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  1. #1

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    Hey, first off I wanted to say I think this forum is going in a very good direction. I have been a part of other music forums but alot of the time it isnt about music, or people just aren't very helpful. If this keeps going this way, I think we will have a great resource to discuss topics and refer back to.

    So, I was wondering what you guys thought about Independent study, (or with a teacher) Vs going to some sort of school (conservatory, university) and if you think a school, then which one (location doesnt matter) If you have gone to a school what have your experiences been like, if you didnt and are still successful then what have you experienced? Do you think you learn more? or is it the degree that provides credibility, or does it not matter at all?

    anyway, I hope this is clear enough. I dont know if this is the right part of the forum to post on, but it seemed be close enough.

    Thanks in advance


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    I've been playing for little over a year now with only a few books to help me out. I started playing the guitar, learning to read and write music all from scratch. I personally believe working at my own pace helped me to learn and play, making it more of a individual effort that gave me greater gratification and enjoyment.

    At the moment I'm still trying to learn enough as I believe I need. I won't be performing until then.

    I encourage people to learn by themselves, and if they come to a obstruction they should push on and work the problem if they're passionate about it. Saying that, it doesn't hurt to get a few hints from friends every now and then.

    Besides, I wouldn't pay for a teacher.

  4. #3

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    I've done a fair mix of independent and structured study. I can honestly say that while both are great, a balance is what I always preferred. From lessons I've learned fun cool ways to approach theory, on my own I've developed my fingerstyle techniques for electric guitar. Had I not bothered to learn on my own, I wouldn't have turned out as unique, and without lessons, I could not have been so immersed in theory arranging and composition.

    Although you may not like the idea of a music teacher, I don't see how it could possibly be a disadvantage. ... And besides, why restrict yourself?


  5. #4

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    It all depends on the time you want to put into it. I have never been to any structured school before: I learned tunes and songs by myself and after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, you can get somewhere. But, I was stuck: I wanted to start jazz, but had no idea where to start.
    So for the 1st time after 29 years of rock & pop guitar, I went to this jazz workshop. They started with some theory, but very focussed on improvisation (basically, harmony), just enough to get you thinking. Then I had some short playing sessions with a teacher. And finally, they put the workshop students together in a band with a teacher to get play some standards. This, I believe, is a good combination to learn. I did this in Belgium. Let me know if you want the details.

    If you choose for school, you need a lot of time. But then you need to combine it with playing with a band (or just 2) as well. The school will bring you to a point where you understand what you need to do and will make you improve your technique. But once you play with others, a completely other dynamic comes into play: now you need to use all of this stuff, in realtime. That means : you don't have the time to think.


  6. #5

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    I have had a 5 different teachers for guitar. The first 2 I had weren't very helpful. In fact, the first one would just teach me a rock song or something and play around until 30 minutes passed by. The 3rd teacher I had was the best. He taught me theory,scales,arpeggios,ear training,styles, basically everything. But then he got fired. My last two teachers have been alright, but its not the same.

    So for a teacher, I think it just depends on what teacher you have. Most of what I know on guitar have been learned online and from this website.

  7. #6

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    Hmmm...Does getting a degree give you more credibility? In my opinion this depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your degree. If your goal is to perform in jazz clubs, I don't think a degree will make you more credible. I don't think jazz clubs will ask for your diploma. If you can play and bring in a crowd, they will probably let you perform. Also, I don't ever remember liking an artist because they went to some school. I liked them because of their music, not where they went to school or if they went to school.

    I do think going to school for music will help make you a well rounded person/musician. I don't think it guarantees that it will make you a better musician than someone who did not. But I do think it will open up other doors for you. For example, if you ever want to teach music in High Schools, I would think a degree in music will help. And in terms of giving private lessons, I think parents will probably feel more confident sending their kids to a teacher with a music degree.

    Just my opinion...


  8. #7

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    Hi, so far I've had 2 great teachers (chris montague, whos now getting known in london and is an amazing player, playing with gerard presencer and people at the mo, and Tom Whitworth who is less well known but pretty class, and a great teacher) and in a few months I'm on my way to Birmingham Conservatoire to study for 4 years in Jazz, so i can try and do a monthly or so article on what has been taught and what we've been practising, and compositions we've done if anyone would be interested in that?
    the post before this (sorry cant remember user) is pretty right, if you just want to play in clubs then a degree is quite a longwinded way of going about that, but as a (relatively) quick way of learning some very deep stuff in a society of other musicians of all genres by some great teachers and musicians in their own right, the a conservatoire is a great place. Also, whilst people are there they get a big list of contacts and useful friends, which is a really smart way of kicking off a serious career, which obviously not everyone wants (living on just bread, getting scurvy all the other starvation myths )

  9. #8

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    I think it all depends on you, if you should go to a music school or just study by yourself. If you are totally self-motivated and intelligent, then you should not have a problem with learning to master the guitar. But, if you can't motivate yourself, then a school would be great because you can rely on the teachers to help motivate you.

