Guitar Lessons for Songwriters
Farr Guitar Studio in Austin, Tx
Ever Feel Like Your Creativity Has Been Depleted??
Finally, you have a couple of hours with nothing to do but pick up your guitar and write a song. Maybe you just finished a week long tour or maybe you just got off a double shift at your day job. You get out your guitar, your journal and what happens???
For most songwriters, the answer is:
“The same thing as always…”
Of course all of us have had those magical experiences when you sit down and something wonderful and new pours out of you, but lets be honest… Most of the time we use the same strum patterns, the same chords, and the same tricks hoping to get new music.
If you want to be a prolific songwriter, you don’t have time to wait around for the muse. And the good news is, you don’t have to…
Let’s Get Nerdy
At the risk of unveiling my inner-nerd, I am going to remind you of (or perhaps show you for the first time) the Bloom’s Taxonomy diagram.
Created by psychologist, Benjamin Bloom in the 1950’s, this model is STILL the basis of how psychologists and educators understand the way the
human brain learns something new. It doesn’t matter if it is math or music, the brain begins with remembering and ends with creativity.
Let’s go through the steps with a common guitar/songwriting concept:
Writing With G, C, D & Em
- Remembering- Your friend shows you these 4 awesome chords that you can play almost any Green Day song with!
- Understanding- You notice that songs like Sweet Home Alabama, Brown Eyed Girl and Wagon Wheel all use the same chords…. just in a different order.
- Applying- You can now transition between any combination of the chords with ease and can learn any song using these chords with minimal practice.
- Analyzing- A fellow musician tells you that G, C, D, and Em are the 1, 4, 5 and minor 6 chords in the key of G.
- Evaluating- A friend plays this chord progression and asks you what key it is in: C – G – D – Em. Although you are tempted to think it is in the key of C (because it starts with a C), you remember that these 4 chords in any order belong in the key of G. (You’re friend is impressed 😃)
- Creating- You just went through a breakup with your significant other and are feeling lonesome and nostalgic. Unsure of what to do, you pick up the guitar and solemnly strum Em – C – G – D, and it sounds so perfectly wistful and melancholy.
BAM… you just wrote the music to a song.
This process happens unconsciously, imperfectly, and slowly for most songwriters. Even worse, it usually only happens a limited number of times. After learning open chords, a few barre chords, and a scale or two, you start to feel stuck.
The Good News
With the right teacher, you can go from feeling stuck in the same writing patterns to having a myriad ideas to choose from when you sit down to write. The problem used to be, “I can’t think of anything new to write.” Now the only issue is figuring out, “Which song do I want to write first?”
But how does this happen??
It’s simple really.
A skilled teacher takes you through the steps of Bloom’s Taxonomy with every musical concept that you want. In example, if you are a folk singer/songwriter, the concepts you might want to know are: Open Chords, Barre Chords, Walking Bass Lines, Travis Picking, Syncopated and Non-Syncopated Strumming, Voice Leading, Borrowed Chords, Altered Chords, Blah blah blah yada yada….
I could fill up this article with musical concepts!
This may seem overwhelming, but remember, your goal as a singer/songwriter is not to learn every musical concept. Your goal is to learn the concepts that will allow you to translate your emotions and feelings into the music that you (and your audience) resonate with.
Imagine yourself sitting down to write a new guitar part and thinking:
“I wonder what it would sound like to mix power chords and the pentatonic scale?”
“I love the way that Bob Dylan song made me feel, I am going to improvise in the key of C with travis picking.”
“I’m wanting to write something that sounds like a cloudy day, I think I’ll start with 10ths in the key of B minor.”
That is the beauty of it:
Having the capability to translate your thoughts, feelings, and curiosities into music.
Let that sink in.
So what keeps songwriters from taking private lessons??
It’s really intimidating to learn something so complex, and I get frustrated really easily…
I’m afraid that if I learn too much about music theory, it will kill my creativity.
Hold up, how am I supposed to pay for this?
Being a fellow songwriter, I totally understand where you are coming from and would never encourage anyone to do anything that was outside of their best interest. I would however, ask you to read to Paige’s testimonial about her experience and then consider my special offer (no-strings-attached) at the bottom of the page.
Before I started taking guitar lessons with Jake, I was afraid that I would feel intimidated and frustrated by everything there was to learn. I can still remember feeling so excited to take music lessons as a child and then feeling lost once the teacher started getting into complex theory. As an adult, I needed to make sure I wasn’t spending money on something that wasn’t truly beneficial.
My personal philosophy is that, if something feels important to you, it is important. My songwriting is important to me, so I decided to take my next step and improve my guitar playing with lessons. Everything we have worked on so far has incrementally worked it’s way into my songwriting. I am always pleasantly surprised to see the techniques my favorite artists use are within my reach.
It feels really good to invest in myself and my art instead of other things of lesser value. The only time I get frustrated now is when I have too high of expectations. During one of our first lessons I was feeling really critical of myself and Jake said something that really stuck, “As your technique grows, your ears will have higher standards for what is acceptable.” This is just one of many small pieces of advice that have become helpful to remember during the difficult times in my practice.
I would definitely recommend Jake as a guitar teacher to any songwriters looking to develop their guitar playing. Taking guitar lessons is now on the VERY short list of things I am willing to sit in Austin traffic for!
I truly enjoy working with songwriters and would love to meet with you. Even if lessons aren’t right for you right now, I would honestly just love to meet you, listen to your songs, and help in any way that I can. That’s right, no strings attached… all you have to do is sign up for a free trial, email me, or call (806)781-2646.
About the Author
Jake Farr is a guitar instructor and songwriting mentor to hundreds of musicians across the country. His students regularly perform, jam, and attend exclusive concerts together at his studio in South Austin. Since he began teaching in 2006, Jake has taught in universities, private studios, public schools and art centers.
In addition to his teaching, Jake is a singer/songwriter and a recording artist. Although he teaches all styles of guitar, Jake primarily writes Folk and Indie Rock music.
Outside of his artistic endeavors, Jake enjoys indie movies, Indian cuisine, and traveling with his wife/muse, Emily.