Many people can play guitar and play really good, but they’ve never mastered the “essentials,” thus their ability to play in various styles is limited - they're not a complete guitarist. That’s not necessarily negative, because many great, legendary guitarists play more by “feel” instead of technique. But as I grew and developed my guitar playing abilities, I found myself longing to play more than just metal or rock - I wanted to BE a guitarist. While I have a minor in music, I am basically a self-taught guitar player. It has taken me decades to fill-in many gaps in my playing abilities. In fact, even though I’m a guitar instructor, I myself am still a student, still learning, and much of my pedagogic style is out of my own desire to expand my guitar understanding.
Mastering The Fundamentals of Music Is The Key
In order to fulfill that longing to become a better guitarist, when I was in college not only did I take as many music fundamentals and music theory classes as possible (without declaring music as my major), I also took classical guitar classes as well. In fact, virtually all my elective classes revolved around either music or guitar. I developed playing tools in those years that changed the way I play guitar to this day. I have played guitar now for over 40 years, and various musical instruments for over 50, and the single factor that has given me the ability to play guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboard, brass and wind instruments, harmonica, banjo, mandolin, and violin, is that foundation I have in understanding music and music theory. I get great satisfaction in being able to pick up an instrument I have never played and within a few hours or days can “fake it” pretty good. I contribute my ability and talent to learn a variety of instruments directly to reading and understanding music, something that would either be very difficult if not impossible to do had I not developed first that foundation of “essentials.”
My Goal As A Music Teacher: Help All My Students Master The Basics
As a guitar instructor my mission is to give my students more than just the ability to knock out riffs or songs; I want all of my students to master the “basics” becoming not only better guitarists but musicians as well. I want to inspire in my students that same drive to “eat, sleep, and dream” guitar “24/7.” Mastering the basics is not easy and it’s not always the most spectacular aspect of being a guitarist - musician. But, after my students “graduate,” those who have learned to apply those fundamentals have the ability to teach themselves, and their ability to play different styles of music is virtually unlimited. Jennifer Batten, the guitarist for Jeff Beck, and the late Michael Jackson, credits her musical achievements to having that solid “foundation” of musical understanding. She also states that this understanding opened the doors to being recognized as one of the top guitarists in the music industry! Chris Poland, former guitarist for the super-group, Megadeath, never attended music school, something now in retrospect he wished he had. Why? As Chris recognizes, there are many musicians he would like to play with, but in all likelihood he will not be given that opportunity, because he doesn’t have the ability to “read a chart”, and that it’s a “big blunder” playing the kind of music he currently enjoys and not being able to read musically.
Ultimately, it’s really up to the student to determine what they’re going to get from their time learning to play guitar. For myself, as a guitar teacher, I view the learning environment of teaching guitar as just a modality of learning that prepares the student for a much more fulfilled, enriched, optimized life! Music has unlocked many inspiring “windows” in my life to create, think quickly on my feet, dream, set goals, and so much more. Music has given to me effective tools that have served me well in business as well, not to mention my life. My goal as a guitar teacher is to give my students these same “tools” of music and music understanding. If I somehow help even one of my students to discover their “passion” in life, and not live with “what if’s,” whether it’s being a guitarist/musician, a mechanic, or a computer programmer, then all those years I’ve spent endlessly learning and playing scales and chord progressions has been worth it.