Guitar Teacher Interview: Daniel Scarsella from Peterborough, Ontario

It's always great to hear how teachers around the world give lessons and how they encourage their students. Here's an interview with Daniel Scarsella from Peterborough, Ontario, Canada on how he approaches teaching guitar:Daniel Scarsella

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you teach

I am based in Peterborough, Ontario. I have been connected to music for over thirty years and have enjoyed broad guitar experience including performing and recording. When I'm not teaching, I'm writing and producing music. I have a pretty comfortable home studio set up.

Tell us about the different ways your students learn in your lessons

My lessons are in person, however, I offer Skype sessions as an alternative. I aim to create a pressure free, flexible learning environment. For this reason, I deliberately do not schedule lessons back to back. Students will always receive their allotted time even if the previous lessons runs late. E-mail support is offered between lessons so students can clarify issues or forward ideas, songs, etc. I encourage practical concepts that help students with song writing as well as jamming with other musicians.

I think it's important to use the tools you learn in a musical way. I use my recording set up to help students understand the fundamentals of production as well as write and/or record their own music. I also record students playing as a critical listening exercise which we then sort of 'joint-evaluate' and look for opportunities to improve.

What styles do you focus on and what songs are currently popular with your students?

I teach beginners and intermediate players mostly with an emphasis on blues. Really, it's blues with rock and some countrified elements thrown in. I enjoy blues and the basic blues progression usually gets picked up pretty well and makes sense to many students. Classic Rock seems to be the popular choice for beginner guitarists...all levels really. No surprise there. Crazy Train is still something guitarists want to try.

What are some of the things accomplished by your students?

One of my students in particular has grown more comfortable with song writing. You can read his testimonial here. It's rewarding to see someone come to your lesson with an original idea that includes even a little piece of something previously taught.

Walk through a typical guitar lesson and how you approach teaching your students

I simply start with a recap of the previous week or multiple lessons as applicable. Once a student can demonstrate a new concept in a musical way, only then do I introduce new material. I don't think concepts should be abandoned to quickly. For example, if a student learns a scale shape but can't play a run or doesn't know what chords it works over, more time needs to be spent. I try to incorporate theory in a way that enhances the students playing. It's easy to overwhelm a student with theory at times.

What advice do you have for somebody wanting to learn guitar or currently learning on their own?

It's certainly well worth the effort it takes in the beginning. Getting a handle on some basic chords, progressions and some of your favourite tunes is very achievable with some discipline. It's quite rewarding when you can play something recognizable for the first time. If you are learning on your own try to avoid jumping from one internet site to the next with no real plan in mind. Remind yourself that it's not realistic to learn everything all at once. Consider correct hand positioning (which you may have to fix later if you get wrong), stretching, reading tab, chord blocks, tuning and other basics before jumping to the intro of Crazy Train. Essentially, set some realistic goals and follow through.

How can people who want to learn or are learning guitar get in touch with you if they have any questions?

I can be reached on my website - I periodically post tips on my Facebook page as well.