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The Guitar Dojo is Back!

 

I have started up the Guitar Dojo again, after a few years hiatus being tied up with a few projects, including the Deep Purple tribute, The Sound of Purple.

Contact me today to schedule a lesson…. (702) 347-0364!

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The Dojo is Open!

After a long time of wanting to get this idea off the ground, I finally can open the doors of my Guitar Dojo!

As a self-taught guitarist, I feel I have developed a simplified and effective teaching method that uses the music the student is actually inspired by as opposed to a method book that teaches music they have no interest in. We’ll take whatever songs or style of music they want to learn, and break it down to teach all the fundamentals from beginner level to stage-ready… and then I’ll help build their rig and find them a band to play with!

It was hard for me to get around my modesty enough to realize that I might have the ability to make this work, and to put it out there.  But what was even harder was developing an approach… a style of teaching… and my only inspiration for that had to come from something I did take lessons in for many, many years… martial arts.

Some of the Kenpo instructors I’ve had in my life made very long-lasting impressions on me with their methods of teaching, and even their manner of speaking and explaining the small details.  I worked hard to emulate them when I eventually conducted lessons and classes myself… and I remembered those things when trying to develop my teaching method for the guitar, hence the marriage of guitar instruction with a little martial flavor.  Don’t worry… I’m not going to teach how to use your guitar as a weapon, although I have an instructor in Arizona that would love to do that if you choose.

I’m teaching out of my very-humble home for now, but may move to another location in the future, depending on how things go.  If you, or anyone you know is interested in learning how to play guitar, please send them my way…  Thank you!

Raven

 

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The Importance of Proper Footwork

Whether you are an athlete, a dancer, a martial artist, or even a surfer…  solid footwork is the foundation of everything you do.  The same attention must be given to your fingerwork on the guitar.

People have told me they gave up on the guitar because they “just didn’t get it.”  It seems that many people think that if they can’t figure out how to string a few chords together in a very short amount of time, then they just don’t have the talent.  My response would often be something like:  “Even Kelly Slater fell off his surfboard a few times before he got it right.”

Kelly Slater doing something I wish I could do.

Just as a martial artist must have a fluid transition from one stance to another, so must a guitarist from one chord to another… like a surfer jumping to his feet at the top of a wave.  It has to be one fast, fluid motion.  Learning how to play a particular chord is not the hard part.  Smooth transitions between chords is what takes practice, and that is where the frustration usually sets in for those who give up too easily.  It’s easy to forget that your fingers require the same practice on the fretboard as your feet do on the dance floor, and without it, you will be stepping on a lot of toes.

Aside from throwing around analogies, I like to keep lessons fun by teaching students the music they want to learn, instead of using the same old “method” books that bored me to tears many years ago… (I never got very far into one).  However, aspiring guitarists have to realize that learning what they love doesn’t necessarily make it easier.  While it provides much more inspiration and motivation, it still requires practice… and much of that practice goes toward building dexterity, limberness, and coordination in your hands that aren’t there to begin with.  One of my young students, for example, finally understood when I related it to the practice he had to put in for baseball.  His technique improved very quickly after that.

I was once taught to practice my Kenpo forms without hand movements.  Although moving through a kata while holding my hands behind my back felt awkward, it forced me to really concentrate on my footwork (not to mention balance!).

The lesson there is when you’re learning something requiring two or more parts of your body doing different things, it’s good to separate them, allowing you to really focus on the technique required by each.  Your fretting hand and your strumming/picking hand are both learning something new, and completely different from each other.  It’s better not to complicate things in the early stages of learning by forcing your brain to concentrate on both hands at once all the time.  They will eventually come together.

"Yeah... same to you, Pal..."

In this case, that distracts you from what is your focus at this point:  achieving a smooth transition between chords.  In fact, you really don’t have to strum at all. Remember, you’re focusing on fret-hand dexterity right now.  So like me with my hands behind my back… just use your strumming hand to hold the guitar in place, and get those chords going.

A good way to practice chord changes is to learn all the chords in the song you’re studying, and run through them in random order.   Get used to those transitions without worrying about playing the song, yet.  Learn them back and forth.

Get out of moving one finger at a time by thinking of the chords as “patterns,” and shifting all fingers at once, over and over.  A metronome, or even a clock can help a lot.  If it takes you three or four seconds to make a good chord, watch the clock and change chords every few seconds.

Pay no attention to the musical aspect of it.  If it sounds like hell, it doesn’t matter… and that’s part of the reason for not being concerned about strumming right now.  Just get those transitions smooth.  When you’re comfortable with a chord every four seconds, go to three… then two.

Once the chords start flowing, then work in some strumming.  Now you can really get down to learning the song.

Pretty soon, your transitions will be smoother, you will be playing along with the songs you are learning, and new songs will come easier, mainly because you’re going to know all these chords so well.  In the course of learning various songs, you also learn the many different ways to play chords that make those changes even easier.

Next week… Kicking drills!

~ raVen ~

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The Influence of the YouTube era…

It’s been a few years since I last taught, and I have found many of the traditional methods of instruction have given away to a new modern way of teaching:  Both with and against the internet.

The internet is a wealth of information on learning anything you want.  The down side to that is that you will find numerous ways to lean and do the same task.  A student has to work a little harder to focus on the way he’s being taught and avoid the confusion of seeing it done differently in a myriad of different videos.

The art of American Kenpo is based on a style formed and taught by Ed Parker the same way to his students throughout his life (he did modify it a few times, but it still came from him).  Today, you can find thousands of videos on how to execute any given Kenpo technique, all interpreted differently.

Musicians through the years often modify or change the way they play something.  Sometimes it comes from improvisation, and sometimes they just figure out a better or more comfortable way to play a song they have to play every night.  Sometimes they change the key for the sake of easier vocals, or it may simply be a matter of inversions.

Then you have the millions of people who post their own interpretations of a particular song, many of which are way off how the original is played.

Townshend with a capo on the third fret.

There are more ways to play any given chord then most guitarists can think of off the top of their heads.  Learning one way, and seeing someone do another doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  If anything, it’s a lesson in how flexible music really is.

A capo, for example, can be confusing to some students, as I had to explain to one of mine recently.  I showed that Pete Townshend’s use of a capo in a video playing “Let Our Love Open the Door,” did not change the chords he was playing… just the position he was playing them in.

It showed me that with the fact that everybody has a video camera on them these days, combined with YouTube and Facebook, that I have to include the instruction that the way I’m teaching a song may appear different than how the student sees it played in a video.  However, that the important thing is that they learn it one way first,  and then they will see how easy it is to change and play it how it’s most comfortable for them.

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