More Than Just a Guitar Teacher


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dunceTaking lessons is a funny thing.  I’ve met people that are way against them and people that think learning is impossible without them. Me, I don’t care one way or another.  I’ve learned a lot from books, Youtube, and DVDs, but I’ve also had and currently do have a teacher.

Enter Mike.

The best words I can use to describe Mike is … he is a very unique guy.  And coming from myself (and from a guy who hears “weird” more than he hears “hi” that is a testament).  The guy is like a hamster on caffeine pills.

I watched him walk down the stairs to his studio where I was waiting.  He offered an appropriate introduction along with a handshake.  So far so good.

In that assessment stage he’d inquired about what I’d like to get from lessons to which I expressed song writing.  We sat down in this oddly diagonal-shaped room and I plugged into a teeny, tiny Crate amp that had a layer of dust on it like it had been excavated on an archaeological dig.

“Play me a melody,” he said.


“Yes.  A melody.  Not some lick or anything like that, but a melody.”

I started playing and about two 1/16 notes and an 1/8 note later he interrupts with, “that’s a lick.  Not a melody.  Play a melody.”  I paused for a moment, thought to myself then played something else.  His facial expression compressed as though a tiny black hole formed behind his nose pulling his brow expression into a scrutinizing grimace.

“What was that?”

“Something I wrote.”

“Ok, so melody’s a no.”

Great start.

He picked up his acoustic and said, “I’m gonna play a melody.”

I anxiously waited for him to begin communicating on a higher plane of intelligence as he plucked one single whole note.

“There’s my melody.”

I wish it were possible for me to describe exactly what was going on in my head at that moment.

Bested by one note.  Uncanny.

“Here’s my next melody,” he continued as he fretted two frets higher and played an additional whole note.

As the demonstration continued to the point he was making it was revealed that the melody was Silent Night.  A timeless song that I never expected would bite me in the backside that way.

On top of that there were moments where he told me things I already knew, but still managed to trigger that oh crap moment where it something new clicks, and all the while he never outright told me something was one way or another, but rather implied things and left me to fill in the blanks myself.

Actually, that’s not true.  As he fidgeted through some things I commented, “interesting.”

“No.  It’s not interesting.  It’s a more musically complex sound,” he rebutted setting the record straight.  I suppose that is a much more economical way to put it though I still don’t know what he meant, but perhaps that’s the point?  Hell, I don’t know.

As the lesson came to a close he gave me a piece of paper with an assignment on it.  There was a simple diagram and directions to play Three Blind Mice, She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain, and Pop Goes the Weasel.

I’ve been playing for about seven years and I’m told to learn Pop Goes the Weasel.

As I reflected on everything that happened I realized that the most playing he did was two whole notes and maybe a half a baker’s dozen chords.  I had no idea just how good he was at the instrument, but he managed to have an impact that far exceeded any kind of lecture, so he’s good at something.

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Kyle Smitchens

Kyle Smitchens is the Guitar-Muse Managing Editor, super hero extraordinaire, and all around great guy. He has been playing guitar since his late teens and writing personal biographies almost as long. An appreciator of all music, his biggest influences include Tchaikovsky, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Steve Vai, Therion, and Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy.

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