off to uni... need a guitar teacher!

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by spaceboy, Sep 3, 2004.


  1. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    well in 9 days (****!) i'll be in Dundee doing Electrical Engineering... scary stuff, but I've decided that soon as i'm half-settled and can tell whether i'm gonna have any money, i need to get a me a good/bloody fantastic teacher. i think that's exactly what my guitar playing needs right now - but how can i find a really good teacher? where do i look? what do i look for?

    i also thought if I found a promising one, i could ask for just one lesson, no commitment, have him assess me and go through with me how he'd teach, what he'd want to do structure-wise etc. and stuff like that. good idea?

    i always hear that there's just no substitute for a really great teacher, and I want one! so help much needed/appreciated!

    cheers
     
  2. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    A good teacher will ask your goals, assess your playing and come up with a curriculum to address your weaknesses.

    She will also attempt to not overwhelm you with boring exercises but strive to find a balance between "drudgery" and "fun".

    As far as protocol goes, teaching is a business and you have every right to choose who you want to deal with. However, it is more than just courtesy to pay and show up on time.

    Do not be surprised if a teacher cannot fit you in for a trial. Sometimes the best they can do is call you on the spot when there's a cancellation.

    Best of luck and let us know if you find a suitable teacher.
     
  3. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    Write down your strengths & weaknesses, a prioritize the things you'd like to focus on first. It's a lot easier to get to where you're going - if you know exactly where that it is.

    There are all sorts of teachers... folks with Degrees in music; excellent players with no formal training who don't read music; folks who've been doing it for 5 years, or 30 years; folks who strictly teach, & those who are also working pros. There are good & bad teachers within every possible category. A great player does not always constitute a great teacher.

    Here's my spin on that... if possible, seek some recommendations. In my opinion, a teacher should be able to help you with the following: harmony & theory, ear training, reading standard notation, development of strong sense of time, all the tools (scales, modes, arpeggios, inversions, substitutions, etc.), phrasing & improvisation, technique, & a whole bunch of other stuff I'm forgetting. Personally, I'd gravitate toward the teacher with more experience, both in terms of teaching & performance. A gigging pro can show you tricks of the trade that others can not.

    The next consideration is stylistic; to oversimplify, there's basically two choices: a teacher with a broad stylistic background, or a "specialist" (bluegrass, metal, jazz, classical, whatever).

    My take on that... I have no idea where you're at as a player, so please don't take offense - if you are young, or inexperienced, or at intermediate level or below - go with the more broadly based stylistic player/teacher. If you're like most folks, your tastes are likely to evolve over the years, & the more you know, the further you'll go. And the more you'll work, as you'll have more to bring to the table. While you're building a diverse foundation, you can always focus on "your thing". My fave players are the ones that pull from an eclectic stylistic stew.

    If, on the other hand, you know exactly what you wish to pursue, & already have a strong basic music background, by all means, seek a specialist.

    Another option is that there are some fairly heavy cats, such as Jim Campilongo, that offer online lessons. A scenario like this is probably only cost-effective if you are fairly advanced.

    Understand that you have at least as much responsibility in the learning process as does your teacher. All good teachers acknowledge that the best teacher is oneself. If you hook up with someone that is an exceptional teacher, what they'll ultimately do is to prepare you to continue your education on your own, long after you've parted ways with them. So be prepared to dig into some stuff that you might not have the slightest interest in, at least at the present moment. A good teacher won't steer you wrong about the stuff that's truly important in the long run.

    You might find some exceptions, but generally it is a bit impractical for teachers to offer trial lessons; usually, their schedules are either tight, crazy, or both. What I do with prospective students, upon request, is to offer my resume & references. And they are free to ask me as many questions as they'd like, over the phone, which I answer honestly. I won't take on a student who is beyond the realm of my experience in a specialized genre, such as classical or flamenco. Anyone who does so, just to land another account, will quickly be labled a hack. In a sense, it's like with doctors; A Podiatrist will not perform open heart surgery, with clear conscience, just to land the bucks. Don't hesitate to "interview" your prospective teacher, & have your ducks in a row when doing so.

    Good luck!
     
