My goal as a guitar teacher is to help students make music while learning how to play the instrument. I am ultimately striving to motivate my students to get the best possible sound from their instrument while expending the least amount of energy. While there are numerous schools of thought concerning the proper way to position the hands in relation to the guitar and how to execute finger movement, I have found the teaching of Manuel Barrueco to be the most effective guidance. He has always advised me to be economical in motion and to never use unnecessary tension, but he is most insistent upon singing through the guitar. Often technical issues become clear when we sing a line of music and then attempt to play the guitar in the same way. In doing this, I find technical demands are usually dictated by musical decisions. Although developing technique from an early age is paramount to a student’s ability to learn repertoire with ease, an understanding of expression in music is not something that must wait until later in life. I believe that every student can find something very human and natural through making music, and the sooner they experience this part of music, the sooner they become excited by possible results.
With most students, I work through a method book, a graded series of repertoire books, or at least a collection of etudes to continuously improve technique and present appropriate challenges. Different methods work better for students depending on age, ability, and commitment. I also tend to supplement assignments with individually selected repertoire pieces that focus on a particular area of study that a student is engrossed in. I make sure to incorporate music theory concepts and I heavily focus on rhythm exercises because these areas are imperative to the development of a complete musician. There are plenty of styles of music associated with the guitar, but the classical guitar has the highest level of repertoire available, thus demanding the highest level of technique. My approach to teaching is that every student should learn the guitar in the classical tradition in order to be prepared to tackle all levels of music. Students may wish to focus on another style of music, but I still request that my students study classical technique as well. An introduction to music history as it applies to the guitar is a great way to demonstrate the instrument’s versatility. Regular concert attendance also assures exposure to the vast repertoire available and the extent of abilities that a professional guitarist possesses. Finally, by providing and encouraging concert opportunities, students learn the value of practicing towards a goal and gain experience presenting a body of work in front of an audience.