An instrument can be seen as an extension of one’s own self to many people. Guitar players are certainly no exception to this. Guitars are more than they appear to many players. The instrument is not only a tool by which a musician can create their music, but also an extension of their own bodies. Many players feel to be “at one” with their instrument when they are “in the zone” during both improvisation and composition. For me, the guitar is a functional sculpture. It is a work of art that is a tool, built and designed to further create art. When I was a student of Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, I was excited to begin my career of designing and building these sculptures so that my creative passion could be utilized by others to pursue their own musical passions. I would think not only of the playability and the comfort of the instrument, but also would try to create designs that would be creatively inspiring to the musician. This is where the aesthetics of the instrument played a crucial role for me. I wanted to create unique designs that would harness the creative energies of an artist. In essence my desire was not to create a guitar, but rather fabricate a muse that would inspire the very best from the musician. After all, before any of us were professional luthiers or musicians, we were fans of music.
GPMA is now offering a class for guitarists of all ages and skill level known as
the “Guitar Ensemble.” This group will perform at least twice each year at the
recitals and will also be given the opportunity to record as a group with the intent of
performing in public for other special events, concerts, and music competitions.
Instructor Levi Henson is a passionate teacher who is very excited to direct this new
ensemble. He recently received his B.M in Jazz Studies from Wayne State University,
plays in one of Michigan’s premier jazz swing bands, the Rhythm Society Orchestra,
has been first chair in numerous jazz and classical guitar ensembles, and composes
and arranges music in many styles. If you are currently enrolled in private lessons,
but not in an ensemble where you are learning to sight-read music in a group, you
are missing out on a huge part of music instruction! We are encouraging all
guitarists to learn how to read music in a group setting because the experience is
something that cannot be captured through private lessons, and is the most effective
way to learn how to read music. Just because you may have read music as a vocalist
or on another instrument, learning to read music on the guitar is not the same, and
has its own unique challenges. Guitar ensembles are rarely offered at local music
schools, and we are thrilled to bring this opportunity to guitarists right here in
Grosse Pointe! The GPMA Guitar Ensemble is an opportunity of a lifetime for
guitarists because most public and private schools with music programs do not
teach guitarists how to read music, so guitar players never have the chance, like
orchestral instrumentalists, to learn how to read music in a performing group!
Students who read music in an ensemble are more likely to pursue music as a
professional, and learning to read is not only fun, but also makes connections in the
brain that have proven to develop spatial IQ, leading to higher test scores in subjects
such as math and language. The guitar is one of the most valued and played
instruments in our current music scene, as it is used in virtually all styles of music,
yet very few guitarists are taught the necessary skills, including sight-reading, that
will allow them to perform. This group is unique because Instructor Levi Henson
ensures quality instruction for all ensemble members by assessing each individual
and then writing original arrangements specifically for the ensemble based on each
individual’s skill level! If you want to be a part of something special and take your
playing to new heights, join the GPMA Guitar Ensemble to begin performing soon!
This 90 minute class is an excellent value at only 100 per month. Classes meet weekly.
Call us today for more information or to sign up!
In my first year of college at Wayne State University, I noticed a comic strip in my guitar instructor’s office. The drawing was of a conductor holding his baton in a room of flames, surrounded by a pitiful-looking bunch of guitarists and banjo players. The caption read, “Conductors Hell.” After mentioning this to friends for a quick laugh as the image of that comic resurfaced in my mind from time to time, I was surprised to find how many people did not understand the joke. Guitarists tend to be labeled as incompetent when it comes to reading music, and a depiction of that reality in a comic is, well, hilarious, but it is also a sad fact that holds true for the majority of aspiring young guitarists and semi-professionals.
I have been teaching guitar lessons for about eight years now, and I can say, with certainty, that the majority of guitarists do not understand the value in being able to sight-read music. Guitarists can sit at home while they search the web for guitar lessons, find free tablature of their favorite songs, and listen to many recordings for free on the web. Learning music seems like such an easy task when all of this is at one’s fingertips, but a crucial element of musicianship is lacking from this guitarist – the ability to read music.
Before I continue, I am compelled to state my reservations about learning how to play the guitar in front of a computer. While there are many useful and legitimately helpful resources that can be accessed for free, there is no substitute for the guidance that one can receive from a private instructor who is an educated professional and sincerely passionate about helping a student reach their potential. So much bad information litters the internet that a musician who really wants to take their playing to the next level spends more time weeding through the garbage for the information that they really need than actually practicing. Unfortunately, too many guitarists do not truly know the quality of instruction that they are getting “for free” on the web because they have little to compare it to, and any Joe Schmo can post their “shortcuts to becoming the world’s next guitar virtuoso” without having any noteworthy credentials. Please, if this is your approach to learning music, STOP, and find an instructor that you can trust! So then, what should you look for in an instructor? First, ask yourself these questions: What kind of real experience in performance does this instructor have, what sort of music education have they completed, and what kind of success have the instructor’s students had in music? Without the perspective gained from professional performance, a teacher’s instruction is narrow and not worth your time and money. It is true that there are some fantastic guitarists who never had formal music education, but studying with someone that has overcome the challenges of a reputable educational institution is reassuring because college students are required to demonstrate skills necessary to compete as professionals in the music industry. Also, if you ask an instructor what their students have accomplished, it may be an indicator of how they can help you reach your personal goals, or discover new avenues that you may have been unaware of as possibilities.
