So, I like to think I can teach across a number of styles, a result of the rather clichéd ‘classical’ training. Oddly enough, I have had a number of requests specifically for classical guitar tuition over the last couple of years and have been surprised at how much I have enjoyed teaching it. Alongside the fact that I have started to enjoy Midsomer Murders, it’s probably evidence of me getting old.

Rock / Pop
Most people start playing the guitar with the intention of playing rock music, or at least some derivation of rock music. Activision’s game Guitar Hero certainly seems to have inspired a new generation of guitarists, which has the added benefit of introducing ‘classic’ rock tracks. This is handy, as I grew up playing a lot of the songs that feature on the game. I might have struggled to pull a Lady Ga Ga number out the bag first time.

The learning curve for playing rock guitar is fairly shallow, which means it’s easy to make quick gains and become inspired, which in turn leads to an inclination to practice more. Depending on the age of the student there’s a wealth of easy riffs and motifs which are easily learned and still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up if played even reasonably well; Hell ain’t a bad place to be, You’ve really got me, Runnin With the Devil – all reasonably simple.

As mentioned somewhere else on this site at least once, I learned classical guitar before any other style and it was a blessing in disguise. There is something extremely satisfying about knowing what all those little black dots mean, particularly as very few guitarists actually do. Equally, there are millions of guitarists whose coattails I could not grasp that can’t read a note. Joe Bonamassa is an example of a player who is astonishing, but I am told cannot read music.

I always include some classical guitar as part of my teaching approach, up to a third of lesson time even with students who don’t express a particular interest. Anyone user about the age of 20 will pick this up so easily it’s a travesty not to pay it some attention.

Songs / Strumming
For some, this is all they want to be able to do; pick up the guitar and play a song. It could be (and I’ll choose the favourites here) ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ or ‘Guitar Man’ or ‘Space Odyssey’ or any other number of brilliant tunes. These are reasonably simple to learn, particularly as the student knows the melody (though only ever the first verse and chorus it would seem). What is a little more challenging is learning what’s called the ‘phrasing’ of the piece. In simple terms this is the rhythm generated by the right hand. I can generally get a complete beginner up to among 10 songs in a couple of months, by which point his or her objectives will have inevitably and thankfully become more ambitious. My wife likes this point as I generally sing along with students while they learn songs and as my friend once said of me; ‘aye, he’s a guitar player he’s no a singer…’…

So, I don’t mean this in a ‘Alan Holdsworth’ kind of way, in other words, I realise the term ‘Fusion’ is used to describe the combination of (normally) jazz and rock styles, but in this context I’m referring to the tailoring of part of what a student learns specifically to suit his or her particular interests. In doing so I’ll aim to include techniques associated with other styles being studied at the time. For example, even when playing ‘strumming’ songs, there is merit is using hand positioning typically associated with classical guitar and with an understanding of the relevant scale patterns which allow the player to bring more texture to the piece.

Park Music Dunfermline