    I was a music major and graduated from a University in California and my education is priceless. I learned alot more than just music theory, progressions, etc. I learned how to become a better musician. I still play gigs with people I went to college with. My goal was to teach, and I teach in my own studio now.

    You don't need a degree to be an awesome musician or to teach privately, and you definitely don't need a degree to get some awesome gigs. But, it really does help.

  10. #9

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    seanlowe, i would deeply appreciate it if you'd write something like an article a month. that sounds awesome.
    i was wondering about improving as a musician, what would be better: music school or private learning? i understand what everyone's said so far but i'm wondering about actually learning intense music theory and performance, is there a limit to what you can learn privately?
    also, if anyone knows where to find college music material could you post it on here? (that jazz bible sounds quite nice)

  11. #10

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    well, part of any good music program is going to include some sort of one on one with a teacher, which i think is most valuable when it comes to technique. things like theory, in which there is an objective answer, can be taught in a group seting-- but things like improvisation and inflection are best taught one on one.

    if you're going to go into a college as a music major, you need to seriously think about what it is you want to do with that degree. do you want to teach? perform? both? you're not going to get a job as a faculty member of any higher learning institution without a degree for the most part these days. the music performance major really seems to be more aof a prereq for a career in classical music, or to be part of a "pops" style orchestra. to succeed in the world of jazz, it isn't such a necessity. and if you're talking rock or pop music, well, to that crowd some fancy degree ain't worth the paper it's printed on. can you sell out this room? then you get work.

    if you're going to make music your life, and thus spend thousands on a degree in it, you had better have something to fall back on. for many, it's teaching, which is a shame, because some of the best artists i've known (i'm an art teacher) are lousy teachers. same thing seems to apply to musicians. teaching is a profession, and a calling, not just a fall back job.

    as a private guitar instructor (part time, i have about 13 students a week, give or take a few cancellations, etc.) i can tell you that i think that my students have a definite advantage over someone who learns completely on their own, i.e., out of books, videos, etc. the biggest difference is not in knowledge, surprisingly, but the ability to read music and keep time. a lot of cats who grow as an instrumentalist in the confines of their bedroom can have serious chops, but they cant't swing because they've never played off someone living and breathing, just a click track or a drum machine.

    but i'm getting long-winded. i'll shut up, so to reiterate, basically, you have to ask yourself, how serious are you about it? what do you want to do with your music? then make the choice from there.

  12. #11

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    Thanks mr. beaumont, this was very, very helpful. however i've got one more question. are you saying that teaching music is not a good back up plan? are there any other music related jobs would be good? i would like to enjoy my job if possible. thanks a lot.

  13. #12

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    i think teaching is a fantastic job, but it's admittedly not for everyone. if it's something that sounds pleasing to you, then more than likely you're cut out for it.

    i thought i wanted to teach going into college, so i was admittedly a little relieved when i found out i did enjoy it.

    i was more getting at the idea that some people end up teaching because they couldn't find other work, and they're often bitter and inneffective as an educator.

  14. #13

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    Nice post Mr.Beaumont. I agree with most of what you said. I think it also depends, as I said before though, on how good the teacher is and if he enjoys teaching you or if he just goes through the motions.

  15. #14
    I study jazz guitar at Nakas Conservatory, in Athens, Greece, which is a collaborator of Berklee. I think it;s the best choice I've ever made, since the environment provides me with opportunities to play and inetract with other, more experienced musicians. Jazz is a collective thing, no one can do it on their own...

  16. #15

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    Teaching is a very important part of any serious musicians life. I have been teaching guitar and music theory for many, many years. When I started teaching, (I was 15 years old) I needed money to be able to save for a better guitar. After teaching for a few months, I discovered I was barely staying ahead of a couple of my students and that is when my music education really started. I soon discovered that teaching someone requires you to gain the knowledge and experience needed to pass it to your students. After a couple of years of teaching guitar, I found I really enjoyed teaching and it became a permanent part of my life. I get a lot of enjoyment from watching, listening and helping students learn to play and improvise on the old standards.

