Brooklyn guitar teacher James Berry, whom many of you know from his interviews with other guitar teachers on FindAGuitarTeacher, has been a contributor to this blog on a number of occasions, and he’s sent us another article – this time in response to the recent dust-up between Taylor Swift and her former guitar teacher, Ronnie Cremer. In this post, James lays out his thoughts about “Magic” vs. “Hard Work” in learning how to play guitar, while citing what has been reported in the various news stories about the nature of the Swift-Cremer teacher-student relationship.

We invite you to read what James has written, as well as to send us your thoughts about, and reactions to, the issues raised by James’s perspective and the story itself.

To find out more about guitar lessons in Brooklyn with James Berry, please click here. To read the posts to which James is responding, please visit our blog pages by clicking here.


“Magic” vs. “Hard Work”
by James Berry

The continuing news story about Taylor Swift and her first guitar teacher—Ronnie Cremer of Reading, PA—has reminded me about what it takes to learn guitar and the invaluable role a guitar teacher can play in a guitar student’s life.

Taylor Swift tells the story about a computer tech who just happened to be at the Swift house when Taylor was 12 and saw a guitar leaning in the corner. The tech asked her if she wanted to learn a few chords and she jumped at the chance. Taylor Swift describes it as a “magical twist of fate.”

Ronnie Cremer tells a different story, and his version demonstrates to me what “magic” really is. He describes a girl with determination who worked intensely with a guitar teacher to improve her skills. It wasn’t something that just happened. Taylor Swift—and her parents—had a dream, and they hired a guitar teacher to help her realize it. She and Ronnie Cremer worked together six hours a week! As Ronnie says, “It was basically Tuesdays and Thursday from 5 to 8.”

Ronnie also describes how their guitar lessons evolved: “It went from teaching her guitar, to teaching her how to structure songs.” Taylor Swift wanted to write songs, and he, as her guitar teacher, introduced her to that craft. And it is a craft—to be worked at and honed. Obviously Taylor Swift has worked at and honed her songwriting craft with great dedication. This began with the nuts and bolts of songwriting that Ronnie Cremer taught her; he showed her how to put chords together on the guitar and then how to record her songs on the computer with the recording software Ableton Live: “I said, ‘Here’s your chorus. Here’s your verse. Move these around, and look what you’ve got. You can write one verse, one chorus, and then you’ve got a song.’ That just clicked to her, and made sense.”

To some, sitting in front of a computer working with Ableton Live (or GarageBand or Logic or Pro Tools) may not sound very magical. But to me a great song is magic, and the story of Taylor Swift, who worked with a guitar teacher and applied his initial lessons about guitar playing, songwriting, and song production as a launch pad to the phenomenal success she enjoys now, illustrates how much time and hard work are required to reach that magic. And Ronnie Cremer, her guitar teacher, was there to show her where to start.

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