Tag Archives: guitar

Easy Holiday Songs to Play on the Guitar

Put On Your Ugly Christmas Sweater and Break out a Holiday Tune!

Guitar Christmas Songs It’s that time of year, and many new guitar students out there want to show off their stuff for the holiday season. We want to help you out by giving you a selection of easy holiday songs to play on the guitar, and by also demonstrating what makes a song good for beginner guitar players. That way, you can start with the songs we’ve suggested and then find more selections on your own.

So what makes one song easier to play than another? It’s all about the basics: how much does a song focus on basic guitar skills? What key a song is in and the amount of chords a song requires are the first basic skills that come to mind. In other words, if a song is in C Major or G Major (the first two keys most beginner guitar students learn), it will theoretically be an easier song to play, especially if it sticks to the common chords within those keys.

Then, you’ll want to look at how fast the song is, or at least, how fast the chords change. Going back and forth between the C chord and the G chord is tricker than holding a C chord for a long time and then switching to G later on. Longer songs will also be trickier than shorter songs. Similarly, if you’re working on tabs or learning to play melodies, look for some with shorter ranges, standard fingerings, and simple chord progressions.

Holiday songs tend to meet a lot of this criteria. Many of them are also familiar to the average beginner guitar player, and when a tune is more familiar to us, it’s easier to learn. Furthermore, a number of the songs listed below are in the public domain, meaning it’s relatively easy to find sheet music, tabs, or chords for them. Now, without further ado, here are some easy holiday songs to play on the guitar!

 

  • Joy to the World
    This version is in G major and requires just three chords. It’ll be easy to focus on the singing with this one if you’d like to mix your musical skills.
  • Silent Night
    With a slow and simple melody and limited chord changes, this Christmas classic is easy to play whether you’re focusing on chords or on playing the melody. You can find the chords and the tab for the melody here.
  • 12 Days of Christmas
    Although this is a long song, the melody repeats over and over, making it relatively easy to play on the guitar. A minor chord is thrown in, so this one can also stretch your skills slightly.
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
    Songs for kids tend to be on the easier side, and this holiday favorite is a good example of that. You can find the chords here.
  • Jingle Bells
    An example of a faster song with limited chord changes, this song is also a great choice for those learning to read sheet music. You can find the chords and the sheet music here.
  • Auld Lang Syne
    For your New Year’s party, prepare to have another minor chord thrown in. You can find the chords here. Or, if you’re feeling a little more advanced, you can try to play the melody by using the sheet music or tab here.

 

In the end, the easiest holiday songs to play on the guitar will be the ones you like the most. People practice an instrument more if they like the song they’re playing, so if you want to try a song that’s not on this list, go for it! If you’re not quite there yet though, these songs are a great way to build your skill while also getting into the holiday spirit.

 

Guitar Teachers

Hey there, Neema! Welcoming you to our wonderful collection of guitar teachers at Philly Music Lessons.

guitar teachers philly

With interests in blues, jazz, and rock, Neema teaches guitar lessons at Philly Music Lessons. He is also a great teacher for piano, bass, and drums, having a solid, well-rounded musical background. Currently, Neema is pursuing a degree in guitar performance from The University of the Arts. You can check out Neema playing a piece on electric guitar, following the short bio and interview below:

I teach Guitar, Piano, Bass and Drums. My first musical experience was singing, then playing hand drums while I was young. I have formal training in guitar from University of Houston and Berklee College of Music after high school. I am currently studying guitar performance at The University of the Arts. I have very many goals for my life and one of them is to continue teaching music. I have been teaching for 4 years now, and I consider myself to be a professional educator. My strength as a teacher is to quickly identify how the student needs to learn to best show him or her the steps to success. I also have experience with group lessons in guitar and piano. I love to teach songs, riffs, scales, proper technique, proper theory, and how to get the most out of your practice. It is very important to play music everyday and to have discipline in your practice. Recording yourself, listening back, and planning what to do for the next day are all good practice habits. I practice jazz and classical guitar at least 3 hours a day.

When did you begin playing guitar, and why?

I first started to play the guitar on September 1, 2008. I’m from Houston Tx, and when Hurricane Ike landed ashore, I was safely in College Station Tx at a friends house. He had a guitar, and I played a Cold Play song. I always wanted to learn to play the guitar, and I did!

What are your personal goals as a musician?

My personal goals are to perform my own songs with a band, be a successful song writer and performer and to become a top entertainer!

