Guitar lessons in Edinburgh

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Welcome to the guitar lessons in Edinburgh blog! Here we've got some lesson material mixed in with some musings on learning music in general. Feel free to join in!


By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Mar 9 2018 02:18AM

Obviously this blog isn't to guide you towards learning any one style or another; we're all drawn towards whichever style that attracts us. However, any guitar teacher in Edinburgh will, whether intentionally or not, give some (non-objective!) input into some of the advantages and disadvantages of learning one style over another. Let's start with classical, the style of my first lesson, and of many other guitar lessons in Edinburgh. Classical guitar is great for beginners, and when comparing the learning curriculums of classical and the most obvious alternative (rock), it seems that the standards are a bit higher for classical. Scales that have to be learnt for exams tend to be a higher bpm and often in 2 octave shapes rather than 1. It also forces (under pain of death) students to learn to read music, rather than tab, which can only be a good thing. This trend continues as the student becomes more proficient and reaches higher grades and greater expectations. Since the PRIMARY requirement for the classical musician is to play a rehearsed piece of music as perfectly as possible, they practice to a have a clear tone, good note values, rhythmic accuracy and of course good right and left hand technique. All good stuff. However, it's a tad strict in regards to expression, and does not require the student to really understand what they're playing, just that they can play it. In this way it can be somewhat insular.

These are all required of the rock musician too of course, yet they're often not demanded, or their importance not stressed. 'Rock' musician is obviously an incredibly vague label, however if we're talking about the basic pedagogy, classical and rock are the only 2 idioms (though rock guitarists tend to lean roughly toward either blues or shred. Sometimes both). At guitar lessons in Edinburgh, most students choose to start with rock guitar. In this style, now the stress is on 'feel', improvisation and expression. All of this is important, however all the precision and dedication to developing good tone and technique required of classical musicians normally gets diluted. No self respecting rock musician can be seen practicing scales and arpeggios, and certainly not with a metronome. Meanwhile the classical guitarists that play with even the smallest hint of personal input are all rounded up and shot. Not entirely true of course, but I'd argue at least somewhat valid criticisms of the 2 genres. Remember we're just talking about the pedagogy and what you can get out of the learning process, as musical genres to listen to you can't honestly critizice anything, as it's all subjective (and yet still I try). Hopefully everyone is offended enough to check out the blog next month where I'll argue why learning jazz is the best of both worlds!

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Jan 12 2018 01:35AM

This may seem to be a very biased topic on the blog of an edinburgh guitar teacher, however I have supplemented my own guitar education with lessons throughout the course of my learning, and I also wouldn't turn my nose up to learning a few things from someone now, if I thought I'd find it useful.

Many of us hear of all these great 'self taught' players, and aside from it being a claim many people make without it being entirely true, it's a truism that the vast majority of people don't have the musical maturity when they're learning an instrument to know what's important to sounding good, and know where they're going wrong. One would be surprised how little the learning musician can really hear how they sound; this is paramount if you want to actually get better, and it's a key aspect that getting Edinburgh guitar lessons should be able to help you with.

Furthermore it's entirely human nature to want to see results from doing something difficult sooner than is reasonable (think losing weight/getting in shape). However with guitar this leads players to practice in the worst way possible and give themselves massive flaws in their technique. A classic example is the wannabe shredder that practices everything as fast as possible because that's their end goal; they've heard Steve Vai and Joe Satriani and are trying to copy it right away. What they haven't seen however are the hundreds of hours of slow practice that people who can play fast have done before you've ever heard them play.

One of the other major things most people might gain from Edinburgh guitar tuition is not just how to practice, but what to practice. So many players will find themselves sitting playing over the same things they already know, or trying to take on too much at once, or simply overwhelmed (as I have often felt) by everything they want to or feel they should be learning. If you have a good teacher and you are enthusiastic about getting better then it's by far the most efficient method. On the other hand if you're just starting out or at an intermediate level then you might just not know where to start, or not want to learn any bad habits before it gets too late. As always, to find out more check out

