The other day (Tuesday) I sent out an email shooting down cranky ol’ Brian.

In case you missed it or aren’t subscribed to my mailing list, Brian the crankypants was trying to force-feed a student his (stubborn and in my opinion foolish) ways of learning guitar.

After politely taking down Brian like a bad guy in a Rambo movie, I got an email from guitar tutor, Shirley.


It seems Shirley wants to pick up Brian’s shotgun and come to his defence and carry on the fight for him…

This is what she said (Shirl’s comments are in bold)…


I agree with some comments from the two people discussing theory… teachers… books etc. I have taught music as a classroom teacher, private teacher for several years…

My thoughts… 

Hello, and welcome. Although my focus is always on the student, it’s interesting and sometimes fun for me to hear from tutors out there.


1 – I assumed fingerpicking was not a teaching method – after all it is only the right hand.

My thoughts… 

Yeah, it might be the right hand doing the picking, but the left hand better be good as well, otherwise you are just left playing fancy patterns on open strings. That’s good for practice but at some point, you got to train the fretting hand up for fingerpicking, (e.g., for the chord changes, to add embellishments, play partial chords, etc.) and then co-ordinate both hands.


Do you mean you used to assume fingerpicking was not a method or you still do? Of course, fingerpicking is a method of its own. Every specialist subject is, and to be honest, you can go much deeper than just fingerpicking – e.g., Travis picking, classical picking, etc.


2- Theory should be practical – relevant to the music being learnt

Agreed, this should be done as much as possible.


3 – A teacher is ESSENTIAL to ensure that muscles are cared for – I have had students come from other teachers where the care of muscles has been neglected and they are in pain… This fact is the only reason I do not recommend online learning.

Would like to agree but 99% of guitar teachers out there are as useful as a chocolate teapot and that’s putting it lightly.

I agree the muscles have to be 100% cared for (as well as the joints, tendons, and the whole body) and it sounds like Shirley is a cut above most here.

The problem is most teachers won’t even consider this – they have no idea about the importance of proper technique, and instead, focus on brute force, not technique.


So, my question is how will these 99% of tutors be helpful to a student?

These chocolate teapot teachers will only make things worse for the student.

The chances of most students finding this information is very slim (but for you reading this of course, you are in the right place – as I hope you know by now, I place a huge emphasis on this).


4 – A teacher can ENCOURAGE and GUIDE students onto relevant material

Of course.

That is one of the few things some teachers do well, although some teachers try to force the students to learn what the teacher wants them to learn.


E.g., 16-year-old Laura came to me for lessons about 10 years ago. She arrived because she wanted to learn Ed Sheeran songs, but her old teacher, an 80s rocker, was trying to get her to learn Ozzy Osbourne and Gary Moore songs!

…Or Kathryn who was fed up with getting assigned classical studies by her tutor and wanted to have fun with 60s folk tunes and Christian songs.


Teachers are people at the end of the day, and if Tucker, the guitar teacher wearing leather pants, wants to rock out to Megadeth while you want to learn Mozart, it may be hard luck.

Yeah, take advice from others who have been there before you, but always learn what YOU want to learn.


5 – Finally, I have enjoyed following your emails but totally disagree with there are “gazillions of players out there who know more theory than a professor of musicology, but can’t play a song yet”… I hold a Bachelor of Music, Masters and a PHD and NO professor can get through university without playing an instrument… 

I think Shirley missed my exaggeration here.

I thought it was obvious I was taking the humour to the extreme here.

Most people got this point, but maybe Shirley was playing devil’s advocate.


For clarity though, the point I was making was that I have met students who could tell you every chord in every key, read music, recite the notes on the fretboard quicker than a polaroid photo and tell you all about enharmonic scales and those pesky little modes…

…but yet sounded as unmusical as Sid Vicious trying to play Paganini on his bass!

I know because I used to be one of these!


This is what I recommend…

Learn five songs from start to finish and then learn the theory behind those songs.

Many people do things backwards, but the above is a more fun and productive way to go about it.


Keep up the good work … ensure beginners start with a teacher fort at least 6 months

Cheers Shirley

Well, thanks, Shirley, I guess you do enjoy the emails. I will take a bow now then, but…

…NO, bam…

She sneakily puts in the comment telling me I need to “ensure beginners start with a teacher fort at least 6 months”

…And we are back at square 1.


Okay, so I exaggerated a little bit at the beginning of the email about Shirley carrying on the fight, I was getting a little carried away with the Rambo talk, but you get the point.

I like a good ol’ debate.

And anyway, I’m not here to convince guitar teachers of the best way to teach.

People do what people do.


I’ll sum it by saying:

A – Shirley might well be a fine teacher, but many are not.

B – It doesn’t matter if you pay 5000 dollars a year to learn from a teacher or you spend $10 on an eBook – it’s the quality of the information that is key.


So, if you want quality information, check out my Essential Guitar Technique book.

Honestly, if there was one quick read I could give to every guitar teacher out there, it would be this.

Some would have a new world opened up to them, while others would just close the book (like they close their minds) and carry on teaching students with the same old bad technique.


Anyway, you can check it out here:

Guitar Domination Super eBook Bundle

Hope you enjoyed that little debate and have a fun Friday!

Dan Thorpe

Guitar Domination



P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.

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