Do you have a memory of a time when a music concert or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?

The first time I had a click that maybe music and sound could be the story of my life was when I was a kid singing a song on the radio and my brother told me I sounded exactly like the lead singer.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) or current teachers?

The piece of advice that stuck would have to be “play that tune all day long.”

Whats your most challenging musical moment?

The first time I picked up the guitar. And the hardest thing will be the next thing I play, because I am always trying to challenge myself.

What is your biggest musical achievement?

Music itself is a reward, so just the act of playing music is an achievement for me.

Favorite thing about teaching?

Teaching is always earning me experience with new people with different backgrounds. It’s rewarding to teach music, to talk about music and always to play music. 

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?

Many people think they can’t play music, like its something out of reach. I would like to share with those people that they can and should learn music. It expands the mind, you become smarter, and even begin to solve life’s most difficult problems better.
Currently I am looking for a band and I’m writing my own songs and lyrics.

 

New teachers! Jenn Amell, Guitar and Piano

Jenn_piano_guitar

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Meet Jenn Amell. Jenn teaches guitar and piano to beginner and intermediate students. Her guitar focus is on pop, rock, and punk. On piano, Jenn specializes in teaching classical, but also loves working with pop music and show tunes. An excellent teacher for kids, she can bring a beginner through basic piano technique, introducing them to classical fundamentals. Kids who have an interest in playing pop, rock, or punk can explore chord progressions, strumming patterns, finger plucking, and more. Jenn also teaches adults who are at the beginner to intermediate level, offering instruction for playing pop music, as well as classical.

Read more about Jenn in her bio and the interview below:

I am a piano/guitar teacher. For the last fourteen years, I have been playing piano, as well as guitar for the past nine. Music is a chord struck deep in the heart, and it is a special passion of mine to pass on the skills necessary to experience such a visceral medium. Playing an instrument is one of the greatest meditative practices. On top of that, it stirs the brain and body into healthy action, allowing for better coordination and muscle memory.

Some of my best experiences have come from playing music, whether in a room full of friends singing and banging on drums, or alone strumming on the guitar. I have been fortunate enough to work with some great musicians in the Main Line and Philly areas including Nicholas Brower of Good Shirt Productions and fellow Philly Music Lessons teacher, Jennifer Pague, of Vita and the Woolf. Additionally, I also have an affinity for punk music and have put together a small lo-fi EP (Distant Milk) of ambient punk for my project, ‘Future Seer’.

Via all these good musical experiences, I have developed a teaching strategy that focuses on equal parts theory and improvisation. I mostly teach piano in a classical style, but would love to work with those who want to play pop or show tunes. As for guitar, my experience lies in rock, pop, and punk music, with a strong emphasis on strumming patterns and chord progressions. I accept students of any age from beginner to intermediate levels.

When did you begin playing piano/guitar, and why?:
I began playing piano at age eleven under the tutelage of Janet Ables. My mother inherited an upright player piano from her father and I can remember sitting at its keys and plunking out Chopsticks or The Spinning Song. When I showed an affinity for the piano, my mother decided to get me lessons, which continued throughout middle school and high school. As for guitar, I was first introduced at age fifteen by my church’s youth group, the leader of which taught me some chords and let me play on the worship team. I think I gravitated toward piano and guitar because of the therapy it offered. Playing either instrument calmed me then and continues to do the same now.

What are your personal goals as a musician?:
Music has always been a kinetic, visceral experience for me. It makes me happy, and because of that, it is a compulsion— in the best way. So, I’d say my personal goals involve playing for my own enjoyment and passing on any knowledge I’ve gained to others who want to experience that same happiness and compulsion.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?:
I can definitely remember times when the piano or guitar mystified me. How did they work? How could others make them sound so beautiful? I’m sure the same feeling came from learning a song on the piano, but I specifically remember learning my first chord (G) on the guitar. I had a feeling like, “Oh, so that’s how it’s done!”. Although the mechanics of playing either instrument become more knowable, music itself still holds a very exciting mystery.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
My mom and I often talk about the symbiosis between all the artistic mediums. I love literature (having studied it in university) and have found many striking similarities between music and writing. One particular passage really inspired to me from Anne-Marie Macdonald’s novel, Fall On Your Knees. In the scene, she is describing an opera singer: 

“It’s nothing to do with the words, which are in a foreign language, or the story, which most people don’t know. It’s because a real and beautiful voice delicately rends the chest, discovers the heart, and holds it beating against a stainless edge until you long to be pierced utterly. For the voice is everything you do not remember. Everything you should not be able to live without, and yet, tragically, do.”

