I approach teaching the guitar from a skills perspective. That is, whatever songs or style of music you wish to play it will incorporate a range of skills that require at least some degree of attention to allow them to be used fluently within the music. These skills are not just physical on the instrument but also musical. Some are absolutley core and needed irrespective of whatever music you want to play, eg; being able to play notes and chords correctly and change smoothly between them; being able to feel the beat of the music and play in-time to it; being able to play 8th and 16th note rhythms; right-hand strumming technique; listening whilst playing; remembering sequences of chords/notes and understanding song structures; being able to 'perform' a short piece and make it 'musical' rather than just stumbling through notes in the correct (or even incorrect!) order.
Other skills are more specific such as lead guitar techniques like string bending, hammer-ons and tapping, also perhaps fingerstyle, speed technique, understanding 'jazz chords' and improvisation and these will be more or less important to different students and their personal tastes.
I typically try to isolate specific skills and work on them with brief exercises in tandem with using songs that allow the student to develop those skills in a real musical context. This is with the goal of getting every student to a point where they can play the music and songs that they want to unhindered whilst sounding musically fluent and with the knowledge and ability to address any difficulties that may arise along the way.
Beginners/ Almost Beginners
No previous experience of playing an instrument is required and you don't need to worry about reading music as I use chord charts and tablature which are easy and intuitive to read. So 'beginners welcome' really does mean absolute beginners.
I feel it is important that progress is structured in a meaningful way and students don't tackle material too advanced. When they do it often results in frustration at how it sounds, leads to tension and also the reinforcement of bad technical habits. When this happens, not only does the technique have to be relearnt, but the bad technique also has to be unpicked and the whole process can take a lot longer.
With this in mind I take beginners through a program that I have developed. This begins with chords. We look at how to play them well, change between them and incorporate them into simplified versions of popular songs that progressively get more challenging with a steadily increasing chord vocabulary (whilst these have been picked to be achieveable at a beginner level, they do include songs by artists such as Oasis, Bob Dylan, U2, Snow Patrol and Jimi Hendrix amongst many others). As the student gets comfortable with a core group of chords, we progress to looking at strumming/rhythm technique and start to move into playing songs in a way more faithful to the original. At the same time we also learn to play riffs, tunes and simple scales and gradually develop this aspect of playing too.
As the student starts to learn their way around the guitar, it is important their musical instincts are also developed too. From the very first lesson I work with people to make sure they can play along with records. The parts played at this point are obviously very simple, but the student is learning to listen and keep in time and not just think of their hands and fingers. Listening/timing/rhythm/feel are all things a musician will always need regardless of whatever music they play.
I like to ensure that students are always being challenged and moved forward week to week in achieveable steps, but never overawed with something far too difficult where there are too many things to think about and get right at the same time.
As we progress, lessons become more open. With beginners I like to control the lesson content somewhat to make sure all the core skills are being deveoped correctly, but as the student becomes comfortable with these I will encourage them to set the agenda more to ensure they are heading in the direction they want to, playing the songs they want and getting as much from me as they can.
Guitarists Who are Struggling or Having Problems
It is very common to receive enquiries from guitarists who have played for some time, maybe completely self-taught or had a few lessons years ago and they are frustrated that no matter what effort they put in they are not seeing the progress they deserve. If this decribes you then I am confident I can help you out. I'm a very practically minded tutor and years of sitting in front of people playing guitar to varying standards has made me quite adept at diagnosing problems and spotting the reasons behind, whether they be technical, musical or maybe psychological.
Whilst it is of course possible to be completely self-taught and develop into a great guitarist, this tends to be the exception rather than the norm and most folk end up hitting problems somewhere along the way.
As tedious as it may seem, it is important to look at the basic skills of guitar playing and musicianship here and work to plug any gaps before moving forward. Most issues are something to do with playing material when you perhaps do not have everything in place to do so. Imagine trying to do degree level mathematics when you never quite got to grips with your times-tables. Of course nobody wants to go completely 'back to the beginning' so here it is important to start to understand where the problems are and have a way of working through them. Whilst it may feel frustrating to feel you are going back a bit from where you see yourself, if you get stuck in and put in plenty of practice in the right way you will soon see yourself moving forward again, but in a way that sounds much better and is more comfortable too. Remember, if you are going to be playing guitar for the rest of your life, surely its worth a bit of time setting things right now to allow for many years of enjoyable playing?
Intermediate - Advanced
Lessons here will depend a lot on the level of playing to start with - descriptions like 'intermediate' and 'advanced' can mean wildly different things to different people. There are certain basic skills I like to make sure the player is comfortable with and able to understand. These are necessary to allow us work on the things you want to and to some extent give us a means of communicating - ie. if I refer to the "note you play on the last 16th of the third beat". However the most important thing here is to discuss where you want to go and what you want to achieve, and deciding on a plan to help us get there.
I like to think that whilst we never stop learning the instrument, a truly 'advanced' guitarist shouldn't really need a tutor, at least in a regular prescriptive week-to-week sense. That is, whilst they certainly won't be able to play everything a good understanding of instrumental technique, rhythm and harmonic theory should allow them to work on most styles and develop their playing in the direction they want, independently or with minimal guidance. So part of the aim here is often to get the student to that point where they don't need me anymore!