Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Ultimate Guitar Lesson (part 2)

Where there are blogs all over the internet which present very little beyond being an outlet for some people to have a bit of winge, with my own blog I wanted to avoid having it perceived in this way and instead tried to reflect my thoughts and ideas in a more positive, informative, and useful way. Upon reading the “Ultimate Guitar Lesson” article (originally posted on but re-published here) I noticed that this article was drifting alarmingly close towards the type of “winge blogs” that I’ve been seeking to avoid. Also since posting the original “Ultimate Guitar Lesson” article, I’ve thought about it a lot and concluded that I had only truly reflected half of what I was really thinking with the original post.

Before I bought the magazine advertising “The Ultimate Guitar Lesson” on the front cover, it did occur to me (albeit briefly) that there may well be the ultimate guitar lesson inside. Where I may have had serious doubts which were later confirmed, nobody knows it all, and it was perfectly feasible that there really was some great insight about learning how to play the guitar within the pages that I had never seen before. Where this wasn’t the case, in order that I may offer some substance to the articles I post online, I gave quite a lot of thought to what an “Ultimate Guitar lesson” would actually look like, and asked myself the following questions:

“What could I have found inside which would have impressed me?”

“What would the real ‘Ultimate Guitar Lesson’ look like?

“What would it absolutely need to contain in order that its immense promise would be fulfilled?”

By asking these questions, I started to carefully devise and formulate what I would have wanted to see. Anyone who has been teaching for any length of time would like to think that they are good at it, so devising my own “Ultimate Guitar Lesson” seemed like a good idea (however futile, na├»ve, or ludicrous this may appear, especially after I had all but written off the idea as an impossibility). What I would learn about the guitar, teaching, and myself by trying to do this would be worthwhile whatever the outcome.

What would my own “Ultimate Guitar Lesson” contain?

That it would contain aspects of guitar playing which I consider (subjectively) to be important (as an unavoidable inevitability) had already rendered it less than adequate, so that principle became my starting point which led me to ask some more, and better quality questions. Would techniques, repertoire, scales, modes, chords, arpeggios and how they all fit together actually be included within an “Ultimate Guitar Lesson”? These things are component parts of playing, but not necessarily the components parts of the ‘ultimate’ means by which a guitarist would learn them together with how they may most effectively use them, so why would they be within the lesson? What would actually be needed is the highest quality of learning tools, and an ultimate ‘approach’ to learning the guitar. That led me to consider this:

Where I had previously considered that music and theory had been “done” within all the books, videos, online lessons and tutorials that are available now, and that no more explanations in extension of the explanations already available are actually needed, with my own guitar publication (the Contemporary Guitar Performance Workshop) it’s been in a seemingly permanent state of evolution for a long time. It’s up to it’s third full-scale revision, and I’ve been returning to old ideas and re-working the formats and graphics in order that they may have the highest standard of clarity, and be most effectively presented for over 10 years! I’ve always been looking for better ways to express concepts and ideas, but lost all objectivity and failed to notice that this very fact was proof positive that new books, videos, and teaching resources will always be needed, and always be welcome as music itself evolves.

Maybe the ultimate guitar lesson is to realise that the approach to the instrument, the repertoire and the techniques, together with the means by which all these things may be learned and brought together, is in a permanent state of healthy evolution. Through exploring this, and upon asking myself these questions, I concluded that the “Ultimate Guitar Lesson” (for me), is not in techniques or musical vocabulary and ideas as to how these things may be brought together. The “Ultimate Guitar Lesson” would be an open-minded approach to the instrument which allows all theory and musical vocabulary to be most efficiently learned, and influences to be absorbed, filtered, processed, and then accumulated and amalgamated into your playing.

So how is this done? The best I can offer as an answer to this question at this time is that it is achieved by playing, and then focussing all your attention to listening and assessing the outcome of your playing. Is the outcome consistent with what you want to hear? If not, why not and how may you improve it? What resources may you draw upon to assist you as you do this? The “Ultimate Guitar Lesson” would need to be the ultimate approach to learning how to play the guitar. On one level, it’s different for everyone because of the vast and diverse aspirations that students of the guitar have, and the different ways in which people most effectively learn. On another level, the principles which underpin the approach (by playing, properly listening and assessing your playing, and then acting in accordance with the results of your assessment, knowing what resources you may draw upon to help you do that) have stood the test of time, are reliable, dependable, and consequently they have an immeasurable valuable. With room for improvement as a matter of inescapable inevitability, for now that is what I would offer as my closest description of what the “Ultimate Guitar Lesson” may be.

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