Teaching

Updated: 14 April 2021

My teaching is currently on hold, pending the end of pandemic restrictions. I formerly taught at Crossroads Music in Port Townsend, or I would come to students' homes. I may have a limited amount of time for instruction in the future. I generally have had several active students. Some would meet with me weekly; others, "being more mercurial," visited at times of their own choosing.


I play many styles of music, and have taught various techniques and material through the years. However, most of my recent instruction has been geared to adults studying classical guitar technique, a good foundation for any type of fingerstyle playing. (This is not an absolute restriction -- I'm open to teaching jazz or other styles -- but that's how it's been working out. There are many good active teachers in the area.)

I'll share three thoughts here about the study of music, and what you need to do to be successful.

1. Talent isn't the key. I've had students with tremendous natural ability, and others with less. Great ability, great dexterity, a great ear, are all helpful but they are not deciding factors. The student who becomes a great player is the one who enjoys it the most. If you enjoy playing, then you practice more. Repetition and playing hours are what really matter.

2. If you're not enjoying your practice time, you're doing it wrong. Many people, and many teachers, treat practicing like time at the gym doing "no pain/no gain" exercise. This is wrong. The only thing that will make you good is if you figure out how to enjoy your practice time. If you don't like playing scales, don't force yourself to play them while hating them. Figure out how to enjoy them. It's a choice. You love the instrument, the way it sounds, the way your fingers bring out the sound. You can find all of that in a single note, a single scale, a single chord, a single arpeggio. Revel in the chance to make that chord sound beautiful.

3. Practice the hard parts, and practice very slowly. An amateur plays the easy parts, tries to play at tempo, and loves the sense of accomplishment. A pro focuses on the hard parts, very slowly, because that's how to progress. Slow repetition lets you "own" the difficult sections. Break things into very small chunks, and don't worry about playing through the piece as a whole. That will take care of itself once you have the hard parts.