Dan Halma – Guitar Teacher

Guitar, Bass Guitar, Ukulele & Piano

Dan Halma


Jazz, Classical, Pop, Songwriting & Theory

I am a composer, sound engineer, multi-instrumentalist and teacher here in Philadelphia with wide ranging experience working in a variety of styles and settings. According to my mom I’ve been singing since I could talk (though I think she might be exaggerating slightly), but more concretely my musical journey began with piano lessons in kindergarten and continued by playing saxophone and singing in choir up through high school. Receiving my first guitar as my 13th birthday present proved to be a monumental moment in my life and nowadays it’s rare to see me travel anywhere without a guitar somewhere in my possession.

My teaching style is based entirely on the needs of my students. Everyone learns differently and has different interests so I believe that keeping that at the forefront of any lesson plan keeps students interested and hungry to learn more. It’s my job as a teacher to not only illustrate the technical and theoretical side of playing music but also provide encouragement for them in their journey of musical discovery.

When did you begin playing Guitar, and why?:

Believe it or not I started playing guitar by accident. When I was 13 I had somehow convinced my parents to get me a drum kit for my birthday, but the music store we went to only had guitars in stock. I made the decision on the spot that if I couldn’t get a drum kit then getting a guitar was probably just as cool, and over a decade later I haven’t regretted that decision.

What are your personal goals as a musician?:

My biggest goal is to never stop wanting to learn more. I enjoy taking myself out of my comfort zone and studying unfamiliar styles and approaches to making music and in doing so find myself relating these lessons to my playing and writing. There may only be twelve notes to choose from, but there’s an endless amount of ways to play them and express a variety of ideas and searching for new ways to do so is one of the most rewarding experiences I get from playing music.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?:

It might sound simple, but learning about chord inversions and voicings was mind-blowing early on in my guitar studies. I had always learned to play chords in basic positions when I studied piano, but when my guitar teacher showed me that I could play the same chord at different parts of the fretboard and that I could change the order of the notes without changing the chord underneath, it was one of those “lightbulb moments.” After that lesson I’m pretty sure I spent every day after school for weeks trying out every possible note combination for every chord I could.

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

Make mistakes. Music, even after years of study, is still a learning process. Mistakes keep you humble and force you to think outside of the box and create solutions to solve the problem. Don’t be afraid to make them.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:

Building up my hand strength and calluses proved to be the biggest challenge when first learning guitar. It took a lot of patience to play every day until my hands started getting used to it, but once they did every other obstacle I faced seemed that much easier.

What is your biggest musical achievement?:

This is a tie for me. On one hand I would say that getting asked by a friend of mine to write and record music for one of his video games was the biggest since the game not only won an award but set me on the path to compose and record professionally. On the other, I’d say that the biggest achievement was writing my first song at the age of 14. It was a little dinky number that came from messing around in Open C tuning (highly inspired by Zeppelin’s “Friends”), but the process of writing and refining a piece of music that was my own inspired a new confidence within myself as a person and as a musician.

Favorite thing about teaching?:

The moment when a musical concept suddenly clicks for a student is probably the best thing about the job. I remember the excitement I would get when first learning an instrument and I love having the opportunity to share that excitement with someone else.

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

Stick with it. Like anything else in life, music takes hard work and patience to master but the feeling that you get when you start seeing your work pay off is beyond words.

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):

The upcoming project that I’m most excited about is doing the score and sound design for an indie psychological thriller. This project will be the first full-length feature film that I have the opportunity to work on, and I’m excited to see it released!


Philly Music Lessons specializes in connecting students of all ages and skill levels with great teachers in the Philadelphia and Main Line areas.