How I Teach
I enjoy working with beginners of all ages. For students who are just getting started, I see my role as more of a coach than a teacher. I guide them through how their hands, fingers and arms need to move while playing. Learning the guitar isn’t easy, but the right guidance can make a world of a difference in the beginning.
Pop and Rock Styles
I have a good routine put together for getting a beginner playing as quickly as possible. For those interested in rock and pop music, the first things I work on are:
- Learning the most commonly used chords
- How to change smoothly from chord to chord while maintaining a steady strumming rhythm
- How to read rhythm notation
- Reading music is optional, but not required
To do this, I coach beginners through a series of song-based strumming exercises that I’ve put together. These exercises take a beginner up to the point where we can strum through full songs.
Once basic strumming ability is established, lessons could go a number of different directions depending on the student’s interests. I have a basic curriculum set up to get a student started with:
- Singing while playing
- Bar chords and power chords
- Lead guitar and improvisation
- Finger picking / fingerstyle guitar
I also offer a classical curriculum for beginner and intermediate students.
For this style of lessons, we would start by working through books one and two of Aaron Shearer’s Classic Guitar Technique. After those, we would move on to appropriate level pieces by Fernando Sor, Bach, Mauro Giuliani, and others.
Along the way, I would supplement the lessons with exercises to help with specific difficulties the student is facing. I would also work on building a knowledge of basic theory and scales.
Things covered in this type of curriculum are:
- Proper technique and positioning of the right and left hand for classical guitar
- Developing the ability to read music
- Scales and theory
- Learning a repertoire of easy to intermediate classical guitar pieces
If you’re an adult beginner, I understand that you might feel a little self conscious about delving into something new. Rest assured that I’ve taught many adult beginners, ranging in age up into their 80’s. There’s no reason to feel funny about beginning to learn an instrument as an adult. I’ve seen plenty of people do it, enjoy it, and be successful with it.
I think the most important thing is for a child to enjoy taking music lessons. If they think of the guitar as a chore and dread coming to their lessons, they won’t progress much. So, I keep the atmosphere light hearted in lessons. I gently push a young student to improve without falling into being strict or critical.
Things that I work into the curriculum for kids are:
- Simple melodies and riffs that are fun to play
- Easy songs with simplified chords that we can sing along to
- Learning to read music is optional, but not required
A child has plenty of time to learn and improve. Cultivating interest and enthusiasm now is the top priority so that they will want to continue with the guitar in the years ahead.
Intermediate and advanced students have a great variety of things they might want out of lessons. Usually, these students want to break out of a rut of some sort.
These students can be quite different from one another, so I can’t break down the way I teach into a simple list.
One area that most intermediate students want to improve is their theory knowledge. I have a theory curriculum that I’ve put together that focuses on how theory concepts manifest on the fretboard of the guitar. Instead of covering one abstract concept after another, we look at how theory concepts are happening in real music examples. We also work on gaining speed and fluency in applying concepts creatively.
For advanced students, I delve increasingly into my own main musical interests: modern acoustic-fingerstyle guitar, and jazz/fusion. These are the styles in which I’m most active as an artist and performer, and for which I have the greatest depth of knowledge.