  4. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    wow, thanks! lots of info there. i think what's gonna make it really difficult is the actual reason i feel i need a teacher - I'm really lost! I have no idea what i should be practicing, what I should be learning, and I guess, as you say, that's got a lot to do with the fact that I don't really know where I'm going... so I was HOPING (i guess it might be too much too ask in a way...) to find a teacher who could just take me through a rather general, well-structured, well-rounded guitar "course"-sorta-thing.

    All I can think of to describe it is that I just wanna be a "good guitarist"... whatever the hell that is. Let's see, I want to increase my speed and control, definately need to work on my improvising, would of course like to work on techniques like sweeping and tapping etc. and it's always nice to learn some new pieces... but I don't know where my priorities should be in all this, and exactly what i should be practicing to accomplish it. I'm sure I've got the same problems every guitarist has, and i'm just making a big deal out of my incompetence and laziness, but i'm sure the "right" teacher would help me get myself straight...?

    me so difficult ^_^
     
  5. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    You're not being difficult - you're the perfect candidate for a well rounded, seasoned teacher/player. Ask around, & present your case in much the same way you have here. Stay open to all musical styles... I couldn't possibly be a bigger fan of that approach. While you are looking around for the right teacher for yourself... to glance at just one aspect that you mentioned (I'll go with improvisation), I'd suggest studying intervals & ear training over all else... scales & modes can present more problems than they solve, if the ears & intervallic recognition are not yet up to snuff. An oversimplified response on my part, to be sure... but you'll dig working with a good teacher if you're willing to work hard.
     
  6. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    perfect candidate eh? :D i'm honoured

    i've thought of another good way to put it:

    It's hard to know exactly what I want to do with my guitar skills until I'm actually in a position, outside my bedroom, where I need to use them, but whatever I find myself doing, I don't want my creativity to be held back by my physical abilities.

    there. a goal, but still suitably cryptic ^_^

    better getting looking for contact numbers n stuff soon...

    anyway, thanks!
     
  7. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    Okay, now we're talking. There's been a few occasions through the years where I've found myself in between gigs, and that is exactly when I've found myself floundering aimlessly about. My thing has always been that my musical tastes are too diverse for my own good... I dig everything. So, without a goal, it was, "well everything's cool, where the hell do I start?" I currently gig & record with several different projects, so mostly, I'm always running behind, always have too much stuff to work on, really shouldn't dink around on the internet so much but it's better than watching TV, blah blah BLAH!

    Anyway, point being - always set goals for yourself, be they actual deadlines or hypothetical situations; if you work hard, the benefits will be quite similar. Here's a suggestion: envision two musical situations that you feel you could realistically be a part of & contribute to (no, not "I want to be the next Andres Segovia within six weeks!"). Imagine that you have auditions for these projects within the next two months, & that you pay your bills by being good (& creative) at what you do, & that NOT landing the gig is not a practical option. Work like hell at landing the "gig". It's an amazing way to progress, trust me.

    Let's say, for example, that you could envision yourself being in a band like Radiohead or Sonic Youth; in that case, work on drone chords, textures, & interesting melodic ideas. Or perhaps you see yourself working within a format like, say, Pantera. Work on your downstrokes, "chunk", speed, time, & accuracy. It's all about knowin' where you're goin'... if either of these scenarios fit the bill, you can probably put the bluegrass chops & flat 5 subs on the back burner, at least for now.:)

    You mentioned earlier that you are into sweep picking & tapping... neither are particular strengths of mine, but I've put some time into each. For sweep picking, I would recommend any of the instructional materials of Frank Gambale. For general technique principles in heavy rock guitar, I'd suggest Troy Stetina's material, particularly "Speed Mechanics For Lead Guitar".

    Here's the thing - guitarists are drawn to the instrument because we like to burn, smoke, & slash. That's great, & it's big fun... but the guys that work a lot also know how to serve the tune, play great rhythm, groove, nail appropriate tones & textures, and... SING. Lots of cool stuff to work on, enjoy.
     
  8. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    wow - so much great advice! maybe i don't need a new teacher after all... ;)

    as for style, Ska's my big thing at the moment. love that ska. that and the Smashing Pumpkins are my biggest loves, but what i'm looking forward to most about uni is being a bit of a guitar-slut ^_^ so i guess i'll just see what opportunitys are offered. but yeh, deadlines, real or imaginary, sound like a really good idea.

    actually, here's a question, how can you WORK on "drone chords, textures, & interesting melodic ideas"? physical things like speed, independency etc. sure; and knowledge things like scales, chord inversions etc. sure, but creative ideas like that? do you mean just research, listen and spend time thinking about it?

    cheers!
     
