My “visual” approach of teaching…

June 8, 2015

I tell each and every person that I teach that progress should not be measured by a “flow chart”, but rather as the way a tree matures; sometimes its growth rings are large and obvious, sometime they are less…but there is ALWAYS DEVELOPMENT!

When a student has been with me a year or so, his/her notes will fill a binder at least two-three inches thick, with fretboard and theory diagrams, composition notes, etc., as I truly am a visual instructor; and the guitar, above maybe all other instruments, is the most complex to understand, due to its design and the exponential possibilities of expression it subsequently offers.

I developed my fretboard diagrams back in the early 80’s and they’ve been a major part of my teaching the entire time, with a new one, every so often, being added to “the family”.  In fact, the video company I was signed with, as well as each of the numerous magazines I’ve written for, used them on a monthly basis for years…because they made perfect sense.

For example, if I am teaching an arpeggio sweep-picking technique, I will at first lay out all of the triads and inversions for one major or minor key; then, will focus on just one.  Once that is learned, then the graphic connection of the “forms” will expand into numerous arpeggios and positions with just one technique; in other words, they will be clearly/visually obvious!  And when we evolve to, for example, “triad-stacking”, using all six strings of the guitar, they will become even easier to comprehend.

It’s the same exact concept of the Chinese proverb “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.

Those of you that have studied with me know; those that have not, come see the magic!

The impact of other string instruments!

April 27, 2015

I used to listen to classical violinists all the time; unaccompanied solos, duets with pianists, string quartets, concertos, etc.  One favorite player of mine was the incomparable Itzhak Perlman, whose records I would buy almost as often as any rock guitarist that I adored.  Two pieces, in particular, that truly impressed me were Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen and Bazzini’s “Dance of the Goblins”.  I would then buy the sheet music and labor through the numerous cascading arpeggios and scales, which were enough to keep me occupied for quite a while.  I even got through Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in Em, which was beyond splendid!

The real learning experience, however, was the adaptation of violin to guitar; as the former, being tuned in fifths with a much shorter scale length, gave my instrument more challenges than usual.  Those of you that are familiar with my playing know well of my numerous arpeggio sweep-picking techniques that were a direct result of all of this; I had NO ONE show me how to do any of these.

Same thing goes for my bluegrass affinity and the instruments, other than guitar, found in this wonderful genre…and in particular, the banjo, mandolin and fiddle.  The techniques associated with each (double-stops, finger-picking, etc.) I modified to the guitar, which helped to create a unique and internationally acclaimed guitar style.

As well, learning to play Irish folk songs and dances such as jigs, reels and hornpipes, helped give me a sense of timing and melody that was simply not found with my beloved rock music and players.

Find a teacher that inspires and elevates you; one that opens up worlds previously unknown.  You may be quite amazed!

All great guitarists need a blues base…

March 31, 2015

I’ve been compared to the incomparable Jeff Beck more than, oh, many times…Guitar Magazine said “the Jeff Beck of the 90’s”, way back in ‘88. While it is true that he is, and has always been, and shall always be, my favorite “rock” guitarist, our backgrounds were dissimilar in many ways (Jeff being a full decade older, obviously had a different path), yet he realized, and I did too, that one needed to feel the pulse of a song, bend notes that made you cry, and use vibrato like it was a secret weapon. Well, blues playing that is real will require exactly this, and more!

However, it is much more than learning your pentatonic minor positions up and down the fretboard. It’s finding what unique qualities each of them has to offer, and adding the requisite “additional notes” to craft harmony in a manner that is totally distinctive; plus, finding what techniques that are naturally favorable to you.

For example, one might be a decent sweep-picking arpeggio player; so, learn your 7th patterns everywhere and build them into your I-IV-V approaches, all the while keeping your basic blues feel, so as not to sound like you “just got out of your guitar lesson.” Same thing for you hybrid-picking country players (again, this is me, too), there are such great phrases for blues that involve your fingers…learn how to use them!

All of my students go through, what I call, “progressive blues guitar”; because, it is essential. I know, I’ve been there, and done it. Opening for Whitesnake back in the early 90’s in Germany, I found myself hanging out with drummer Tommy Aldridge and guitarist Adrian Vandenberg quite a lot, as we shared similar food tastes and humor. After seeing me play for the first time, Tommy said, and Adrian echoed, “you’re a great f*cking blues player!” Well the odd thing was I played NO blues tunes in my set. However, their intention was all about feel, phrasing, bending and space; and, I apparently did just that. Yes, I was extremely flattered, to say the least.

Study guitar, and study blues on a higher level; you will absolutely be thrilled, and will impress, this I guarantee!

A little theory can go a long way…

January 6, 2015

Several years ago a very good local country player came to study with me, “just to see if it would make any sense”; as my rock reputation was well known, but he had only heard of my country/bluegrass prowess either through various magazine and newspaper reviews or word-of-mouth.

We sat down and the first thing I asked him to play for me was a “banjo roll”, if indeed he had that in his repertoire of hybrid picking (pick and finger technique that ALL great country players possess). He did, and he played a smoking lick that reminded me of the late, great Danny Gatton, a friend of mine and my favorite guitarist.

I asked him if he knew what a triad was, and he replied that he had basically “zero theoretical knowledge”. I then explained this most basic of music concepts to him (a triad is the 1st, 3rd and 5th of any major scale that creates a chord). I then went on to explain that his banjo roll was a G major using these tones and that if he learned his triads all over the fretboard, he would have as many banjo rolls.

He smiled upon realization and my demonstration of several, and acted as if I had “come down the mountain with two big tablets and ten commandments in my hands”…

Needless to say, this was the beginning of many great lessons with him, and his playing skyrocketed to an entirely new level, just with a small amount of theoretical application to his already enormous skills!

As well, I used to write a monthly column for three very popular guitar magazines: two American and one that was based out of England. I found that my “technique, as a result of theory” lessons were the most popular, as expressed by literally thousands of readers, and that guitarists worldwide benefitted greatly. I even had the editor of Guitar Player Magazine (a rival of the two US trades for which I was currently writing) come up to me and personally express his praise and congratulations!

Just imagine, though, if you were studying privately how much greater these lessons would mean.

So, take the effort and realize your dreams of becoming an outstanding guitarist; study privately and know the meaning of understanding basic music principles as applied to technical and even compositional development!

Page 1 of 212