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Dec 6 2017 12:20AM

If asked about modern blues guitar, the first recommendation from Guitar lessons in Edinburgh (and I suspect many others) would always be the inimitable: Joe Bonamassa. Blistering runs, soulful refrains and a breathy blues voice, the man has everything you'd want from a blues superstar. However, as great as he is, he does seem to be hogging the limelight somewhat. You'd be hard pushed to find a casual or even avid music fan to be able to name many of his contemporaries as they're simply not getting talked about. Players like Matt Schofield, Marcus King or Eric Gales aren't getting anywhere near the same kind of exposure (and being completely honest, I've only heard of them from the recommendation of a fellow Edinburgh guitar teacher), and in all fairness Bonamassa simply surpasses them all. That said, as we all know when it comes to music it's about interpretation and expression, and a competent guitarists musical point of view is always worth listening to. Through this one-note notoriety we're losing out on diversity and the idiosyncrasies that every individual player brings to the table. This is especially troubling in blues guitar as it invites individual expression, however the prestige of a blues guitarist tends to come as a package with their voice, and for this reason many blues guitarists aren't getting recognized for their guitar playing alone as they don't have the voice to go with it. Other more 'niche' genres like shred, or to a lesser degree, jazz have a more guitar oriented audience (and also usually don't have vocals) so it's almost easier for guitarists in these genres to become recognized for their guitar playing. Names like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert or Yngwie Malmsteen tend to be recognized more in the mainstream (though still not exactly mainstream!) than most of the names mentioned above. Shred guitarists also have a more identifiable level of competency, in that they can play fast and accurate (As can Joe Bonamassa, coincidently...), so there is almost an assurance that you'll be getting something impressive, whereas a great blues guitarist will still do a boring solo from time to time. From my own experience of doing Edinburgh guitar lessons I can say that shred guitar is simpler to teach and learn, and therefore in a way simpler to appreciate. So, if there's a lesson to be learned from all this then it's that we should be digging a little deeper for our modern blues guitar fix!

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Oct 19 2017 02:00AM

John Scofield played the festival theatre on the 14th July, and it should have been a mandatory attendance for every guitar teacher in Edinburgh. Aside from his incredible knowledge of harmony and sense of melody, it was a real lesson in tone and phrasing. Scofield studied at Berklee college of Music, where learning scales and arpeggios were seen as a means to an end and a lot of work was on ear training and phrasing, definitely an aspect of teaching that most Edinburgh guitar lessons could benefit from. It's a trap that most teachers/lessons end up in: teaching scales and technical material because it's easy to teach, easy to learn and comes with a more immediate sense of achievement. You can't avoid learning this stuff of course, but it's important not to play any of it like a robot, and that's one thing that really hits you when watching Scofield play; from the first couple of notes you can tell it's him and it couldn't have been anyone else. If you really listen to his playing, key aspects about his phrasing are his use of dynamics and accents; it's rare that he'll play more than a few notes without subtly varying the volume of each one. Combine that with giving every note it's full value and you've got the makings of some hip guitar playing, and that's before you've had to worry about reaching his near perfect level of groove. His individual sound and tone isn't reliant on amp settings either, when you here him play acoustic it's the same sound that comes out. Being able to develop that level of distinction in one's own sound is rare, but it's something we should all be striving for. Compare John Scofield with Pat Martino; their sound is heavily linked to their technique. Scofield uses lots of slurs and picks when he wants to accent, Martino picks almost every note and uses crescendos and diminuendos (as well as accents) to create movement in his lines. So, when you're practice technique, remember you're practising your feel as well!

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Jun 23 2017 02:00AM

What does it even mean? Well it relates to where the phrase lands in the bar, but it also relates to how a phrase is played. Paying attention to both elements is focused on with guitar lessons in Edinburgh as it will really help beginners play with a lot more authority. There's a great blues guitar lesson on youtube with Stevie Ray Vaughan discussing the difference in how Albert King and Eric Clapton would play the same tune (hideaway) using different styles (King using more slides and open strings, Clapton using bends and playing an octave higher). And as every Edinburgh guitar teacher knows the blues is the first place to start when discussing phrasing, so let's start with a simple 12 bar. The biggest mistake beginners tend to make when beginning to improvise is to over-play; just learning a scale (usually pentatonic) and playing up and down the whole thing without taking any breaks. So try doing 2 things: just take 2,3 or 4 notes of the scale and just stick with them. Secondly try playing on roughly the same beat each time, so you'll have space between your phrases. So try something simple: start your phrase on beat 1, keep it short and leave 2 bars between each phrase. Now you've created suspense and interest, next it's time to make your phrases more lyrical. Usually (especially in a blues context) that means using articulations like bends, slides, hammer ons and pull offs. Slides are the easiest, so you can take your little 3 note lick and just slide into 1 or 2 of the notes. Blues bends (or mictro-tonal bends) are a little harder, but essential for making your licks really sing. There's 2 notes in the pentatonic this works over: the note above and below the root. The key to this bend is to bend very gradually, getting faster and faster, then cutting the note off while you're still bending (before it plateaus). So now you're ready to start ripping over a 12 bar blues! As always, feel free to get in touch at

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