The end of 2009 I got laid off from my job. I had managed to make it through almost that whole recession that we had back then and remain gainfully employed, but that one big client decided not to renew their contract. I don't think their decision had anything to do with the recession. Truth is, from what I followed, they decided that they could do what my company had been doing for them on their own. They spent a year trying to do so, but couldn't get the right people in the right places, made a complete mess of things, and re-hired my by-that-time-previous company about 18 months later. In fact, I figured they weren't going to get the right people in the right places because they called myself and a couple of other folks on my team and tried to hire us...for half of what we had been making. We all took our chances to find something better paying.
Neeways, I was fortunate to work my last day in the middle of December 2009 and start a new job the middle of January 2010. So I decided to spend the month working on my guitar playing. I hadn't really been playing a whole lot at the time just because of life, but knew that I wanted to try to pick up some skill and, since I had the time, actually work at it. I wanted to learn some blues, so I started looking around online for some lessons. Not in person lessons, but a book or dvd (remember those?) or something along those lines that I could do the self-paced thing with.
Luckily, I stumbled across Griff Hamlin's 4 Note Solo. Now, I have no idea what the search criteria was that I entered, but it popped up, and I watched it. The concept looked super simple to follow. I had already taught myself a couple of the minor pentatonic boxes, but had never figured out what to do with them. Their practical application eluded me. Watching his video, I also thought that Griff's style of teaching was right up my alley.
So I signed up for his email list, began reading the emails that he was sending, and saw him advertise his Blues Guitar Unleashed course. During my off month, I worked on the 4 note solo he had, and as soon as my new job started, I ordered his course. That's easily been one of the better musical decisions I've made.
Griff's style of teaching ended up meshing with my learning style pretty well. Even with a new job, I managed to discipline myself to sit down and practice every day for a few minutes. Focusing on what was on the dvd and in the book meant that my playing actually started to move forward in ways that it hadn't since I was a kid sitting in my room for hours a day.
Griff has continued to put out new course material. He has listened to those who have bought his courses, and works to fill those areas where we're saying we'd like to learn more. He is still primarily teaching around the blues and the blues form, but has branched out with other courses (theory, CAGED, modes, etc). His most recent course from just a few months ago is a course on How to Play like BB King.
I've grown to appreciate Griff over the last 10 years, and, even though I've never had an in-person lesson from him (yet), I consider him my guitar teacher. I've appreciated that I have never seen him be one of those hyped up teachers that says "so this thing and you'll be Eddie Van Halen!" He has always been honest about the need for practice and lots of hard work if you're planning on getting better. I've gotten to talk with him over the years via email and a couple of workshops, and he is always encouraging even when you know that what you just played sucked monkey butt. My unbiased opinion is that Griff is a top notch teacher. My biased opinion is that he makes all other guitar teachers look like amateurs.
If you've been looking for someone to jump start your guitar playing, especially if that playing revolves around the blues, my belief is that you do yourself a dis-service if you don't give Griff's courses a chance. Not only is he a great teacher, but his courses are well made (nothing amateur-hour about them), and he offers a money back guarantee. If you get into it and realize it's not for you, he gives you 90 days to let him know and he'll refund your money. As well, he has a forum where a lot of his students hang out. On that forum, you can ask questions about the courses and post audio or video of you working a lesson. The folks on there are just as encouraging as they can be. They may give an idea or two to make a lesson work better for you or to let you know that you need to keep working a technique because you don't quite have it down, but they'll still make you feel good about yourself and your playing. I believe they truly understand that music isn't a competition and that everyone's musical journey is going to be different. They're just a great bunch of gals and guys.
Later on, I hope to do another post about the BGU course specifically and what it teaches and how it goes about it. Until then, trust and believe that it's a quality course that can move your playing forward if you work it.
I started playing when I turned 16. Since I was brought up in a pretty conservative home, that meant that I started off playing (or trying to play) hymns and Scripture songs from church and maybe the occasional Michael Card song. Now that's not bad, but that just meant that I played very little beyond big, open, cowboy chords. After a couple of years, I fell in with some friends from work that introduced me to bluegrass and country gospel. So I started playing that. Actually learned a few major scales on the neck, but still never played much beyond cowboy chords.
