Jonah Christian – Guitar Teacher

Guitar and Bass
Guitar Performance, University of the Arts
Jazz, Pop, Rock, and Classical

guitar teacher, philadelphia, philly, music lessonsI teach guitar and bass. I started learning guitar when I was 10 years old, initially playing a lot of Classical music and Classic Rock. At the time, I also played cello in the school orchestra, eventually switching over to upright bass. My direction somewhat solidified when I started studying jazz guitar and theory at the age of 14. The study of jazz theory and improvisation really opened my eyes to the amazing, endless world of music and the limitless possibility of the guitar as an improvisational instrument and from that moment I was hooked.

When I teach, I try to always cater the style to the student. I build my lesson plans around the student’s interests and abilities, always with the goal of leaving the student inspired and eager to practice. I believe it is of the utmost importance to make every lesson as enjoyable and informative as possible. As a teacher, I seek to foster the same love for the instrument and craving for knowledge that I have.

 

When did you begin playing Guitar, and why?
I took my first guitar lessons at the age of 7. To be honest, I hated it. My teacher gave me difficult, boring practice assignments and he always tried to teach me HIS favorite music, which was not MY favorite music. I put the guitar in my closet and didn’t touch it until 3 years later when, on a whim, I took it out and tried to learn a few chords. After successfully playing a few chords I notice a profound sense of accomplishment and a strong desire to learn more. The rest is history.

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I also play upright and electric bass (although I do not yet own an upright). I play electric bass a lot for my own recording projects and I enjoy it very much. I definitely hope to find/put together a band in which I can have an opportunity to play bass.

What are your personal goals as a musician?
I would like to compose music for films and TV. I love composing and I love movies and music is an integral part of movies. The music can make or break the film and I want the thrill of creating great music for a great movie. I also hope to compose for various performing groups, both my own groups and others. There is nothing quite like hearing a piece of music you wrote, a piece of your soul, brought to life by great musicians.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
I remember first learning about modes (this was long before I started studying theory). A mode is simply a scale played with different starting and ending notes (for example: a C major scale played starting and ending on D rather than C). Understanding modes gives one the ability to elicit many different tonalities and emotions just from a single scale. At the time, I just could not wrap my head around the concept. I saw all the modes as completely separate, unrelated scales and I could not for the life of me figure out how they were related. Then one day it clicked. Just like that. I was noodling around with the modes and then it hit me: They are all different versions of the same scale! (As you’ll learn, I’m a bit of a nerd for music theory).

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
Less is more. It may sound simple, but it is one of the most important lessons I have ever received. Two well-placed notes can have a substantially greater impact than twenty-five sloppy, thoughtless notes. Not that there isn’t a time and a place for blazing fast riffs (believe me, I like playing fast as much as the next guy), but it is important to realize that in music (and often in life) silence is just as important as the notes themselves.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
The most challenging part of learning guitar for me was definitely building up my left hand strength and dexterity. It is a HUGE hurdle, getting comfortable moving around the fretboard of the guitar, but once it is crossed, that’s where the real fun begins.

What is your biggest musical achievement?
This past spring, I wrote three tunes for a ten-piece ensemble that I was a part of. It was my first time composing for a group of that size. The ensemble played the tunes beautifully and they were so well received that other people in the ensemble decided to write for the group and in April we played a concert comprised entirely of original music from members of the band (this was the first time the ensemble had done anything like this). I won an award for my contributions to the ensemble and the ensemble director, a trombone player who I highly admire and respect, told me that if I ever record my tunes, he would love to play them. He even invited me to play with him for one of his graduate classes at Villanova University.

Favorite thing about teaching?
I love the look of excitement in a student’s face the first time they successfully play something they had been working on. It’s that moment when the student realizes that his/her hard work and practice has paid off. It’s that look that keeps me teaching and keeps me motivated to inspire students and foster a life-long passion for the instrument.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Comparison is dangerous. I remember when I was younger I would get very discouraged seeing people who were better than me at guitar. Getting older, I have realized that there will ALWAYS be someone better than me, just as there will ALWAYS be someone worse. It is important not to compare yourself too harshly to others. It will either make you sad that you aren’t as good as that other guy, or it will make you arrogant and full of yourself because you are better than that other guy. Always remain humble and let those people more talented than you be a source of inspiration rather than discouragement.

Personal music projects:
I recently booked a gig at a jazz club where I will be playing all of my own original compositions. This is the first gig that I have booked by myself, for my own band and my own music and I am very excited to share my work. Hopefully this will be the first of many.

Here is a fun recording that I was a part of by accident (they had found out their bass player broke his hand 5 minutes earlier).