Now, back to reading music! After you have found an instructor that you can trust, I encourage you to explore reading music with their guidance because it will help you develop in ways that you never thought possible. A competent instructor not only teaches notes and rhythms, but also uses sight-reading as a tool for a student to begin understanding their instrument on a new level. Learning to sight-read is a different adventure for everyone. For some it is a lot of fun, and for others, it is like pulling teeth, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Since there is only so much time in private lessons, and the guitar is a complex instrument, I have found that the best way for guitarists to learn how to read is to join a guitar ensemble in addition to receiving the help from an instructor. The idea of playing in an ensemble is nothing new…that’s why schools all across the world have band programs. The downside is that most do not offer guitarists a spot in bands and orchestras because the teachers do not know how to effectively help guitarists. At GPMA, I teach guitarists in the Guitar Ensemble from the perspective of a guitarist (unlike most public and private schools), and I also arrange music so that it is catered to the skill level of every student in the group. Each ensemble will play pieces written specifically for them, and have at least one or two scheduled performances each year that they can be proud of. The two things that I tell my students is that they should learn to read music because one, it simply makes them a better guitarist, and two, it will allow them to make money! One of the biggest differences between semi-professionals and professional guitarists is the pro’s ability to read. Unless you plan on writing songs by ear with your band, recording them, and only performing your tunes to make a living (which is highly unlikely), you will need to be able to read music in order to get called for a gig. In the real world of performing, guitarists are often required to read music during a performance that they have never seen before, or to learn music for a show that they will not be able to memorize because time doesn’t allow for it. To put it plainly, over the past 6 years, doing at least 100 shows a year, I have read music in some capacity at every single gig. If it weren’t for my ability to read, I wouldn’t have been able to go to college for music, I wouldn’t perform and teach as much as I do, and I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills, which would really stink. All seriousness aside, reading music should be fun and exciting because you can play new music all of the time, you will have more opportunities to play with others, and you will understand how to make ink on a page inspire a sound that captivates an audience as it comes from your fingers! Thank you for reading my first blog, and I hope to see you in the GPMA Guitar Ensemble or out there on the bandstand reading and having lots of fun!
Instructor Levi Henson
I know that you guys offer guitar lessons, piano lessons, drum lessons, violin lessons, flute lessons, ukulele lessons…basically lessons for every instrument known to mankind. But, I’m writing to find out if you offer air guitar lessons. I mean, I love the guitar and all its intricacies but, what I want to be able to do is jam out without having to deal with a pesky guitar that I have to lug around.
See, with the air guitar, I’ll be able to rock my Crocs® off without having to put an uncomfortable strap around my neck, without having to search my guitar bag for pick, without getting an occasional blister on my little finger, without having to learn music or strumming…man, it sounds too good to be true!
I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to brush up on my air guitar pretty quickly, with just a couple lessons. I just want to make sure my fingering seems right and that my jamming looks good from basic rhythm to solo. I’ve already written down some personal notes on the choreography I’d like to try when I play air guitar at your annual recital(I hope I don’t get too dizzy from all the air head-banging).
I noticed that you also offer guitar repair there at the Grosse Pointe Music Academy. Just so you know, I’m pretty efficient at repairing air guitars. Just this morning I put a new air bridge and some new air strings on mine. It sounds pretty crisp now—depending upon what tune I jam too. If you guys need an in-house air guitar repair man, I’m your guy.
So, anyway, I gotta go get ready for my sister’s wedding this weekend. She wanted me to play Amazing Grace on my air bagpipes so, you know, I’ve got to get some practice in. Let me know about the air guitar lessons. I’d love to take them with your best air guitar teacher.
Grosse Pointe Music Academy has 2 locations in Wayne County:
Grosse Pointe Music Academy
17012 Mack Ave.
Grosse Pointe Park, MI
Grosse Pointe Music Academy in Canton
5880 N. Canton Center Rd. Suite 425
Check out noteflight.com. Noteflight allows you to write music and share it easily on the internet. Noteflight is a free software that gives you high power music scoring tools on the internet for free. Score music for virtually any instrument and share it easily by emailing links or embedding into your web pages or blogs. Noteflight has their basic service for free and if you read the FAQ on their website you will see that they claim that it will always be free. They also a premium service for 49 dollars per year for individuals. They also have plans for teachers and institutions. Noteflight is like the youtube.com of written music. See www.noteflight.com for details on the basic and paid membership.
Noteflight allows you to browse through thousands of shared files by other users. Noteflight gives high powered music scoring tools to musicians all around the world. Score in standard notation for any music instrument or voice. Guitar players and guitar students will enjoy ability to score on tablature and to write chords above each measure.
Information from the Noteflight Website:
Noteflight was founded with the vision of making it simple for everyone to create and share musical ideas online. We started by building a place on the web where individuals could create, view, hear and print their own music. Our users began to share, collaborate, teach and learn with Noteflight. We are constantly finding new opportunities in partnering with others, and as we continue to learn about what people see in Noteflight, we build new features. There’s something for everyone at Noteflight!
What is Noteflight?
Noteflight is the best way to create, store, listen to, print, search and share notated music online. If you are a composer, you can use Noteflight to author and manage your compositions. If you are a performer, you can use Noteflight to create and share sheet music that you like to play. If you’re a teacher or a student, you can use Noteflight to communicate and collaborate in learning music.
Join the Grosse Pointe Music Academy Guitar Ensemble
Grosse Pointe Music Academy is offering a Guitar Ensemble class for all guitar and bass students. Guitar Players usually do not have the opportunity to participate in group ensembles with others that play the same instrument. Schools typically have orchestras and brass/woodwind bands but they typically do not have guitar ensemble. We are here to fill that void. Guitar students can now gain the same valuable experience of ensemble play that violin players, trumpet players, or other instrumentalists get. Join the Guitar Ensemble today.