I teach six-string and seven-string guitar. I've taught beginners, intermediate players and professional musicians, though in recent years I have chosen to accept students who have playing experience. And, as all individuals differ, I tailor my teaching to the each student’s needs and preferences.
With intermediate students, my emphasis is on fundamentals: harmony and scales, and how the two are really part of a unified whole. My students pay attention to intervals, both as we hear them and, since the guitar is such a visual instrument, as we see them. When you learn where any interval is on the guitar in relation to the root or any other note, you can find your own chords. You are not limited to rote learning.
With all my students, we use real tunes. There are many exercises that should be mastered but without applying them to tunes, they remain dry, academic endeavors. I also stress the importance of just fooling around on the instrument. Experimentation plays a big role in finding one’s musical identity.
I like students to examine how notes move or don’t move form chord to chord so that they get a sense of musical voice motion. What I see in too many players is the idea that one either plays (or thinks) lines or chords when in reality they are part of one another.
Bass lines, inner voices and upper voices are, to me, like currents in an ocean. They may move at separate speeds but ultimately they support each other and are more or less artificial divisions (that we use for academic purposes) of a bigger whole.
For advanced students and for clinics, I focus on my specific approach to music on the guitar, explaining the whys and hows of what I do and how they can take the same information and use it to their individual advantage. And, by the way, this applies to six-string as well as seven-string players.
I also discuss the pianistic aspects of my playing and how, with certain techniques, there are worlds of guitar waiting to be discovered. The great thing about playing the guitar in a pianistic way is that it in no way precludes playing in the more usual and very effective horn-like manner. When I feel like it, I’ll blow a horn-like single line. But what a dimension it adds when the guitarist can comp his own harmony, or play parallel lines or lines in contrary motion or a line under a held note!
Through teaching privately and at clinics and making instructional videos it is my hope that this knowledge will take root and eventually emerge as a school, figuratively speaking, of jazz guitar. I say “jazz” but in reality this is knowledge that is applicable to any style of music and has unlimited possibilities for the creative player who loves putting in the time. And it is not a method designed to make one player sound like another player any more than a thorough knowledge of a language makes one novelist write like another.
The Fingerstyle Approach
I am a fingerstyle player and though I never insist that my students use this approach I do think it’s a great way to play. I have noticed fingerstyle playing is gaining acceptance among jazz players although to many it seems more difficult then pick playing. (I had a student who played fingerstyle and was accepted at one of the major jazz colleges. He was told, however, that if he came to the school he would have to play with a pick. Fortunately, things seem to be changing.)
Playing fingerstyle enables the guitarist to choose which notes of the chord to play and when to play them. The chord can come before or after the melody note even if the note is part of the chord shape. Playing fingerstyle really facilitates this way of thinking.
But integral to this concept is the reordering of the left hand technique. For example, when we are first learning we are taught that to play a chord all our fingers must arrive on the strings at the same time, and certainly one must learn to do this. Later, however, the guitarist should play the top note of a chord without putting the other left hand fingers down. Then, while the note sustains, the fingers come down and the rest of the chord is sounded.
There are many other exercises for both hands that I explain in my teaching but they are obviously too numerous to mention here. As always I use examples from real tunes for playing in the real world.
I believe that an individual style is not necessarily the result of conscious planning. I think more often it is simply the natural result of knowledge, time and dedication. By teaching I just try to help out in the teaching department.
Feedback from Fred's Students
“My weekly guitar lessons with Fred have been a highlight of summer for the last 2 ½ years. In the winter I gladly drive four hours each way for a two-hour intensive lesson with Fred. It’s worth the drive! Fred makes music interesting, challenging and fun--a great combination.” -Bob Corrigan
"One would be hard-pressed to find a teacher with such a deep understanding of harmony, broad knowledge of music and down-to-earth friendliness as Fred. His pianistic approach to the guitar lays a solid foundation for understanding the intricacies of music theory and appreciating the instrument as an artistic medium." -Jamie Martin