North Miami Guitar teacher | How Guitar Teaching has changed in 30 years

Hi there, folks. My name is Dyce Kimura. I’m a full-time North Miami guitar teacher and a full-time guitar player. Also, I’ve been studying the guitar for about thirty years. This is actually my 30th year playing guitar. I want to talk to you about how much learning guitar has changed in the last thirty years. In the thirty years I’ve been playing guitar, what’s changed and why and how; and how does that affect you as a beginner guitar player if you want to start to learn to play.

There’s a lot of variables to discuss from my perspective as a North Miami guitar teacher. I made some notes here because it’s such a huge topic. Right now, at the recording of this video right now, it’s 2016. The biggest change that I think that’s really taken over the guitar teaching business is the internet. The internet has really taken us by storm, I would say especially in the last ten, twelve years. People sort of learning interactively with the internet. What am I talking about? I’m talking about software like Guitar Pro, Songster. You can go online and look up tabs. There’s free guitar lessons on YouTube. I do Skype lessons everyday with students all around the world using the internet. Of course, through the internet, you can do online courses. You can download DVDs. Also, with the use of smart phones, you can get apps that will teach you guitar. There’s apps that will slow down songs so you can record a song, slow it down. That can help you. It slows down both the video and the sound or some apps just slow down the sound, but it helps you learn by ear. I want to discuss all that.

I also want to discuss the absolute beginner and how learning has changed for the beginner guitar player, as opposed to before. When I talk about before, my own experience as a North Miami guitar teacher has been in the last … I’ve been playing for thirty years so I was taught a certain way. I think I started taking guitar lessons in 1986 is when I wanted to learn to play. When I was 5 years old, I saw a guitar. It was an acoustic guitar. It was actually an acoustic, steel string, dread knot guitar at my mom’s house in Japan. I was living in the United States, but I was visiting my grandparents in Japan that summer. I came across an acoustic guitar in the warehouse. I was like I want to play. My parents didn’t really take me seriously, and I had to beg and plead. For about a year straight, I begged.

They finally bought me a guitar and put me in guitar lessons. We were extremely poor, so to get guitar lessons and to buy guitar was a huge expense for my parents and a major commitment. If they were going to do it, they wanted to do it right. They meant really well but certain decisions they made really effected me in a negative way. I eventually overcame those negative obstacles, but I wanted to share that with you because I see these things everyday in my job as a full-time guitar instructor.

My Mom was a Japanese woman, well, she still is a Japanese woman, but she came from a Japanese upbringing and the only style of music they really respect in Japan is classical music. I wanted to play guitar and I’m listening to radio. At the time, I was listening to oldies like a lot of kids do. I was listening to sixties doowap and The Four Tops and Temptations and the Beach Boys and all that stuff and I’m just singing along to these songs. They got me a classical guitar and got me into classical guitar lessons. Granted, I could barely read or write English. I was 6 years old. Maybe I’m learning the alphabet or something. I’m already learning notes and how to read notes and timing of notes and pretty complex stuff. Quarter notes, eighth notes, dotted quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes, and triads, and chord formations. I’m playing this gigantic guitar, it was huge, it was acoustic nylon string, classical.

The first mistake I think that took place was that nobody bothered to ask me what kind of music I wanted to play. It was assumed that I was going to play what my parents wanted to put me in, which ended up being classical music. We started with little ditties like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Eventually, we got into Classical music like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. I remember I started in 1986 and in 1987 Guns not Roses came out with their first album, Appetite for Destruction, and I was seven years old and some kid across the street, I was playing with him, and he was singing this song that just came on the radio. He’s singing Sweet Child of Mine. He’s like [sings 00:05:39] I was like Wow this new song came out and was like where can I hear that song? He’s like well you got to go to this radio station. I had a radio so I just started listening to that radio station. It was different from my doowap and oldies and unbeknownst to my parents, I’m downstairs listening to cutting edge 1987 rock.