I also love Brian Eno, he’s full of good advice.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
Oh, I have them all the time! Music is supposed to be challenging, otherwise it wouldn’t be worthwhile.

What is your biggest musical achievement?:
I guess completing my EP for Future Seer was my biggest musical achievement. It was super fun and I hope to do another one soon. I am also so happy to be in any way involved with Vita and the Woolf. They’re a great local Philly band reaching for high heights.

Favorite thing about teaching?:
I love teaching children, especially when they put two musical concepts together and finally understand them. Their smiles are genuine and you know that something unlocked in their brains.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
My best advice is twofold:
1. Be patient.
2. Practice as much as you can.

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
Distant Milk, Future Seer (2015) – solo project including piano, synth, guitar, vocals and audio production.

Father’s Day Gifts, Music

Schedule a Lesson or Contact Us for Gift Certificates

Father’s Day Packages and Discounts

FREE Trial lessons for Dad through the end of June!

Gift Certificates Available:
1-12 lessons (includes free trial for Dads)

10% off season packages (12 lessons)

Dad plus Family:
Group lessons family prices:
10% off the normal group lesson price

(Father and child, Father and spouse, or the whole family)

We have a lot of options for families at Philly Music Lessons. Learning together is a unique and memorable way to explore music. With discounts for multiples, our private lessons can be made joint. Two or more students can take lessons together, and for the upcoming occasion, it may just be a Father and child duo. Families taking joint lessons get an extra bonus on top of our discounted group rates, with an additional 10% off.

A local Philly parent’s blog visited our space for a unique Father-sons jam session for Father’s Day. Guided by our teacher, Phil, the family met to rock out and test some of the studio instruments in honor of Dad and his passion for music (Weezer in particular). The jam included an electric bass, ukulele, full-upright piano, drum kit, guitar, 1/2 sized violins, a harmonica, and various other musical knick-knacks. A bit like our Big Kid’s music class, the jam session was highly focused on the exploration and strongly encouraged experimentation and collaboration. Phil provided some concrete musicality, and everyone chimed in and took turns in the spotlight. Check out the video above (made by HipsterHenry). You can also read about HipsterHenry’s experience at our space at Hipsterhenry.com. The blog provides a lot of really good, parent-tested things to do with kids around Fishtown, Northern Liberties, and Philadelphia at large. We’re grateful to have received a visit!

In addition to this unique jam session, parents and children pair up frequently to learn a new instrument together in joint-lessons. Its also pretty common for siblings, and/or parents to take lessons at the same time (with two different teachers for convenience or one after another). In a nutshell, Philly Music Lessons can sometimes turn into a family affair (we love the brothers who played a duet on guitar and cello, and our Father-daughter trio from our Spring Recital!).

Of course there is always the simple gift for Dad – get him a set of new strings and some private lessons where he can quietly pursue his long held off dreams. He’s put aside his musical passions long enough, and its time to give him the chance to be a rock star… or a classical guru… or get on top of his dixieland, jazz clarinet chops. Contact us for joint-lesson rates, Father’s Day specials, or to set up a trial lesson. For more on what instruments we offer, check out our lessons and classes.

Upcoming Events! Recitals

Spring Coffee House Recital May 30th
With Student Performances in Cello, Violin, Piano, and Guitar
At Philly Music Lessons, Fishtown

piano recitalThis weekend, we will be holding a salon-style recital at our space in Fishtown. Families and friends will gather starting at 3PM to support students of all ages and skill levels (some performing for the first time!). Guests can enjoy wine, cheese, and music during 3 sections of performances. This recital has given students of guitar, violin, cello, and piano the chance to dedicate themselves to a single piece of music, polishing it to performance quality. We applaud them for their work ahead of time and also look forward to hearing it all on Saturday.

Recitals are important milestones, and so we always try to document these events. Each performance is filmed for students and families to enjoy, share, and reflect upon afterwards. By now some of our students have a few recitals under their belts and will surely enjoy looking back!

Stay tuned for this Spring’s 2015 Coffee House Recital Highlights and for updates on the 2015 Fall Recital, which will take place at the Ethical Society on Rittenhouse Square in Center City, Philadelphia. Cheers, and good luck to our students!