In one of the little bands I played in, another guitar player and I would swap off between playing some melody lines and chords. In retrospect, I can only imagine how bad we sounded, because, other than the occasional "leads" we were both playing big, open, ringing, cowboy chords. Maybe it wasn't as bad I I think it may've been. Back then though, we were having a ball.
I played in another little duo (me and a harmonica player) that played about twice a month at a weekly fellowship group. He and I also played once a month at a church that liked what we were playing. About that time, I managed to get in with a group of "real" players. And, by "real" I mean that I considered them actual musicians. They played out most every weekend somewhere, and they let me sit in with them every couple of months. Because of them, I was also introduced to a flute player who formed a trio out of herself, a violin player, and me. We put together some hymn arrangements and played at a couple of churches in our area three or four times. I was slowly learning to get away from cowboy chords, but it was a very slow process.
Then I moved. I became the worship-leaderish-person-by-default for my singles group at church because I played the guitar. So I was playing once a week at a minimum for that. Then I got a job that, for all intents and purposes, kept me from playing for probably 5 or 6 years.
Moved again, and started going to a local BBQ restaurant. it was at this restaurant that I first heard some music that just reached out and grabbed me. The buddies that I used to go with would sometimes laugh at me because I didn't really care about the BBQ (it was good - don't get me wrong), the whole time we were there I was keyed in on the music being played coming out the speakers above our heads. And then, when we left, we would head to the Borders not too far up the street, and I would search the cd section trying to find what I could remember hearing while we ate.
The blues had reached down and grabbed me. BB King, Stevie Ray, Robert Cray, Albert Collins, Howlin' Wolf... What was this music and why had I never heard it before?? So I decided I needed to learn this music.
Over the next few years, I half-heartedly tried to learn on my own. This wasn't pre-internet days, but it was back when video was just beginning to get a useful foothold and social media was limited to your personal blog and maybe a forum or two. No one had heard of Tom from MySpace yet, and Facebook was still several years away. You could order stuff online, but it was still a hardcopy that was sent to you in the mail...digital content wasn't nearly what it is today.
So I picked up the occasional lesson book from the local Guitar Center or Amazon and tried to learn from them. For the most part, unsuccessfully. I managed to learn the pentatonic scales, but couldn't figure out what to do with them. Sometimes I can take a concept and run with it. For some reason, this time, I'd be given the concept, but then couldn't translate it into something useful.
Fast forward a few years, and let youtube gain its foothold into all things instructional, and at the very end of 2009 while I was between having been laid off and the start date at my new job, I discovered Griff Hamlin and his 4 note solo video. It looked like a simple way to take some of what I had managed to teach myself and turn it from something scale-y into something musical. So I signed up for his emails. After receiving a few of them and actually being able to put what he was talking about into practice, I ordered his course, Blues Guitar Unleashed.
Back then, he only had 2 courses. A beginner course, and BGU. Since I had already been playing for a long time, I started with BGU, and it has set me on the blues path I've been traveling for several years now. At this point, I consider Griff to be my teacher even though he and I have only ever actually spoken on a couple of occasions. He now has a LOT more than just the 2 courses, and each one that I have picked up, I have learned a ton from. His teaching style is simple and understandable. If you purchase his courses, he invites you to join a forum that he works hard to be sure is a welcoming place full of friendly guys and gals where you can get answers to your questions (not like a LOT of internet guitar forums where, if you ask a question, everyone that knows the answer makes you feel stupid for asking since everyone else already knows the answer). He is also active on his forum and interacts with a lot of the discussions that are there.
Because of Griff and his courses, I have progressed beyond cowboy chords and being a pretty one-trick-pony-player to being a confident guitar player that knows I have a whole heck of a lot to learn but knows enough to have a good time in almost any situation. I'm now like a two-trick-pony-player. :-)
Griff has since updated his 4 Note Solo and his flagship Blues Guitar Unleashed course, and, like I said, he's gone from just 2 courses to having an entire catalog. But if you're looking for a good, solid course of instruction, I can't recommend him any more highly. If you're that struggling player that needs a shot in the arm to get your playing jump started, take a look at his material. He's probably got something you'd find useful.
I may do a more in-depth review of his BGU V2 course later on.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. He believes chocolate milk made from milk that is anything less than whole milk is basically water and deserves to be dumped down the sink so nobody has to suffer through it. He hates having to shop for clothes. But he has a thing for really cool bags, and, consequently, has more gig bags than guitars and a closet full of messenger bags and backpacks. He still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 5 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.