  17. #16

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    A balanced approach is what I'd like to pursue. I've been playing for 2 1/2 years now, and up to this point I've been exclusively self-taught. There are so many great free and fee-based guitar lesson websites (and great forums like this!) on the internet, that it is possible to go along way with a self-taught approach. However, at some point I think it would be helpful to work one-to-one with a guitar teacher. I'll need to pursue this.

    And while I'd like to take a music theory course or two, the music school route is not really feasible for me at this stage.

  18. #17

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    I agree with Mr. Beaumont and Wizard.

    I didn't get my bachelor's in music becasue I knew I would not have been a very good teacher. I did study extensively, privately and some college courses, to learn how to make a living playing guitar. I do teach advanced students privately (as per is good for me to review material to prepare for the students. It helps me tremendously), but I am not a good instructor for beginners. If (and I mean a big IF) I had beginning players like some of the ones I see on this forum I could do it, but that is mainly because the folks on this forum are probably very dedicated to learning - they really teach themselves. Teaching is a gift (IMHO), and I just don't have to ability to help someone connect with something that came easily to me.

    My wife teaches, and she has that gift. Teaching is serious business, and shouldn't be looked at as a "fall back" career. It is very hard work. Furthermore, as a tax paying parent, I don't want some un-dedicated, couldn't make it in a different career, person teaching my children. We trust these people with our children.

    I did teach beginners at the beginning of my career, and looking back I think that beginners are much better off starting off with folks who can really play. I don't think I did my early students any favors. I just didn't have all of the tools that I needed. We have a few folks in some local music stores that, quite frankly, are not qualified to teach either. They just aren't developed enough to assist beginners with the material that a beginner needs to know.

    Getting back to private vs. college - I have seen some horrible teachers at the college level as well. I honestly don't know how they got hired or how they keep there job. I don't mean to sound cruel, but playing for a living is tough enough without some "local yokel" sending you down the wrong path.

    You really have to take a look at where you are (geographically and level of playing) and take your best shot. Possibly even move to where you need to be to study privately or enter a good college. I was fortunate growing up around a very vibrant music scene, so I feel for those who are not in an area where there are a lot of folks to help you out. Wizard knows what I am talking about. I was a 5 minute drive to Howard's guitar studio, George Van Eps lived in the neighborhood, Kenny Burrell, Howard Alden, Carl Verheyen. If you can't get around this type of environment, then you may have to consider going where those types of players are.

    But, I have seen some amazing players in the middle of no-where as well! Some incredible players. I met the guy who taught Larry Coryell when he was a young guy in Eastern Washington. What a great thing to have a guy like Dave Chappel (deceased I belive) be the guy teaching at your local music store! I later, in the same area, saw a guy who was easily the equivalent of Danny Gatton and another guy, the same night at a different club, who was a phenomonal (sp) player. You just never know.

    Good luck, it is a wonderful life but a life that demands rigor as well. You sometimes have to give up quite a bit to do it!

  19. #18

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    this may seem kind of nosy and personal, but i was wondering what kind of living standards does a full time teacher have? this may be invaded personal privacy so by no means, don't answer if you don't want to. i really would like to become a studio recording guitarist or at a music college get together in a band, but i know only 1 out of million (literally) make it.

  20. #19

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    not nosy at all...

    i teach high school (art actually, not music) in chicago IL. with my years of service, i make about 48K a year. chicago starts around 42K now, i believe.

    i also teach students at a small music studio. the shop set the price, so half hour lessons are 16 bucks (very cheap, i think) of which i see 9. translates to 18 bucks an hour. i currently carry about 20 students-- so this is just a part time thing for me.

    many teachers will teach out of their home and of course, no store gets a cut then. some teachers will travel to a students home, and charge a lot more doing that...

    you most definitely can make a living teaching in the states, but it's important to mention that unless you're working in a school like i do you're not getting benefits-- insurance will be up to you to procure and maintain...

  21. #20

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    [[this may seem kind of nosy and personal, but i was wondering what kind of living standards does a full time teacher have? this may be invaded personal privacy so by no means, don't answer if you don't want to. i really would like to become a studio recording guitarist or at a music college get together in a band, but i know only 1 out of million (literally) make it.]]

    My wife's family is full of teachers. It is kind of like the family business. You can research how much teachers make by doing a little web based research. Thier salaries are public domain as they are state employees.

    WA state starts teachers with a Bachelors at around $28k a year. If you have your masters you will start out around $36k a year. I think some of my relatives (one is retiring this year after 20 years) makes around the mid $50s, but I'm not sure. Remember the cost of living when you consider where you would teach. The average cost of a house in King County (Seattle, WA) has just reached $384,000.00!<yikes!!> I

    think teaching is a "heaven or hell" type of job. I have only met those who love it or those who hate it. I have never met a teacher who felt indifferent about thier work.