Just in! Ukuleles for Kids Classes

Learning Guitar Concepts on Ukulele in our Group Kids Classes

Good news! Our ukuleles just came in so we can start prepping for music class. Our Big Kid’s class starts April 4th. As of now, we’ve just got an 11 AM Saturday time. However, these small classes work much like private group lessons in that they can be scheduled based on group interest. We’d love to hold more times, especially an after-school weekday time with one of our guitar teachers. So, if you’ve been looking for something along these lines (perhaps as an alternative to private lessons or something to do after school), look no further and contact us with your availability! We’ll do our best to arrange a group. For group lessons, we don’t just do our kids music classes – we also arrange groups for teens and adults and offer classes as well (BYOB singing classes, Beginner Guitar, Folk Ensemble, Vocal Technique, and more).

Description of Our Big Kid’s Class:

This class is a step between our baby and toddler music classes and private lessons. Small group instruction for kids ages 4-6 uses ukuleles and xylophones to playfully teach music. Classes are made up of between 5-6 children. Through guided exploration, children learn notes, listen with their ears, and practice basic technique. Songs are used as learning tools and interludes between activities. Curiosity and experimentation are encouraged.

*People often ask us, what age is good to start children with private lessons? Every child is different! Some kids might be interested at an earlier age than others. Typically, we suggest waiting until your child is at least 4 years old. We do, however, teach children younger if there is a strong interest. Instruments like piano and drums are easier to start with than guitar, and ukuleles are a good way to work up some of the strength required for guitar technique.

Meet Frank Velardo, our Guitar Teacher

guitar lessons

Guitar Teachers at Philly Music Lessons

Introducing Frank Velardo to our pool of talented guitar experts. Looking to take lessons for blues, jazz, or rock? He’s your guy.

Frank is a fellow former jazz performance mate from Joey’s days at the Boyer College of Music and Dance. Thus, we’ve been rubbing guitar elbows with Frank in the music scene for years! From jazz sets at Book Space, Chris’s, and Caribou Cafe (to name just a few), to sharing a bass player on more than one occasion, we’ve gotten groovy to the guitar licks of Frank plenty of times. In addition to being a master of his craft, Frank’s also an awesome teacher. And he looks like George Harrison.

Frank’s Bio:

I teach Guitar, Bass, Piano and Ukulele.  I am an accomplished musician, composer and educator versed in many contemporary styles. I have been studying blues  and jazz based music for many years now and have developed an authentic sound that stands prominently among my idols. I play in  several Philly based groups as a sideman, and I also lead my own  project. In 2010 I graduated from Temple University with a degree  in jazz performance, and in 2012 I released my first collection of original music, The Ardvark Felon.

Here’s our interview with Frank:

When did you begin playing [instrument], and why?:

I took my first piano lesson when I was 9, but my mother had shown me a few things before that. I got serious about music when I started paying the guitar. I was 12 years old. I started playing guitar because I wanted to be able to play “Good Riddance (TIme of Your Life)” by Greenday.

What are your personal goals as a musician?:
Like with anything else, there are short-term and long-term goals. A short-term goal could be something like learning a new song or copying a solo. A long term goal is something like being able to identify the chord changes of a song without having to struggle over it, or learning how to play jazz. My long term goals with the guitar is to be able to play every “idea” that comes to me while improvising… oh yea, and to have fun! 

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?:
I was working on being able to hear a continuous stream of 8th notes in my head. I thought it would help my jazz playing. It’s a concept call “Forward Motion”. Hal Galper, jazz pianist and educator coined the term and wrote a book on it. I spent years doing exercises and practicing. It finally clicked one day while I was watching TV. I was just sitting there, not trying, but then I could suddenly hear the notes in my head, and feel where my fingers had to be to play them. It was exciting!

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
Be stubborn. It sounds cliche but “sticking with it” is really the key ingredient to success in music, because if I would have quit back then, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
Working on time/rhythm. It’s still a challenge, and I’ve improved in that department a lot over the last 5 years.

What is your biggest musical achievement?:
I’ve practiced to the point where the guitar is no longer an obstacle in conveying my emotions or “saying what I need to say” through music.

Favorite thing about teaching?:
It forces me to be patient and understanding. I enjoy playing the support role and, I like watching students connect the dots. I’ve had a lot of great teachers over the years so I feel it’s important to keep that tradition going.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
If you have a guitar, don’t wait for the first lesson to take it out of its case! Don’t be afraid to mess around with it. There’s nothing that you can do that will jeopardize your ability to improve if you start playing before the first lesson. Teachers like to see that you have take some initiative with your learning.

