Brooklyn Guitar Teacher John Blevins Talks to Find a Guitar Teacher About His Guitar Lessons
Guitar teacher John Blevins teaches guitar in Brooklyn, New York and he talks to FindaGuitarTeacher about guitar lessons and learning how to play guitar. Find out more about John’s guitar teaching by visiting the John Blevins guitar teacher page to watch the video profile and hear John play guitar or you may simply read the interview below.
John Blevins: Thanks, for having me.
FindaGuitarTeacher: So, maybe we could start by just hearing about where you teach guitar. What part of the country are you in, and what part of the city where you are?
Guitar Lessons in Brooklyn
John Blevins: Well, I live in Brooklyn, New York, so I teach guitar mostly in Brooklyn, New York. I have several students in Manhattan, as well. So, basically, around the New York City area.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Understood. And, do you travel to your guitar students’ homes, and/or do they come to you? How do you usually handle that?
John Blevins: Well, it’s kind of a mix of both. I would say the majority right now, I actually travel to their homes. I have a lot of students on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But, then, I have a studio in my apartment, so I have a lot of students, especially around the neighborhood in Brooklyn – Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to be more specific – who are interested in coming here. And I have guitars too, so a lot of times, you know, they can just show up. It’s pretty easy for them to come here.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Makes sense. I’m sure people appreciate that convenience.
John Blevins: Yes.
FindaGuitarTeacher: And, do you find that you teach more adults or more children or is it a pretty even mix?
John Blevins: Well, at the moment, it seems to be a pretty even mix. I think my youngest student is 7 years old, and my oldest is sixty-five. So, it’s a wide range. I think I have a couple of students in their thirties, as well. So, that being said, it’s a wide range of playing ability too. From very beginner to quite advanced.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Understood. And, how would you describe the guitar teaching climate where you are? Do you find that there are a lot of people interested in learning to play guitar?
“Everybody Wants to Learn to Play Guitar”
John Blevins: Yes. Definitely so. It’s kind of endless. You know, people say everybody wants to learn to play guitar. It’s very much true. You know, if I go out and post flyers in the neighborhood, definitely, I’ll speak with at least four or five people, just in an hour walk, that are “Oh you play guitar … you teach guitar … that’s great. They’re interested. Yeah, so I’m always being asked about it. Even having your guitar on the subway, you get asked: “Oh, you teach guitar …”
FindaGuitarTeacher: Yeah, makes sense. Something everybody’s interested in. Everyone’s attracted to it. And, can you tell us also about your overall approach to teaching guitar – you know, in very simple terms. What do you focus on when you teach guitar to a student?
John Talks About His Guitar Teaching Approach
John Blevins: Right off the bat, I’m the student is interested in, themselves. I want to know why they’re interested in guitar. What they want to do with it. You know, if I can tailor the lessons to things that are interesting to the student – music that’s interesting to the student – chances are that they’re going to practice more, they’re gonna get more out of it, and will have more fun doing it. So, I guess, in general, I kind of try to see if the students are interested in maybe learning to read music … or maybe what songs they’re specifically interested in, and we can kind of set some goals, base on that. You know, if they have no desire to read music, maybe we won’t dive right into that. I think it is pretty helpful for most students, at some point, to start to learn to read tablature or music for the guitar, or any instrument. So, at some point, that always gets thrown in there. We start dealing with a few things here and there. But I like to pick a few songs mostly that a student likes. You know, it doesn’t even have to have guitar in it. It’s helpful, obviously, if it does have a lot of guitar in it, but it could be any song … just having that as a goal for the student to learn, I think really keeps them engaged and keeps them interested in learning and practicing. Yeah, I think, that, kind of in a nutshell, sums it up.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Cool! And what styles of music do you find people are most interested in learning?
John Talks About What Styles of Guitar He Teaches His Guitar Students
John Blevins: I think primarily, at least with the guitar, rock and folk and pop music are probably the top three genres for that. Some students are interested in learning classical guitar or jazz. Myself, I’m not as experienced as a classical guitarist. I mostly play steel string acoustic and electric guitar. I am also a jazz trumpet player by degree. so I have a lot of jazz improvisation experience and training. So, I do some lead guitar improvisation lessons with some of the more advanced students. Yeah, but it seems like learning some Beatles songs or some Bob Dylan – that’s kind of the most attractive thing to most of my students.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Sure … the classics.
John Blevins: Yeah.
FindaGuitarTeacher: And do you also offer Skype guitar lessons?
