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My Teaching History
I have been teaching guitar since my teenage years however I mark the start of my professional teaching career as 1998.
This was the first year that I was able to earn all of my income from either teaching or playing music. Since 1998 I have
taught in a wide range of situations including, lecturing, tutoring and writing courses for Macquarie University (Sydney),
teaching community courses, tutoring within schools, conducting ensembles, conducting guitar workshops and of course private
My Teaching approach
My approach to teaching the more advance material on guitar (in terms of harmony and improvisation) is a little unconventional
in that I don’t heavily rely on modes and scales. It is much better to understand the chords and harmony that you
want to solo over first. I believe that guitarists tend to approach complex harmony from the wrong perspective i.e. Scales and
Learning all the scales and modes should not be seen as the end goal but rather part of the process that will help you develop
the ability to play what you hear in your head. The best advice I have ever been given when starting out is that you learn your
scales and arpeggios to forget them. Basically this means that we learn them well enough that they are so automatic that we no
longer need to think about them. The best analogy that I can think of is that of walking. We are so used to walking that we rarely
think about it and this spares our brainpower for other tasks. When we walk across a room our only thought is that we want to get
across the room and then our body automatically does it. We don’t need to concentrate on what our legs are doing. Music is
like this too. If we work hard enough we can get to the stage where when we hear ideas in our head, our body plays it for us
allowing us to use our brainpower for other things such as listening to the band and creating music for example.
I’m not saying that scales and modes are not important however, I believe that complex harmony should be taught through the
study of chords first which will give a greater understanding of what modes are and why they work. Modes tend to create confusion
for almost all guitarists when starting to improvise. There seems to be so many scales to learn and then you have to remember which
chords they go with and of course there are so many chords and over each chord we can use multiple modes and we also have chord
substitutions. So it is no surprise that we find it so confusing. The reason we get confused is that when we learn modes we tend
to try to rote learn which modes go with which chords and there are simply too many. We should be learning how the notes of these
modes relate to the chords we want to use them on. Therefore, a lack of chord knowledge is the biggest cause of confusion. While I
do use modes when I’m playing I don’t think of them as scales for this reason. I think chord tones and embellish (or colour)
them with colour notes and passing notes. Sort of like a dot-to-dot picture where as long as you join the dots in a logical way , the
picture will make sense. I consider the chord tones to be like those dots and as long as you link them up logically, it will make sense
and sound good.
Over the years I have developed ideas and exercises to practice which develop improvisational skills in what I believe is a more musical and 'organic' process of learning.
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Blue Mountains, NSW
(c) 2010 Chris Komorowski