Today I shared a small excerpt from my lesson with Joris who came to me a complete beginner around the start of the year. Keen to be able to play acoustic as a self-accompaniment for singing to play covers and write songs of his own, he has made good progress and yet as with all of us; could practice more!

We warmed up running the chromatic scale for five minutes, this is a great start for the hands, it helps with co-ordination and smoothing out transitions between notes, alternate picking and playing in time. Next we used a set of primary triads; E, A, D, from the key of A, to get the full hand changing shape in one go and to move from voicing to voicing and it was at this point I decided to share our activity. These chords were arranged in a 12 bar blues-esque pattern and we vamped it with a bit of swagger, I wasn’t keen on being regimented with a metronome for this as Joris still needs some time forming the chords and I didn’t think he’d benefit from a rigid count, we created a nice feel in the rhythm/strum, which is encouraging as he is starting to create his own, remember when you first start to strum its very laboured and counted out, it’s simply too conscious, it’s something that needs to be felt to be good. A very interesting thing is that Joris voices chords in an ergonomic way, trying to minimise the distance in changing from one open chord to another, which is fascinating to watch as I simply use the same voicing for each open chord as I always have, I’m adept enough now to make the change in time but I can really appreciate what he’s doing, more so the way he is thinking about what he is doing.

Next, to develop right hand accuracy we used an arppegiated line with an alternating pick pattern, picking can become monotonous when it does the same thing each bar, like a ‘house of the rising sun’ type thing so I borrowed a lick from Def Leppard to make an exercise from. The riff from Hysteria is based on very simple harmony but the changes in direction employed for the use of the pick give each bar a slightly differing feel with the accent moving, it retains the listeners interest and it also means you have to maintain concentration otherwise you mess it up – Rock!

We concluded the session with a ‘Spider’ an exercise that works control and muscle groups hard so it’s good to finish on as you don’t really feel like playing after it, he’s starting to get this now, at first it was a brain doesn’t compute moment, which in guitar happens frequently, it’s not all waiting on your fingers to do something but getting the mind in a focused place which is still relaxed enough to play in a lucid manner.

Teaching, we discussed this at the close, helps to compound your own knowledge, knowing is one thing but how to explain is another, finding a balance between demonstrations and allowing the student time for exploration is important. I try to remember the few rules of music and guitar playing are made for breaking after all and I’m not looking to stifle that inquisitiveness or the quirks which may be part of a unique style one day. I believe Guitar isn’t taught but coached, hopefully from this those that study with me will realise their own goals and avoid joining the leagues of guitar clones out there!

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