Is Music School Important for Blues Guitar?

Ric Hall Jaz playing his Fender Stratocaster black & white

I continuously come to realization of how much there is still (and always will be) to learn about the Blues, acoustic guitar, amplifiers, effects for electric and everything in between. There is an ocean of information around us and with the internet, anyone with semi-decent knowledge of computers can provide us with material to learn on our own. But what material is good?  That may be both right and wrong questions and here is why.

Right question

If I am hell-bent on non-conformism and avoiding formal guitar education altogether, it would be crucial to make my learning time as efficient and effective as possible.The fact that anyone can post guitar lessons is both blessings and a curse because for each one good teacher, there is a dozen of those who either got it from that one or have no clue what they are talking about. Learning on your own can just end up being either too slow of a journey, walking in circles or a mess without structure and thus comprehension. Any of these can be discouraging to a beginner.

jack black teaching school of rock

Wrong question

What material is good? All of it and there isn’t much to it. 9/10 teachers will start by telling you about tonal center (root note), guitar scales and chords, the way things are done and operate in the world of Blues music and how it all falls together. Since this type of learning comes from repetition, each of them will reinforce your knowledge and built up on it at the same time, each of them will in fact give you something new to think about. In any case, we learn guitar from other people, this is not something we can do via books alone or our own guesstimates. Centuries of know-how’s, how-to’s and best ways are passed down and gathered in the curriculum of current musical degrees. Speaking of which…

Self-taught Blues Guitar Players?

Due to reasons highlighted earlier, I believe that self-taught, in the way that we imagine it, is a myth. Everyone got help from others. Be it older guitarists, friends, Marty’s Jamz, watching others play and nagging them for advice, imitating our favorite guitarists, everyone was taught in one way or another. So it is only normal when I combine that, and the fact that over the years, humankind constructed the single most efficient way for fastest and best guitar learning and called it musical degree.

Recently, I had a great pleasure of getting an advice from Ric Jaz, one of the greatest Blues guitarists in Chicago and a member of Buddy Guy’s band. When asked how should one approach the learning of guitar, he replied: A good music school or good music program is essential for all young musicians so you can communicate with other top level musicians ….when you have the tools under your belt you can perform and go anywhere …that’s my advice for all up and coming young musicians. Music is like a circle it has no ends, study as much as you can learn as much as you can keep your mind open”

And then, while watching this again, I caught myself with a big smile on my face:

Made me think more on the so you can communicate with other top level musicians”. I noticed that in the video, Buddy Guy and Ric Jaz were talking but never said a word. I want that, I want to do that and if a virtuoso who can do that, tells me to go to school to be able to do it, you damn right I will go to school for it. 

Lists of Music Schools

Now that we’ve stipulated that the need for someone to teach us how to play guitar is crucial, there is a choice between online courses and a music school to attend. Many of the colleges offer online education as an option, so if you have your eye on a certain school and want to learn guitar there, you can do it without moving half way across the world.

List of Universities

Luckily, Wikipedia has the list of colleges that teach us the best way to learn guitar. I have noticed that the U.S. institutions are without links and went to one of the sources focusing on Music Schools purely in the U.S. with description links. The choice is endless and there really is no excuse to ignore the tools that are offered to speed up and make your Blues guitar learning more efficient. Remember that many of these offer high quality online courses that you can take. If money is the issue, there are always free online resources, but be selective and regimental when it comes to choosing them.

key of c sheet diagram

List of Online Guitar Learning Resources (Free & Affordable)

At first I will list a couple of favorites that helped me out and made much of my confusion make sense.

  • Coursera is my go-to when I need to get back on track. Within it, there are many great music schools offering their guidance free of charge and any one pursuing musical career should take advantage of it.

My personal favorite school within Coursera is predictably Berklee College of Music. I’ve taken 4 classes with them to this day and each have taught me a great deal about Songwriting, Music Production, reading sheet music and many more. The value of this is tremendous and I urge you to grab it by the horns while you can. It costs nothing but your time and your time is very well invested. Among a large amount of successful Berklee graduates are Quincy Jones, John Mayer, John Petrucci and Steve Vai.

    • Guitar Jamz is another place I have mentioned in the past and have visited ever since day 1 of my Blues guitar journey. Marty Schwartz is a charismatic and extremely generous teacher. The amount of material he gives out for free kind of guilts you into buying his premium membership just to say “Thanks Marty!”
      logo of guitar jamz
    • Watching and learning from those Blues Guitarists who influenced you. This is my favorite one. Paying close attention to the performances of Mr. Jaz or Mr. Guy, old records of Wolf or new records of Richards. All of it makes you work and work with your eyes, ears, fingers and brain at once. You have to pay attention, focus, listen and try out notes until you get it right or until you get your own lick that will make you want to remember it. This is how your own tone is being created and this is how all those who we love to listen to learned. It is work and it’s harder than opening tabs and just playing by them but this may just be the difference between those who will shake hands with the greats and those who won’t.

 

  • Ultimate-Guitar is a place worth mentioning if we are talking tabs. Lot’s of them, many actually do sound correct. Tab Pro is also an accurate subscription based tabs platform.Ultimate guitar tabs logo
  • Rocksmith is a big question for me. I have a feeling that many real guitarists will laugh at the notion of learning guitar via a video game but I must say that my awareness of the fret board, dexterity and overall progress has been noticeably higher after this game than before. This product is very and very enjoyable when it comes to learning songs, practicing tech stuff and figuring out licks. Lots of Blues songs available for purchase and learning. Great material from the favorites.
    rocksmith 2014 logo ubisoft
  • A billion more tailored to your preferences.

I will repeat myself a number of times: Make sure you carefully filter out what you use. I’ve known those who jumped to learning a ballad that was A) above their reach B) did not teach them anything. The result was funny because when they would want to play with others, they would have no clue what did “Play in E” meant. Make sure you structure your learning if you care not for a teacher.

Blues Guitar Lesson

I have doubted the need for musical education and felt like I know how it all works. Through this journey I’ve questioned my own views and asked for guidance. The conclusion is that arrogance and attempts to save some cash, will in the end turn back to bite you. Perception that everyone is trying to rip you off and take your money is false. People in music have been developing the shortcut to reaching our heights in the last few centuries. Just as I pay attention to elders, I should pay attention to this, because this is an investment in our own selves. Why attempt to sell ourselves on sale if we can go for double the price? Use all the tools that you can get your hands on, learn from everyone and continue to grow on your journey. If you can go to school and get a formal guitar education – do it without a shade of doubt.

Make Some Noise