17 Oct 2006 09:04 am
While we’re on the subject of music and child development, here’s a recording of “Wild Thing” performed by Connor Wartelle, seven years old. Connor came to his first lesson in May with a 1/2-sized Stratocaster with two strings on it. The others had been shredded by hours and hours of frenetic strumming, the guitar sitting flat on his lap, extra-heavy gauge pick clamped between his fingers, smoke rising from the pick guard.
At first, Connor’s strumming just sounded like noise making. But then I noticed he was coming up with really cool rhythms. I decided I had to get this kid playing power chords as soon as possible, and I thought “Wild Thing” would be a fun first song.
When we recorded the song, Connor wasn’t playing it in rhythm yet, so I just recorded him playing for a while, then I found the best parts and looped them in my recording software. Now he can play the whole song (and sing) in rhythm. He’ll be performing “Wild Thing” and an original called “You’re Done For” (!) at my Coffee Shop Jam on October 29th.
He’s on bass and guitar, and I play the guitar solo.
Hold on to your socks… Wild Thing by Connor Wartelle
10 Oct 2006 09:46 am
Baby Got A Groove On
My new realtor just told me the most amazing story.
We’d been chatting about teaching music to young kids, and how little kids get a lot out of whanging and whomping on the guitar strings—it might not sound like music to us, but they’re learning to play with rhythm. Then she told me this story:
“When I was pregnant with my four-year-old, I had these sensations like he was hiccupping or convulsing. I was worried he was sick—the movements were too fast to be punches or kicks.
So I went in to see my doctor, who was a naval doctor who’d seen thousands of babies. I told him what was wrong, and he said, ‘He’s probably fine. He’s just playing.’ Then he tapped a rhythm on my belly…
…and the baby repeated it.
‘When babies are in the womb, everything is rhythm,’ he said.”
08 Oct 2006 06:41 pm
Segovia Meets The Who
This was my backpacking guitar until I backed over it at a trailhead in Idaho two summers ago. The back popped off and the neck buckled, but it was somewhat intact. It sat in my basement like Norman Bates’ mother until last Saturday, when I decided it was time to drive the coffin nail home, rock-and-roll style.
I know smashing a classical guitar isn’t that rock-and-roll, but it was still a lot of fun.
Now THIS guy knows what he’s doing. I’m not worthy.
08 Oct 2006 02:00 pm
How to Make a Living Teaching Guitar
Update: This article inspired a two-year project writing a book on the subject. Check out Rob’s Totally Awesome Guitar Teaching Handbook.
Someone over at Guitar Noise asked about specific steps he could take to start teaching guitar. Here was my response—a little rambling, I’m sorry, but that’s what blogs are for, right?
I’ve been teaching guitar full-time for four years. My first few students were passed on to me from a friend who teaches guitar and didn’t have room in his schedule. I also started teaching in an after-school program at a local private elementary school, showing third-graders how to play “Smoke On the Water” while they waited for their parents to pick them up.
But the way I filled my schedule was by 1) Getting a good logo, 2) Building a website with the logo on it, and 3) posting hundreds of flyers with my great-looking logo and URL all over the neighborhoods near my place—in coffee shops, gyms, stores, and on telephone poles.
A professional-looking logo immediately sets you apart from 90% of other guitar teachers. It shows potential clients you’re serious about your work. I got mine done for $200, but I would have done it even if it’d cost $10,000.
Now, my website brings in most of my clients. If you’re into computers, study up on search engine optimization. Most guitar teachers don’t use websites, and those who do still don’t do much to make their websites attractive to people searching for “Guitar lessons in Austin.” Try Googling for a guitar teacher in your town, and see what comes up—nothing that you couldn’t compete with, I’ll bet.
I’ve done other things that prepared me to teach guitar, like getting a degree in education and teaching in high school. But I think the most important thing I’ve done to make the business work—to set myself apart from most teachers—is simply to communicate my enthusiasm for teaching. For example, so often you see teachers say “I only take motivated students” in their ads. First of all, all people who contact you for lessons are motivated in some way, but no beginner knows for sure if they’ll continue to be motivated—it depends on how things go in the lessons. Secondly, the message I get from “I only take motivated students” is, “It’s your job as a student to keep me interested in teaching you.” Who’s paying who?
Instead, I tell my students, “Learning a new instrument can be discouraging. I’m going to do what I can to make this fun and not-too-hard.” Of course, the student will get more out of lessons if they practice a lot, but they know that. And I don’t mind teaching students who rarely practice. For some of my clients who are overworked during the day, their guitar lesson is a rare opportunity to relax. If I can help them take their mind off their worries by showing them how to play “Brown-Eyed Girl” for the 5th time, I’m honored.
Finally, as far as your own guitar skills go—just be clear with your students about what you’re good at teaching. When I began teaching, guitar was just a hobby for me, so I worked just with beginners. Now I have some more advanced students. Nothing like teaching to make you practice harder!
Some day, maybe I’ll write a book on this topic and make millions. Hmmm…then I’ll write another book called “How to teach people how to teach guitar.” Somebody call Oprah!
I thought all you folks who read my blog would enjoy checking out a lesson on blues turnarounds I taught my Blues Workshop students today. Included are mp3′s of each turnaround—just click “Listen.”
Turnarounds, typically played during the last two measures of a blues progression, give the cycle an emphatic ending, and signal that they you’re about to head back to the beginning of the progression again (hence the name). A well-executed turnaround really makes you sound like you know what you’re doing. Drill them into your muscle memory until you can do it in your sleep (as you can see, I’ve been playing the blues in my sleep quite a bit lately).
Though I’ve written these in the keys of A and E, most of these turnarounds are moveable. To move them to a different key, identify your locator note. This note should match the note your key is named after. So if you’re playing in the key of G, and your locator note is on the first string, you’ll play that note on the first string, 3rd fret (which is a G note). Now shift the rest of the pattern to fit that new position.
Key of A
1. First part is moveable. The note on the 1st string at the beginning of the 2nd measure is your locator note.
2. First part is moveable. Note on 1st string is your locator note.
3. Moveable. First note is your locator note.
4. First part is moveable–the first note is your locator note. Then you have to slide up five frets to start the rest of the lick.
5. Moveable–just change the chords to fit your key (chord in first measure is a I chord, and chord in second measure is a V chord). Note on 1st string, 5th fret is locator note.
Key of E
1. Easy to move if you change chords to fit the new key. Locator note is a whole step (2 frets) higher than the 2nd string note.
2. Not moveable.