    And, truely, one of the upsides is you get an amazing amount of days off. The down side is you can work an amazing amount of hours when school is in session. It is not an easy way out life.

    I would also check out the different committment involved with each subject. Music teachers spend a lot of time during after school hours. My wife is a science teacher and she spends a lot of time preparing for classes before and after school. Can you imangine teaching english and reading 120 essays a week! You had better love it, because, like I is work.

    Good luck,

  22. #21

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    I would love to go back to school and get a jazz performance degree. However, job and family demands prohibit this. I have been studying with a jazz teacher for about 5 years.

    It has been slow going as my job is pretty demanding, but these days I put in about 14+ hours per week practicing, and another 2 hours per week rehearsing in a band at church, and 2 hours in a jazz ensemble.

    I would love to have the 4-6 hours per day practicing that college would give, but I accept where I am, and just keep hammering away at it.

    You can go without a good teacher, but I think it is a slower path.

  23. #22

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    Well, having done both I think I have a few good points to make. First off, just to give you some insight into my experience in music --- my first 6 years of guitar study was completely on my own with no help from anyone, other than a few guitar books (especially Ted Greene's single jazz note soloing books, which to this day I have yet to see better, and that means alot considering I own over 150 guitar and music books).

    I started learning jazz on my own in about my 2nd year of self-study, my approach was fairly simple --- I worked on scales in all positions in all keys, and arpeggios in the same way, and of course comping changes.

    After I had been playing for 6 years, I entered college as a music major. I completed my degree 6 years later It has been now about 5 years since I completed my B.A. For the last 10 years or so, most of my music study has been mainly classical, but I still feel that I am mainly a jazz orientated guitarist --- just now with some serious classical guitar chops and influences.

    Ok, I felt that sharing with you my background would give a little more weight to my answers since I have had a fair amount of experience with both learning "by ear" and without a teacher, and the opposite.

    The first thing I would like to say about your question is that there is no one correct path for everyone. You could have a person go 100% formal music study with lessons from the age of 6, and a Phd in music later in life, and it doesn't mean they will somehow end up a better jazz guitarist than say someone who goes the other route. We are talking about developing into a jazz guitarist after all. There is no doubt that a formal music education as in my example, WILL give you an incredible amount of skill, technique, knowledge, musicianship, theory expertise, well as a host of other music skills that you probably won't learn in a self-taught regimen, such as conducting, choral arranging, playing various instruments like piano, brass, winds, strings, etc.., 4-part voice writing (ala bach chorales), figured bass, counterpoint, period music like classical, baroque, renaissance, etc... the list really goes on and on. And yes, when you study music formally you do learn many of these things, even if you are a guitar major, or even jazz guitar major. These are things I studied, and I don't regret it, they only took my depth of musical understanding higher and deeper, even if they don't seem to apply directly to jazz / or jazz guitar (but actually they do).

    Getting a formal music education has two basic purposes really:

    1. Making you a master MUSICIAN (not necessarily a master jazz guitarist).
    2. Passing a several hundred year old torch of music education, so that you can pass it onto others, not only in the form of education but also in the form of performance, composition, recording etc..

    I couldn't over emphasize no. 1 enough, and I am not sure if it is easy to grasp unless you have also walked in those shoes for a very long time. The truth is, becoming a master musician is a lifetime journey, it doesn't end when you have a phd in music, but having that level of music education is certainly a part of becoming a master musician. Maybe a better term to use is "Grand Master", because certainly people like Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery were master musicians, but of course there are MORE levels of music skill and knowledge they could have studied and learned....therefore, we can recognize that a "Grand Master" musician would encompass basically everything that is humanly possible to learn and master as a musician.

    Of you really need to be a "Grand Master Musician" to be happy? Of course not. And you don't need it to be successful as a professional musician. So understand that I am not in any way disrespecting those who don't get a formal education, but that they are two different paths, with different purposes etc...And it is really just a matter of personal preference as to which path we go down, or perhaps we will do some of both.

    My advice to you if you are thinking about going to school to study music is to try it out! If you thrive in that environment, then stick with it. If at first it is hard and you feel like you can't hang with it, stick it out a little longer before giving it up, or set up more realistic goals, for example you just may need a little more preparation before you enter into a college music program. Most of the guitarists that started at the same time I did, or even came in years later, ended up dropping out....they just couldn't deal with the demands of being a music major (which is a pretty demanding major). But maybe if they had just took lessons for a few years, learned their scales better, learned a little bit of basic theory, and learned basic reading, they would have thrived in the college environment....

