A Different Approach To Learning Guitar

April 24, 2009


It’s amazing how many good video guitar-lessons there are on the net. We never had anything like this when I was learning to play back in the 70’s. But even though there’s great material out there, many people can’t take advantage of it.

Most people come to my school as beginners. Many have already tried to learn guitar on their own from the net or from the DVD that came with their guitar. If these things worked, we wouldn’t have 150 guitar students at my school.

The approach I take on this site is different from other video lesson sites. I’ve seen hundreds of great lessons which demonstrate and explain things. But my beginners tell me that they’ve tried everything on the web, and they’re still stuck. Maybe they’ve ‘learned about’ things on the guitar, but they can’t ‘do’ those things on the guitar.

Different teachers have different goals for their students. For me, the bottom line is whether you can play along with a song. The path to this goal is learning to interact meaningfully and intelligently with what you hear.

Over the years I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. For beginners, nothing beats simple repetitive play-alongs. One of the benefits of play-alongs is that they help you develop the physical and mental conditioning you need to stay with a part for the length of a song. Three or four minutes can be a very long time if you’re not condititioned for it. But I’ve found almost no play-along lesson videos online. Some videos have short play-along segments, but that’s all. My lessons begin with a demo video, followed by a series of play-along videos.

From my experience as a private teacher, I know that play-alongs really work. I’ve tried just playing over drum tracks, and having the student follow my part, and it doesn’t work nearly as well. Students consistently follow the part better when I play along with a ‘complete’ audio track. I’ve seen it a hundred times.

So next I started recording audio tracks for my students to play along with, each one written to help develop a particular skill. Now, I’ve got a lot of these audio tracks, and it has made my life as a guitar-teacher embarrassingly easy. I’ve got a choice of different play-along exercise for any problem a beginning student has.

My next question was whether I could replace the live demonstration I give to my students with video. I produced some test lessons, and the tests worked.

The new HoustonGuitar.Com lesson series covers the techniques you will need to play real guitar parts from real songs. For rhythm-guitar, these techniques include open chords, open power chords, movable power-chords, power ‘plus-one’ chords, and strumming and picking patterns over chords. For lead-guitar, you’ll learn single-note picking, open scales, and scales in position. You’ll also learn articulations like hammers, pulls, slides, etc. (We are producing lessons on more advanced topics like string-bending, and barre-chords.)

The cost of a subscription is $12.95 per month (compare to prices at a music store). Pay by the month. There’s no minimum subscription period. You can cancel your subscription at anytime. All payments are processed through Paypal ®.

For copyright reasons, we can’t cover real songs in the lessons, but we can talk about the techniques, common chord progressions and riffs that make up real songs. Most of the song-lessons on the net are not licensed and are technically illegal. There are many liability issues with distributing song-lessons in any other form than DVD. (You wont find too many song-lessons on the web apart from Youtube, which has a broad licensing agreement. Even Youtube does’t officially allow song-lessons, but you will find them there anyway. Youtube has removed many song-lessons from their site.)

I will discuss real songs here on the blog. I can discuss techniques, etc. I’m just not allowed to give it all away here.

I invite you to try a different method from any other you’ve seen on the web.


Music Appreciation – Introduction

April 24, 2009

I lived through the musical revolution that took place in the second half of the last century. As artists and musicians, we live in the shadow of that revolution. Revolutions can’t be sustained indefinitely. The ‘Rock Revolution’ died out by my reckoning about the mid 1970’s. (There was a separate technological revolution in the 1980’s, but we’ll look at that later.) Much of the music since then is an exploration of  avenues opened during that creative revolution.

Look at Miles and Trane, The Beatles, The Stones and the Who, the Motown sound, the New Orleans sound, The Atlanta sound, ‘progressive country’ and the Texas sound, the psychedelic sound, ’70’s brass, jazz/rock fusion, London blues, art-rock, the list goes on. The 60’s and 70’s saw an explosion of new sounds.

Today, it’s hard to imagine a time when these sounds didn’t exist. And before they did, there were musical voids in those places. So I’m writing appreciations for some of the important musical figures who we have forgotten, or who we should know better.