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
I play every last Tuesday of the month at Jose Pistolas at 15th and Spruce with my trio. I also play in a blues band called the Downtown Shimmy. I have a calendar of show dates on my website www.frankvelardomusic.com I also have some original tunes and photos posted.

Philly Music Lessons student performances!

Student Performance

Cello and Guitar Performance at Philly Music Lessons

The Importance of Student Performances – We returned this December to the Church of the Holy Trinity, where students performed their best. Playing in recitals is voluntary, but we always encourage students to take part. Its an opportunity for both teachers and students to focus on skills, master new material, and see a piece through to the end. It is also a time to experiment with performing in front of an audience. This kind of challenge gives students a unique sense of confidence. Recitals are also be a great way to practice playing live (work out those butterflies!). Ensembles and duets sharpen musicianship and enable students to gain group experience. Even though they can be a bit nerve racking, recitals tie together concepts in ways that go above and beyond the private lesson. So students, pat yourselves on the back! We know its not easy to get on stage, and we’re all so proud of the work you’ve done.

Into the Performance Archives – For some, this was their second or even third recital. For others, it was their first. Looking back it is incredible to see the progress of those who have returned (even since the 2014 Spring Recital). First timers, you’ll be able to look back at these performances in the future and say, “Hey, look how far I’ve come!” Part of why we keep an archive and write the recital review is so that students can analyze, critique, and appreciate their progress.

Our Fall 2014 Recital Review – This year, the cello made its first appearance. We had a few returning duos and some new – The Glew brothers performed a Coldplay song on cello and guitar, and two adult students played duets from the Mel Bay guitar books. New teachers contributed to the recital as well, including string teacher Veronica Hudacek, and piano teacher Meredith Ferro.

Lilly Huber opened the recital on the piano. Her teacher, Meredith Ferro, has been working with Lilly following classical piano methods, focusing on proper technique and note reading. Lilly played “Minuet in G”, and “Falling Leaves”. Her graceful performance was filled with ease – an ease that has grown since last recital!

Another one of Meredith Ferro’s piano students, Elim Savage, went next. Elim, a beginner, is among one of our youngest students (just 4 years old!). With his first piano lesson just a few months prior, Elim bravely performed “Hiking” with his teacher, followed by a great first-time solo performance of “The Rainbow”. Good Job Elim!

Then, Colton Moran came to the piano. Colton has been a student of our teacher, Alex Maio. This was his first time playing in a recital. Playing with both hands, a feat for a beginner piano student, Colton performed “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick” simply and sweetly (just in time for the holidays!).

Ally Altshuler played us three songs from her growing repertoire: “Bravery at Sea”, “Waltzing Elephants”, and “Animal Band”. Ally and her teacher Joseph Primavera have been working on some pop tunes, while also studying note reading and beginner piano technique. Last Spring, Ally sang and played piano at the recital – Ally, its amazing how far you’ve come in just half a year!

Addie Dash has been working on some pop pieces with her guitar teacher. She chose to play a mellow, acoustic version of “Firework” by Katy Perry. As she and Joe work on guitar technique during lessons, Addie also works on songwriting. Exploring composition, melody and lyrics, Addie wrote an original tune – she played “Black into Light” at the recital. Good job Addy!

Gabe Moran was up next, bringing our attention to the drums. Gabe is a drum student with Alex Maio, and this was his first recital. He kept the beat while playing an 8 bar jam accompanied by some blues guitar from Joseph Primavera. We can’t wait to see Gabe play again with other musicians, as he’s clearly ready to back up his first band!

Jack Hirsh and Joe played “The General”, by Dispatch. Jack has been learning tablature and working on his fret board skills. Jack did a great job with the complicated finger work during the opening of this song. While playing some solid rhythm guitar throughout, Jack also sang the chorus with Joe. Last year, Jack played piano in the recital. He studies both piano and guitar during lessons. Bravo to a first time guitar performance!

Hayden Dash, a piano student with us, played “Best Day of My Life”, by American Authors. Thanks for bringing spunk and personality to this piece and to the recital! Its nuts to think it was only one year ago Hayden played this beginner’s classic (with equal energy!).