  9. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    Dammit.... I was afraid you were gonna ask that... but I'll take a shot at it.

    drones, clusters, open string thingies

    This is where some harmony & theory knowledge can come in handy. You can always dink around by ear & come up with cool stuff, but it's real helpful (quicker) to know how to spell chords, harmonize scales, stuff like that. For instance, if you have a song in the key of G, & know how to harmonize the chords that comprise that key, you can apply that open G string in all sorts of cool & interesting ways. With open string drones, you can choose sweet chord tones, or go for the more dissonant character of major & minor 2nd intervals & such. Along similar lines, here's an old post of mine from another forum -

    **************************************************

    There's a bunch of ways to dress up simple chords. I'm often given very basic progressions & a vocal melody by writers, & have a few pet devices that I call on when doing arrangements. The following examples include use of a common tonality on top of the chords, "cluster" minor 2nd interval arpeggios that imply the chords at hand, & ascending or descending bass lines that use either the root or 3rd of the chord.

    First example turns Emin - D - G - Amin - G - D into
    Emin7 - Dsus4/F# - G - Amin7 - G/B - Dsus4:

    E --3--3--3--3--3--3--
    B --3--3--3--1--3--3--
    G --0--2--0--0--0--2--
    D --2--0--0--2--0--0--
    A --2--x--x--0--2-----
    E --0--2--3-----------

    Over a basic framework of D - C - Bmin - G. Listen for the "color" notes over each chord: 3rd & suspended 4th over D; raised 4th over C; minor 6th over B minor; major 7th over G:

    E --------------------------------------------------
    B -----------3-----------3-----------3-----------3--
    G --------0-----------0-----------0-----------0-----
    D -----4-----------4-----------4-----------4--------
    A --5-----------3-----------2-----------------------
    E --------------------------------------3-----------

    Over basic framework of G#min - F# - E:

    E -----------2-----------2-----------2--
    B --------0-----------0-----------0-----
    G -----3-----------3-----------3--------
    D --------------------------------------
    A --------------------------------------
    E --4-----------2-----------0-----------

    Over basic framework of B - G#min - A - E:

    E -----0-----------0-----------0-----------0--------
    B --------4-----------4-----------4-----------4-----
    G -----------4-----------4-----------4-----------4--
    D --------------------------------------------------
    A --2-----------------------0-----------------------
    E --------------4-----------------------0-----------

    The 1 - 5 - 9 shape from "Message In A Bottle" by The Police is something I use a lot. Here's a simple move that yields the 1,5, & 9 of D, & by moving one finger implies an A chord (intervals 3 - 1 -5). D to A:

    E --------
    B --5--5--
    G --x--x--
    D --7--7--
    A --5--4--
    E --------

    This stuff works pretty well for tunes that require maximum jangle. Let the notes ring out. Your ears will tell you what strings need to be muted/damped.

    **************************************************

    Textures

    This starts to get away from what is typically offered with standard guitar lessons. In a cover band situation, I suppose it would mean copping not only the correct notes and chords, but also the tone, sounds, touch, nuances, etc. The way it applies to me personally is in working with original material.

    As stated above, I usually get a CD or cassette from the writers I work with, that contains only an acoustic guitar & a vocal. So it's a blank canvas... my gig is to elevate the song. First thing I do is screw around with it without knowing anything about the song - I just start noodling... sometimes the first ideas are the best ones, & I never want to waste the potential of spontaneous spark. After that, I'll start pulling everything from the trick bag that I've got - flatpick strumming, hybrid pick & fingers approach, chords, riffs, slide, E-bow, 12 string, baritone guitar, mandolin, dinking around on the piano, plugging into the pedal board to allow effects to suggest the part... in short, anything to ignite the spark. Usually this process will eventually suggest a keeper approach, & sometimes, several M.O.'s will work, which is where self-editing comes into play. If I really get stumped, I'll chart the tune out & analyze it more academically, but that's a last resort.