So all of a sudden I’m listening to Guns not Roses, and I started singing these songs, and I remember the day I sang it in front of my dad, he said if you ever sing that song again I’m going to put a screwdriver in your radio. Anyway, needless to say, the music I was listening to and the music that I was gravitating towards was definitely not Bach, and Mozart and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and Chopin and all that stuff. I really wanted to play maybe like Rolling Stones. At least the doowap stuff. At least something modern. My instructors really didn’t understand that. It’s not that they didn’t understand it, I’m sure that deep down they did understand that maybe, they just never thought that. They never questioned that, what does the student want to play.

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There’s a couple of factors here. The people that were teaching me were teaching me the way that they were taught. A lot of it came from the Mel Bay method or the Alfred method. These are books and systems that teach and eventually the classical guitar method levels 1,2,3,4,5 and you can go to all the way to whatever system you get into. That’s the way that they were taught and that’s the way they knew how to teach. I want to say on of the main difference in 2016 is that guitar teachers, teachers like myself, is way more interactive. Music is changing very fast and guitar playing in 2016 is way different than guitar playing in 2006 or 1986.

It’s just so different in terms of tuning, chord structures, what’s in, what’s not. New metal. There’s all these new terms coming out like metal core and all this stuff. And Ska, hybrid, punk, jazz hybrid stuff. Blues, Blues rock, blues fusion, rock fusion. All kinds of cool stuff. There’s all this music that’s changing and this way that we’re learning is changing, but the problem I was running into as a kid and I run into this problem even on a daily basis in the minds of the people I’m working with is people were taught by music teachers that had a certain way of teaching and that’s the way that they were taught. Granted, the way that they were taught was without the internet. These are oldies, not even oldie- … they weren’t even modern music. They were just old songs.

I always wondered why do we have to do these old songs hundreds of years old? They’ve exceeded the statute of limitations with the copyright is usually the issue so you’re literally playing song like the Merry Men and the Jolly Dance, just ridiculous stuff. Just little mindless ditties that you and I have never heard of that were maybe some old medieval ditty they played. As a child, you’re like playing it. Even as an adult, if you’re watching this video, you might have been subjected to that. You get lessons or you buy a book and they want you to play these little ditties, the ants go marching one by one, twinkle twinkle little star, Row, row, row your boat, Mary had a little lamb. There’s no copyright there so they can legally get into it.

The basis of teaching that method really just have you play by yourself. There’s no accountability of you playing with something. You might be accountable to a teacher that you meet once a week, but now with the internet, you can actually play with a song and to a song. You can play your favorite song, you can play an easy song, you could play Knocking on Heaven’s door like 3 chords let’s say. You could play with the recording and you could interactively play with them. It’s not like listening to the recording and you hit the stop button and then you go play your guitar. And you think woah, is that kind of like that or not?

Nowadays you can actually jump right in. In theory I guess you could’ve done this years ago even with the records, but music just wasn’t taught that way. And so there’s a lot of variables here. I want to go through a few things that I have seen as a North Miami guitar teacher. With the internet, that’s really really changed. Also the Internet’s created a widespread sharing of ideas and also widespread sharing of teaching techniques. And so more and more we’re seeing teachers that are readily jumping right in to teaching people, absolute beginners how to like put their fingers and play a song without weighing them down with all the vocabulary and how to read and how to write music. They’re just teaching them how to play.

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Which, by the way, and I just wanted to say to set the record straight before I get into this other topic about reading and writing, I learned initially how to read and write music, for the first six years of my playing was all sight reading and I can do it. But I’m not a big fan of teaching people to read and write right away as a North Miami guitar teacher. I’d rather just teach them how to play. I want to ask people what style of music are you into, and then I jump right into teaching them how to play. And I often say that music is a language. Music is not like a language, it actually is a language. And you can communicate in this language of music. After thirty years I can say that I’m probably fluent in the language of music.