    Personally, I feel that my formal music education took my musicianship LIGHTYEARS ahead of where it was when I began, and I must admit when I started my freshman year I thought I was quite the badass guitarist I had no idea Well there is much more I could say on this topic, but I have said enough, for now

  24. #23

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    A few thoughts on going to music school or studying privately.

    My first thought is why not do both? I have a Doctorate in Jazz Performance and a bunch of performance certificates from Conservatories in classical and jazz music. So I've definately seen the school side of things.

    But I have also taken private lessons with great players like Billy Hart, Fred Hersch, Gene Bertoncini, Ben Monder etc. So I've seen that side as well.

    In my opinion if you want to teach than get at least your masters degree, all jazz teaching gigs at colleges and universities now require a masters and most require a doctorate.

    But if you want to just play for a living than find the best private teacher you can and apprentice with them. Move to their city and spend as much time with them as possible. Study music with them, but also learn about the music business, go to recording sessions with them, go see them at gigs, check out the sound checks, ask them to explain contracts and rider's to you etc. This is the stuff that is not taught in guitar lessons but is EXTREMELY important if you want to make it as a professional player.

    As far as quality of life it seems that everyone so far has commented on high school teaching gigs so I'll shed some light on college/university gigs.

    A full time professor of music works about 15 hours a week, 28 weeks a year teaching. Then there is recruiting, publishing, recording, committees and other requirements that add to the work load, but it's still a pretty sweet gig. All college/university gigs come with life insurance, health insurance and a pension fund which is a big plus, especially these days. As far as pay is concerned a college gig would start around 45-50k and would top out around 120-130k depending on the school and if it's private or publicly funded. And this income can easily be suplimented by gigging, recording, publishing etc in ones free time.

    I chose to go the college route and get my Doctorate so I could teach, which I truly love doing, but I ALWAYS made sure I performed regularly and kept my practicing up at all times. One of the best things about music school for me is that I made TONS of contacts that have paid off with gigs, teaching, publishing etc in my career. And now that I have a good job and can afford to I can study with anybody I want in my free time. I can spend a weekend here and there taking lessons with different musicians and it just adds to the base I already have.

    Living the life of a jazz musician, only performing, is very difficult. I know hundreds of professional jazzers all over the world and the ones that only perform for a living usually struggle. It seems that everyone has a "day gig" these days and that for most guys it's teaching at one level or another. So if you are interested in becoming a professional player go talk to 10 or more local or regional jazz cats who play a lot and ask them what their lives are like. Can they make a living just playing in their area? If not what do they do to supliment their income?

    There are many ways to learn jazz and there are no right or wrong ways. I think that questions like "should I go to music school" should be answered with a career in mind, not necessarily the ability to play for the rest of your life. I know many lawyers and businessmen etc that have several weekly jazz gigs and sound great!


  25. #24

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    If I could do do it over, if it were 40 years ago and I was only 20, I would have gone to school. Played shows for 20 years and met a lot of good musicians, and while there were some good ones who never went to school, every one I met met from Berklee or GIT were excellent players. And all the conductors and musical directors I worked for? They all went to shcool. Plus, school will expand your mind past your guitar. Just my $.02.

  26. #25

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    The problem with independent study is that that it takes a level of discipline that most of us don't have. Most of the "self-taught" people that I've met are very shallow in their knowledge and have gaping holes. Left to their own devices most people just study what they want and avoid anything that they don't want to hear or that they think is boring. The advantage of a good music program is that it will force you to try things that you never would have tried and will push your boundaries. You will learn things that don't seem important at first but will come in handy later.

    The few brilliant self-taught people that I've met have been extremely disciplined and had a voracious appetite for all knowledge, not just their narrow focus of interest. They tended to be very aggressively self-motivated learners.

    I always say go to a school. You will learn a lot of things that you wouldn't have and you get a nice sheepskin when your done that may come in handy later.


  27. #26

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    where playing alone is concerned:

    a top school (not just any school) is a huge advantage. especially true where the following are concerned: private lessons with a top teacher, improv classes, and ensembles.

    to a lesser extent theory, harmony and arranging classes. you can get a lot of that from non-university sources although the quality of instruction may not be as high. truth is, most players don't need to be gurus in those areas. a solid working knowledge is needed.

    its different if you intend to teach, compose and/or arrange, of course.

    my 2 cents.