How to Teach Guitar: The Role of Empathy

The following is an excerpt from Rob’s Totally Awesome Guitar Teaching Handbook. When was the last time you were terrified trying something new? I’m not talking about the fear of sharks at your first surfing lesson. I mean trying something you really want to do, but you’re worried that Jah had other intentions when he doled out your aptitude. Perhaps …

Connor Does Metallica Justice

My 11-year-old student Connor had quite a week. Last Tuesday he appeared on TV. And on Saturday night, he gave an electrifying performance with his fellow metalheads at the School of Rock Presents: Classic Metallica show. Never have I seen Connor so energized. He had me pumping my fist in the air, screaming the lyrics with him. A couple vids …

Connor’s TV Gig

Yesterday morning I joined my 11-year-old guitar student Connor at The Seattle Channel’s studio to watch him perform for the show Art Zone with Nancy Guppy. Nancy had contacted me a couple weeks ago looking for a rock guitarist to perform on an episode dedicated to young local artists. I sent her links to some of the videos from my …

Classics

The Princess Bride. A ’59 Les Paul. Lucky the goldfish’s funeral. There’s something satisfying about a true classic. I thought I’d dig up one of my favorites from this blog: Strumming 101. Since I posted this tutorial on how to strum a guitar in 2005, over 100,000 people have visited it. Every week or so, someone leaves a comment telling …

The Wesley TV Show – Paparazzi

My student Wesley and I have been having fun this past month filming songs and commercials for a make-believe TV show. It’s been an awesome motivator for practicing songs. Here’s his first segment: Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi.” Yep, he chose the song.

Heroes

We all need heroes: People who inspire us to realize our full potential and to do the hard work of being good. People to imagine when making tough decisions, and ask, “What would _______ do?” I just found a new hero.

PolyTune Rocks

I usually don’t plug products, but the just-released PolyTune app for the iPhone is amazing. You strum the open strings on your guitar, and the six pairs of dots—one for each string—show which strings are out of tune. Instead of going through each string one-by-one, you can see immediately where the problem is. In the image at right, the 4th …

Metallica Interview

One of my students is playing “Sad But True” by Metallica at the upcoming Coffee Shop Jam, and he’s made an unfortunate choice for a vocalist: Me. I’ve been singing along with Metallica videos to try to get this John Denver voice to rock a little harder, and I came across this excellent Fresh Air interview with Metallica’s lead singer …

Should I teach "Highway to Hell" to a 10-year-old?

My position: I believe that as a teacher, I’m responsible for teaching both knowledge and character: How to finger tap, and also, usually in more subtle ways, how to be a kind person.  And there are definitely some songs with offensive or “adult” lyrics that I would never teach a child. But I don’t think “Highway to Hell” is inappropriate.  …

Coffee Shop Jam Nostalgia

Six weeks until the Coffee Shop Jam!  As my students’ rowdy recital approaches, I find myself watching video footage from past jams, reliving the exciting memories.  One video I return to, not just now but whenever i need a boost, is Emma’s performance of her song “Snow Day.” I tell the story of helping Emma write this song in the …