    Melodic ideas

    This is where ear training & interval recognition are your best friends. It's important to be able to hear all of the intervals, but for starters, become intimate with major & minor 3rds & 7ths. Assuming that we are speaking of Western harmony, these are the money chord tones. Play various & arbitrary notes on your guitar, treat each as the new "root", & work on singing the major & minor 3rd & 7th intervals & developing your pitch. As for practical application....

    Are you familiar with the term "scat singing"? Jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald made a career out of it, & George Benson is famous for doubling his guitar lines with his voice. Many notable jazz musicians, such as piano virtuoso Oscar Peterson & guitarist Larry Coryell, sing, hum, or mumble along with every single note that they play. The concept is simple - the human voice is the most exquisite example of phrasing on the planet. It's tough to "overplay" what you can't execute without breathing.

    But you don't have to be a JazzCat to put this concept to use. What I do is load up my car with CD's of demos & board rough mixes of tunes that I'm arranging & preparing parts for. While I'm fighting Atlanta traffic, I try to lessen my frustration by also getting something accomplished. I'll play the same tune over & over, and commence to sing & hum mindlessly like a moron. Ultimately, there are always phrases that keep presenting themselves & just won't be denied, & these ideas invariably wind up being the keepers. You can also record your singing, humming, & mumbling, & go back & learn it on the instrument, after the fact. I've used this approach to construct solos & parts over chord progressions that did not naturally fall easily to me on the instrument, with a more spontaneous, improvisational mindset. The strongest muscle that a musician has in his or her possession is not chops - it is the EARS. Develop & nurture them, you won't regret it, I'm willing to promise.

    ... I'm sorry, what was the question???? Cheers backatcha!

    Tim
     
  10. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    aha, i see what you mean. well I'm fairly confident in my theory really. My mum's actually a music teacher, so she's been drilling it in to me for years ^_^ though of course it's a little different applying it to guitar.

    that first chord example is exactly the kind of thing i've been experimenting with ever since i learned Greenday's Time Of Your Life, and the Smahing Pumpkins' Disarm! ahh, the good ole days :D but i'm not clear where the others come from? I understand them fine - I understand why they work, why they sound like they do etc. but I would still only come across that sort of thing by accident at the moment... so are you trying to say there's a system? very nice progressions btw :¬)

    actually, what i love doing is working out acoustic versions of songs, which means I try to find all those open strings and common notes, and sometimes try and work the notes of a guitar solo into the chord progression etc. so i guess that's good practice.

    I think the two things you mentioned which I would normally disassociate from my guitar playing and practicing are: what I would think of as Song-writing. which I have never really taken past the "jot down ideas when they come to me during random noodling" stage. but i keep thinking "i'll wait til i'm actually in a band, so I know what kind of stuff to write..." and frankly, i'm having enough trouble keeping up with my most basic practicing... guess i've gotta prioritise.

    The other thing is my singing. just, in general really, cos I do like performing, and it's always nice to be able to get out the acoustic and have a singsong, and if you're lucky for someone to give you the odd compliment :cool: and of course singing in a band situation. so that all needs a lot of work and practice, and will help my guitar too of course.

    Yeh, I think the operative word over the next few years is going to be Prioritise. going out, guitar, singing, song writing, course work... by no means in that order of course :D

    so much to think about, but thanks Tim, you're really helping me get my head straight about all this!
     
  11. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    My pleasure man, I've enjoyed the conversation! Sorry about "preaching to the choir" on the theory thing, sounds like you know your stuff.

    On the drone thing - for me it's a combination of happy accident & academic approach. What I do sometimes with tunes that I want to do the open string jangle is this - get a piece of paper, & spell out all the chords in the progression, as well as add a few extensions, & I'll write down the notes of the corresponding scale(s) as well. Then I just start looking for open strings, clusters, & cool guitaristic devices... sorta like doing a crossword puzzle; cross referencing and such. Sometimes what you know in your head doesn't jump out as you as quickly as when it's all laid out before you.

    Yeah, practicing is definitely a different regimen when it is more creatively oriented. I've written plenty of material, but don't consider myself a song writer, per se. Reason for that is that I'm highly out-classed by the writers I work with, & I'm more comfortable doing what I do best - being a player and an arranger. The love of my life is doing arrangements - that's my "writing". I dig that more than improvisation actually. It's all good.
     

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