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Curt Golden at the Atlanta School

The keys to learning to play the guitar:

Knowledge of the Fretboard
Ear Training


​- Music Theory and Reading 

With even a rudimentary command of these skills the guitarist begins to “learn how to learn.” Styles and genres become choices rather than prisons. A world of music opens up. Guitar instruction is offered to anyone, at any level. The primary focus of the approach used is HOW to play, rather than WHAT to play. Everyone is different, and so we will work together to find just the right balance of study and play, exercises and songs, serious and silly.

The basics:

  • The MECHANICS of the right and left hand. We work toward an ease and efficiency in our technique, with exercises designed to help us to let go of the habits holding us back, while developing an understanding of the skills that will support our musical aspirations.

  • KNOWLEDGE of the FRETBOARD. A command of scale and chord structures frees us from dependence on chord books, tablature and the memorization of shapes and “licks” without context.​

  • EAR TRAINING. Once we know how to produce a sound (mechanics) and where on the fingerboard a sound can be produced (fretboard knowledge), how do we choose which sound to produce?

​Technique is a good and necessary foundation, but it is not MUSIC.

  • PLAY. Putting skills and techniques to work in musical situations is essential. Without creativity and play, skill is merely dry information. And so, at every stage and every level, play is important. This is the essence of creativity. It can be accomplished with a) music created in the moment, designed to utilize a particular skill; b) the development of repertoire, for more refined applications; and c) guided group lessons where we can play together, putting our command of these skills to the test in a musical context. For students with Guitar Craft background there is a large body of repertoire available. For individual students, there is a world of music; songs and classical compositions. And for everyone, nothing is more effective than writing and performing our own music.

And finally, general music knowledge and skills.​

  • MUSIC THEORY and READING. We guitarists are notorious for avoiding this. We pick up the instrument because we want to play NOW, and all that academic stuff is just for piano and violin and clarinet players, right? I understand this. After years of piano lessons, violin and cello lessons, when I moved to the guitar I was tired of studying. In the end, however, having a common understanding and vocabulary for musical matters is what makes it possible for us to communicate with one another. This is much easier to learn as we go, applying it to real-life musical situations. How much depends on your own aspirations. For some, simply having a little understanding about what the things are that we are doing when we play our favorite song is sufficient. For someone who hopes to play music professionally or semi-professionally, a deeper and more extensive understanding may be important; certainly useful.

No matter where you are beginning, we will work together to find the right path to reach your goals. 

  • BEGINNERS. Beginners work with the fundamental principles and mechanics of the guitar. The pace and specifics are left open, in part to be determined by the prior experience, circumstances and aspirations of the student. When working with young people, I continually consult with the parents in order to understand what their hopes and expectations are for the student. And even when we are working with reading and basic musical skills, I do my best to make sure that in every lesson there is a balance of work and fun, so that the benefits of doing the hard work remain obvious, and the overall experience is fun and rewarding. For adults, it is more or less the same - we just won't be consulting with your mom and dad.

  • EXPERIENCED. Guidance is offered with the focus on increased understanding and refinement of skills, supplementary techniques, ear training, the development of efficient practice habits, performance skills and the introduction of repertoire. For those working in the Guitar Craft tuning, this can include work with other players on the body of Guitar Craft repertoire.
photo: Ingrid Pape-Sheldon
curt golden
Seattle Circle Classes
photo: Frank Sheldon
I do individual 30 and 60-minute lessons out of my home in Phinney/Ballard. How long and how often lessons are scheduled is something we will want to explore together as we begin. It is really a matter of how fast and how far you would like to move, and how much time you can reasonably put into practice between lessons. On this I am completely flexible.

My aim is to help each student discover their own, personal voice on the instrument, and to guide them to develop the skills needed to realize their goals. Proficiency in understanding music as it is applied to the guitar neck is something of a specialty. If we take it systematically, there is a great deal that can be done, while still leaving you time and energy to simply play for the enjoyment of music and the instrument. They are highly compatible endeavors.

It would be useful for me to hear a little bit about what you have already worked with on the guitar, if anything, along with a sense of what your aspirations are in this regard. What would you like to be able to do that you cannot do now? What styles interest you, what artists do you admire? What kind of guitar do you have? Anything that might help me to determine if I will be a good fit for you. Email me, and let's get the conversation started.

In terms of scheduling, most of my private students are adults, and my weekday evenings tend to be tight, but with a little flexibility we can certainly find something that works for you. On weekdays I have a mixed bag in the afternoons and mornings. Video lessons via Skype are available as well.

Seattle Circle Guitar School class at Thornton Creek Elementary
Curt Golden conducting the Tuning the Air Monthly Open Circle
guitar instruction