Ask yourself what you’d like to accomplish with guitar lessons and on your own. You might have to think about how the guitar is used. It can be used for solo or accompaniment playing. You can accompany others or yourself. You can use the guitar to write songs.
Some examples of goals are:
- You want to play the guitar.
- You want to play the guitar well.
- You want to start or play in a band.
- You’d like to learn a particular style.
- You heard somebody play and you’d like to play like that.
- You want to learn finger style or how to play with the pick.
- You want to understand how music works on the guitar.
- You want to develop chord/melody solos.
- You want to improvise.
- You want to work on your rhythm playing.
- You want to learn how to read music and apply it to the guitar.
- You want to learn how to accompany singers.
- You want to understand how chord progressions work.
- You want to improve your technique.
- You want to learn how to add bass lines to your playing.
- You want to expand your playing.
These goals are not always apparent and there is just a general desire to learn the guitar – and that is fine. As you learn, it is normal for longer term and more specific goals to emerge as well as change. As you reach goals, others will present themselves.
I believe in practice as a means to reach short and long term goals. It is not always driven by motivation or passion nor should one wait for those moments to present themselves. Motivation can be a general feeling that comes from a desire. It can be fueled by a desire to avoid a consequence or to achieve a goal. But it is not a consistent force that can be depended upon or conjured up at will. So don’t wait around for it.
Just know that nothing will happen unless you make it happen and that’s where practice comes in. As your guitar sits there nothing happens, so you should keep it accessible and pick it up. I believe that you can even make progress with 2 minutes of being focused on a single action. Also, practice can come in many forms. It can even be away from the instrument in the form of visualization, analysis, discovery and repetition.
I break learning down into two major areas: Knowledge and Technique. As a student learns, I assess the progress in these two areas and teach accordingly. If there is a persistent imbalance between knowledge level and physical technique, it can lead to frustration or to the development of poor playing and practice habits like endless “noodling” without accomplishing much. I encourage students to periodically do this assessment as well.
On What Is Taught:
Again, this varies based on the level.
I focus on the tools needed to play guitar: technique for both hands separately and together, reducing tension in the hands, pick technique for playing individual notes and strumming, finger style technique, rhythm production, tone, articulation and special techniques like hammer ons, pull offs, sliding and muting.
I teach how we get from notes to scales to chords to chord progressions to songs. I focus on the concept of musical intervals and how they apply to melodies, harmonies, scales and chords. I show how to apply these musical concepts to making music. I also teach how to read tablature, standard notation and chord charts. Along with reading skills, I work with the student on ear training and improvisation.
The skills and knowledge acquired will eventually allow the student to function in a variety of playing situations and to pursue a style of choice.
Teaching and learning is always an interactive process between teacher and student. I encourage students to learn how to communicate ideas of their own in addition to receiving them.
For more advanced students, there will be more focused areas of learning as well as filling in some gaps in knowledge. A player might want to focus on improvisation techniques or developing chord voicings.
On Playing Songs
Naturally, playing songs is what it’s all about. That’s the end goal. I often use songs as vehicles for learning or applying concepts and techniques. I’ll select certain songs that a student may or may not know. I’ll often ask a student to suggest a song as well. My goal is for each student to eventually develop a repertoire of music that he or she can comfortably play. But learning a new concept or technique through songs may not always be the most efficient means. The efforts might not be concentrated enough on the specific tasks and could even impede progress. Still, I have, at times sacrificed efficiency for enjoyment in order to provide a dose of motivation through a song. I always encourage students to use the information and approach learned to start selecting and playing the music that they want to play.