Jacob Altshuler played “The Man”, by Aloe Blacc. Jacob started guitar lessons with Joe not too long ago as a beginner/intermediate for his age group. Jacob has worked from guitar books, but has mainly been working with tab recently and right hand picking technique. We enjoyed Jacob’s song choice and his picking skills!

Duncan Glew played a duet with his cello teacher, Veronica Hudacek. Together they played”Etude #5″, by David Popper. Duncan is an intermediate cello student. He produced smooth and clear notes as he performed this classical piece for the audience.

Next, Duncan accompanied his brother, Finn Glew, as they performed “Viva La Vida”, by Coldplay. Finn sang and played guitar. As this was Finn’s first vocal performance, its clear these two are just scratching the surface of their musical collaboration! We hope to see more of this duo at the next recital.

Jessica Lydon has been an adult piano student with Philly Music Lessons for a few years. With an interest in learning chord melodies for popular songs, Jessica has been working on the song “Mad World”, by Tears for Fears. She performed this Donnie Darko tune for us on the piano.

Phyllis Farquhar and Joe Stanczak followed Jessica’s performance with two guitar duets. Phyllis is a beginner guitar student, and Joe Stanczak an intermediate. Both taking lessons with Joseph Primavera, these two played “Ballad”, and “Pretty Pickin'” from the Mel Bay Guitar books. There’s often no better way to make note reading come to life than in the form of duets. Often times, teachers will offer accompaniment for such practice, but we love when our students create their own ensembles.

Joe Stanczak, though a long time guitar student, recently began taking voice lessons with one of our teachers, Marcelle McGuirk. In order to improve vocal technique and better understand the mechanics of singing, Joe has been focusing on vocal exercises. He and Marcelle have begun applying a technical singing practice to his interest in classic rock. Coordinating guitar and vox together, Joe performed “Behind Blue Eyes” by The Who for the recital – a first-time vocal performance!

Henry Corkran, who studies guitar with Joe, played “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin. Way back when, Henry was just beginning to scratch the surface of all the great classic guitar riffs from artists like Pink Floyd and Zeppelin. Its clear Henry’s grasp of the fret board is moving along!  Onward, to mastering more great electric guitar lines, Henry!

Derek Mansen, an advanced student studying jazz guitar, performed “Play it Pretty”. He’s been dissecting some chord melodies during lessons with Joe, tapping into theory along the way. Tackling these advanced pieces fosters a thorough understanding of the fret board and scales, and requires mastery of tone and form. Derek played this piece smoothly and evenly.

Alana Gardner closed the show with her heart-felt performance of “Come Home”, by One Republic. Performing on piano and vocals, Alana showed off her singing skills again! Alana has been translating pop music into solo performances, accompanying herself on piano. As a supplement to her lessons, Alana has experimented with recording. Recording, like recital performance, challenges students in a unique way. We’ve got some of Alana’s first recordings here.

To Our Students – When you’re in the thick of learning an instrument, its easy to forget that there was a time when you didn’t know anything about music – when your fingers were sore from holding down a single string, when you couldn’t yet hear intervals, when you didn’t know the names of the notes, or how to make a decent sound come from the strings or trumpet. Taking time to look back will remind you of the process and how far you’ve come. May these reflections inspire you as you continue into the future! As you watched everyone perform this past Fall, with students from ages 4 and up, perhaps you were inspired by those who are just a little further along than you. I know there were some little ones in our audience who were surely doing the same, waiting for their turn in the spotlight!

New Guitar Teacher: Phil Smith | Philly Music Lessons

Philly Classical Guitar Teacher: Phil Smith

Classical Guitar Teacher: Phil Smith

Philly Music Lessons Additions | Classical Guitar Teachers – Please welcome our new and incredibly versatile guitar, bass, ukulele and banjo teacher, Phil Smith. Phil is a music producer, composer, guitarist, and teacher with a rich background in many different musical styles. He has a B.M. in Classical Guitar from the Oberlin Conservatory, and has extensive performance experience in Rock, R&B, Pop, Gospel, Latin, and World Music. As a producer he has recorded and written with many of Philadelphia’s finest musicians and artists. Phil says the following about his passion for music and teaching:

“My head is constantly filled with music, and my days are usually spent making that inner music come to life. It’s a joy to guide others into their own discovery of music, and it’s my duty as a teacher to equip students with skills (both technical and theoretical) that make playing music joyful and effortless.”

