James Berry, who gives guitar lessons in Brooklyn, New York, and who has a guitar teacher profile on FindAGuitarTeacher, has written an article as part of an ongoing discussion about the art of teaching beginner guitar lessons. James’s very pertinent subject matter is in response to a topic initiated by guitar teacher Lesley Diane, and speaks to the necessity of allowing for the daunting obstacles that a beginner guitar student is likely to encounter when getting started with the guitar playing journey. We invite you to check out what James has to say in his article and feel assured that anyone who is either beginning to play guitar, or the parent of a beginner guitarist, will find that what James has to say provides very useful and informative guidance.

Many of you may know James as one of the interviewers for our video profile feature. You can find out more about James and his Brooklyn guitar lessons. To see the article by Lesley Diane, to which James is responding, please click here.

The Art of Teaching Beginning Guitar
by James Berry

Lesley Diane’s recent article “Guitar Lessons Should Help You Play Real Music ASAP” made me think about my own experience with beginner guitar students. I often feel a conflict between introducing more technical aspects of guitar playing to a beginner student and nurturing the fun and enjoyment of playing a song—and while in time, a guitar player learns to play technically well with great enjoyment, sometimes early in a person’s guitar playing, those two things are in opposition.

I recently had an example of this in my own guitar teaching. A younger student of mine
wanted to learn a favorite song of hers, and I taught it to her in its original key with its many barre chords. I thought she was ready for them, but when we met for our next lesson, she told me she didn’t really like that song anymore and could we do another one? I suggested we do the song with a capo. This made the song much less barre-chord intensive, and my student learned the new chords quickly and sang the song from beginning to end with great enthusiasm (she obviously still liked the song!).

Lesley tells the beginner student in her article, “You should get to hear yourself making real music as soon as possible,” and the lesson I learned from my experience was that my student needed to hear some real music right then and there. I believe more and more strongly that there is an art form to teaching beginning guitar. Too many technical details too early can destroy a student’s love and passion for music, sometimes permanently. A guitar teacher with a beginning student has to know how to pick one’s spots (and also how to improvise if one method isn’t working) with the final goal being the student connecting with the love of music that led him or her to the guitar in the first place. That’s the only goal. Everything else follows from there.

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