John Blevins: I do. I do. Right now this seems to be working fairly well (John refers to his guitar teacher interview being conducted via Skype.) Yeah, it’s a good way to do it.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Tell us also a little more about your background. You mentioned that you played trumpet …
John Tells Us What Led to His Becoming a master Guitar Lessons in Brooklyn
John Blevins: Yes. I actually went to Indiana University and studied jazz trumpet and classical trumpet there, and then, after I moved to New York City, after a few years, I decided to do a masters at New York University, which was also in jazz trumpet. One thing that attracted me about going there was that they needed an adjuncts guitar professor, so I ended up – you know I had played guitar … had started when I was probably ten years old. So, I had played guitar as long as I’d played trumpet, and it just so happened that, with my degrees, I focused on trumpet a little more and played guitar for fun. Also, I write a lot of music, so I write more at the guitar than maybe at the trumpet. But, when I got to NYU for my masters, I probably played more guitar than trumpet there. I was teaching so much to a lot of non-music major students – undergraduates there. So, that’s kind of my background there.
Influence of John’s Professional Background on His Guitar Teaching
John Blevins: Professionally, as a performer, I mostly played trumpet. Like I say, I write a lot of the music … a lot of the original music for my groups on the guitar, but it’s very jazz oriented … very technical. There’s a few guys that play really well, and I enjoy playing with them, so I have a few guitarists that work in the bands as well. But, yeah, as a performer on guitar, I’m probably am drawn to more folk music myself … than jazz … so …
FindaGuitarTeacher: Understood. Understood. Can you tell us a little bit about your guitar lesson scheduling options and the fees that you offer for your guitar lessons?
Guitar Lesson Scheduling
John Blevins: Yes … as far as scheduling, I like to keep it as flexible as possible. So, I try to keep pretty much anytime available that will work for the students. That being said, it’s always better I found, at least in my experience, to have some kind of set time we can depend on, as opposed to just re-scheduling every week … it becomes kind of difficult to actually meet and also, traveling to my students’ homes … you know … I’m working around their schedules a little bit more. As far as teaching the lessons in my own home … my own studio here, daytime is usually better … you know, kind of a 9 to 5 schedule, but evenings can work as well. So, I’m pretty flexible, as far as that goes.
Guitar Lesson Fees
John Blevins: As for my rates, I typically charge $60 per hour. If I’m traveling to the student’s homes, that’s kind of the going rate. Occasionally, I’ll do shorter lessons, like a thirty minute lesson, and I’ll do that for $40. And then if I go longer … some students will do it for an hour-and-a-half or two hours, so I’ll discount their rate … $80 and $100 respectively. So, I would say most students go with the $60 per hour … per week. And, that’s if I’m traveling to the students’ homes. A lot of times, if they’re coming to my home, it’s definitely more convenient for me, so I’ll do a bit of a discount … $50 an hour for that.
And, all that being said, it’s actually very helpful for me and the students to offer a package of lessons. A lot of times, especially new students will pay for a package of four lessons, and I’ll give them a discount for that. So, we just had one student sign up; he did $200 for four lessons. So, it’s a bit of a discount on my normal hourly rate, when I’m traveling. I feel that kind of gets us a better start. You know, we’re set … we’re gonna meet four times … at least. It kind of gets the ball rolling a little bit.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Yeah … the more committed a guitar student can be, the more they’re gonna get out of it. And, can you tell us a little bit about your equipment. I notice you have a guitar there – an acoustic guitar. Can you tell us about the kind of equipment you use when you teach and just in general about it?
John Blevins: Yeah. This is typically the guitar I bring and teach with. It is a Taka, which is kind of an unknown Japanese brand. This was actually my great uncle’s – it was given to me – given to me by my grandpa, who had it at that point. I had a setup done recently at Thirtieth Street Guitars, here in the city, and Matt over there was kind of surprised by it. He hadn’t really heard of the brand. He said it was about the late sixties’ Japanese make, and seemed to really like the sound, and so do I.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Is that your main guitar?
John Blevins: That’s my main guitar. I also have a Godin SD as an electric and a Fender Deluxe, which I like to play through if we’re doing electric.
FindaGuitarTeacher: The Fender Deluxe Reverb amp?
John Blevins: Yes.
Guidance in Equipment Selection: A Guitar Teacher’s Influence
FindaGuitarTeacher: Cool. And, do you offer your guitar students guidance about purchasing their own equipment?
John Blevins: Yes – definitely – especially with my younger students. Sometimes, just depending on their size, they need a smaller guitar, just so it’s comfortable. So, a lot of times, I recommend the Baby Taylor. It’s about a half-size guitar, and it’s comfortable for me to play, but it’s definitely more comfortable for the younger students, just to get their arms around it and be able to hold it.
FindaGuitarTeacher: We’d love to hear you play something. Can you give us an example of your playing?
John Blevins: Yeah, sure. I’ll play some Paul Simon here. (Editor: John plays some of Paul Simon’s “April Come She Will”,
FindaGuitarTeacher: That’s beautiful. Thanks.
John Blevins: Thanks. A little abbreviated version of “April Come She Will”.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Sounds great. Well, listen, it’s been great to hear all about your guitar teaching, and we look forward to seeing you on FindaGuitarTeacher in the future.
John Blevins: Great. Thanks for having me.