Continue reading for a full interview with Phil, where he explains his musical history, how it applies to his teaching style and his personal growth as a producer, composer and performer:

When did you begin playing [instrument], and why?:
I started playing guitar at age 9. I had recently quit violin, which had temporarily ruined the joy of music for me. But luckily when I was young I became obsessed with my mom’s record collection. I had been listening to a lot of Beatles, Eric Clapton, and Fleetwood Mack, and then one day we saw a guitar at an auction and I coerced my parents into getting it for me. The rest is history!
What are your personal goals as a musician?:

My personal goal is simply to make excellent music and get better and better. That can mean making more moving and convincing records, writing better songs, playing guitar with more ease and expressiveness, or helping other people do those same things. Cross-pollination is also important to me. I want to bring the same sensibilities and skills that I use when playing Bach to the world of pop music, and when playing classical music I want it to groove like my favorite rock records. And I definitely want to leave my mark on the world by making amazing records and putting on great shows!

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
I have many….but I’ll name one. My best friend in college was an outstanding jazz pianist. We used to jam together constantly, and I was often a little timid because I had nowhere near the level of harmonic knowledge that he had. But through our playing together he taught me the art of being a “baller,” meaning, playing whatever came to me with complete confidence, effectively blasting through layers upon layers of self-consciousness. Being completely okay with playing wrong notes and sounding “bad” is the quickest way to liberate your inner voice as a musician. Just learning how to get into a creative flow can speed up the development process exponentially. If you can tolerate a year or two of sounding so-so but being fearless about it, before long you will sound fluid and creative and great!
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
Just after college I took some lessons with a world renowned Polish guitar player named Lukasz Kuropaczewski. He taught me EXACTLY how to practice in order to MASTER pieces. It’s a really simple process….Just go very very slowly, work on every single measure of music many times, eventually tying everything together, and make sure that the hands and body are ALWAYS relaxed, secure, and comfortable. It’s time consuming, but suddenly very hard pieces of music can become really easy to play. The key also is to only repeat good habits….If a passage of music or an exercise is too difficult, you need to slow down or break it down into smaller chunks until it is easy to execute….only then should you start repeating, and never speed up until it is easy to do so.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:

Studying classical guitar at the college level was very hard, and there were many times that I wanted to quit. I would often procrastinate or not practice enough and feel like I wasn’t making any progress. But i stuck with it! These things take time.


What is your biggest musical achievement?:

It’s hard to say and depends on the era. In high school I got an amazing opportunity to go on tour in the west coast and to Germany with members of Frank Zappa’s band. I was OBSESSED with Frank Zappa in high school, and that was pivotal for me and felt like a big achievement at the time.

My senior recital as a classical guitarist was a huge achievement because I proved that I could perform at a really high level, even after having slacked off for a lot of my Senior yearn college.
I’ve been recently making some recordings, both of my music and others’, that I’m very proud of. I feel that I’m starting to come into my own as a producer and mixer. Not a lot has been released yet though. By biggest achievements are yet to come!

Favorite thing about teaching?:
I really like the feeling of progress. When a student is on a roll, and they’re practicing, and i see consistent improvement week to week it excites me. Also, sometimes lessons may be stagnating, and then there’s an “aha” moment, where the student or I discover a new technique or idea that suddenly propels everything forward.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
Be Patient, Go SLOWLY, and DON’T QUIT (unless you decide, after long hours of contemplation and many heart to hearts with family and friends, that you simply don’t like music enough to want to learn how to make it.)
Also, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift ARE NOT the paradigm! You don’t have to be a star by the time you’re 16, or 18, or 25, or even 35! In music you can hit your peak at ANY AGE. Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa when he was 65. Remember the tortoise and the hare? etc. etc.  you get the point….


Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
I’m currently working on numerous projects with Tony Moore, Pablo Batista, George Spanky McCurdy, and Junius Bervine. We are in the midst of opening a new studio. The company is called “The Breed” and we’re about to usher in a new era of live recorded music in Philly!!! (that’s just excitement, not hubris ;))
And I’m always working on my own compositions under the name “Laughing and Screaming” and plan to release some new music soon.

Fall 2012 Recital

Here’s a little montage from our Fall 2012 Recital.  Thanks to everyone who came out for making it such a great success!

 

Performances in order of appearance:

Philip Dilgard-Clark – “Smoke on the Water”
Ian McGrath – “Let It Be”
Julia Dickman – “Firework”
Philip Johnson – “Dust in the Wind”
Aliyah, Debbie and Teyah – “Be Alright” and “Rolling in the Deep”