Basically when you teach someone how to speak in a language, like a baby, like a toddler, you just start talking to them and you just point. For instance, here I have a cup. I can say cup, cup. And then they start to get that that’s a cup, you know? And it’s like that on guitar. I’ll just make a chord and be like A, play A. Now play another chord, and put these chords together in a rhythm. Just copy me and just do it. But you imagine going to a toddler like me when I was six years old learning to play guitar, but going to that toddler and you’re trying to teach them how to speak in another language. So let’s say I speak English but I’m trying to learn Spanish let’s say. And then right away I’m teaching them how to write it and how to read it and the phonetics of it, like the structure of a sentence and the object and the predicate and prepositional phrases and nouns and verbs and adjectives and adverbs. It’s a little overwhelming for the beginner, for the mind of the beginner.

I think if I were like excited about learning Spanish if I were six years old and then you made me learn all this redirect, I’d probably be like Mom I really don’t want to do this anymore. I thought this was going to be fun. I thought I was going to be interacting with human beings, sharing these ideas in Spanish and jiving with all these Spanish kids and my Spanish friends, and instead I’m sitting here with this paper in this room with the book with you. People do that a lot with music. They turn music into just look at the paper or read the book and try to figure out this melodic structure.

The problem was that it’s not interactive. In order to play in an interactive way, the whole lessons need to be set up in a way where the student is learning to play with somebody or with something. So the grave danger is playing guitar by yourself in your bedroom and on your own terms all the time. You could go to learn to play a sing and just play it by yourself. That’s dangerous I think. If you really want to learn to play, learn to play the song but then learn to play it with the song, learn to play it to the song. Hit the play button on the song and start playing because that’s going to prepare you to start playing with people. And if you can play with people then you can maybe play in a group or a band and then maybe you go out and perform. That’s when things start coming alive for you.

So it’s a lot like comparing it to somebody who is learning how to play tennis. They’re playing tennis every day, two hours a day let’s say for ten years. And they get really good, they think they’re really good and they can do all kinds of fancy shots. Around the back, no look, all kinds of stuff. But then they’ve never played in a tournament and they’ve played against a person. So one day you take that tennis player and you plop them into a tournament and they completely get defeated and they’re crushed. They thought their game was up here and it turns out they’re down here. But if they can juts take that blow and start playing in the tournaments, start playing with people, it’s crushing but they’re going to realize they’re having all of a sudden a lot more fun. Because that’s the way the game was intended to play. Tennis was intended to play with people.

Music is intended to play with people and for people, believe it or not. So structuring your music lessons to just only play by yourself and with yourself is not the full completion. So I don’t really blame these books and these systems or these teachers, but this is like an old school method because with the Internet it’s so interactive now. You can download music or you could play to a video, you could play to a song. And then you could eventually play with people. That’s a huge difference.

I’ve noticed that another dynamic that’s different teaching as a North Miami guitar teacher now is that people aren’t waiting to learn all that reading and music theory. They’re just jumping in and learning to play songs, which I think is fine. From my advantage point of thirty years of playing, and fifteen years of full time teaching, you should really just jump in and play. If you’re really committed to playing music over the years, you’ll figure out all that stuff. You’ll eventually go back and figure out all that music theory and reading an writing and all that stuff that at first you didn’t want to. Just like when you learned how to talk. They teach you just how to talk and then later they teach you how to write. It makes sense.

So just to bring up a few other things here that I have noticed as a North Miami guitar teacher what’s really changed guitar playing, I think in 2006 or 2007 Guitar Hero came out, the video game. That has radically changed the way people play guitar. As a guitar instructor my phone started just blowing up. Like four people would call a day saying, my kid just got Guitar Hero and now he wants guitar lessons. And I think that’s great. It was good for business but it’s also good that there’s this raised level of awareness where people can just interact with a game and then they can get a foot in the door. It’s not such a far away concept to play the guitar. ¬†Check out my previous blog on Analog Man Big T Pickups.