Schools and Studios

Over the past several decades, guitar sales have become the driving force in the music store industry, and guitar instruction has become the mainstay of the private music studio business. In addition, there has been, and continues to be, a growing emphasis in schools on general music education based on the guitar. These developments are a direct result of the fact that over this span of time, the guitar has become far and away the most popular and the most widely-owned musical instrument. Outside of the school/studio milieu, and mainly owing to the dominating presence of the guitar in the cultural landscape, the guitar is now the instrument of choice for a clear majority of aspiring musicians across a wide age demographic. But quite apart from the guitar’s tremendous popularity, it is a very sensible choice, because it is one of the most affordable musical instruments, and because it is one of the easiest instruments to learn how to play, and perhaps most importantly because it can be used to play music that is entirely self-sufficient.

Although the learning materials associated with the visualinear tablature guitar series are designed for use in a self-study context, these materials also offer the possibility for a unique and highly effective approach to music education in a school or studio setting. Taken together, Melody Guitar and the Guitar Ensemble Core Catalog comprise an innovative approach to learning about music that is based on playing music, and that is made possible by the simplicity of the visualinear tablature notational system. Because the notation allows for an immediate concentration on the task of training the fingers to make the required movements, complete beginners can learn to read and play familiar melodies in very short order. More importantly, in doing so they will have acquired the ability to play the least challenging parts in these ensemble arrangements, most of which contain one or more parts that are reasonably easy to play. And because most of these arrangements also contain one or more parts that are somewhat more challenging, the performance of this music by a group of players with varying levels of skill is well provided for. The wide variety of musical styles represented in the GECC is very conducive to a general musical education, and a more detailed study of how music is fashioned can be undertaken by more advanced students by learning to play all the parts of the arrangements. The viability of this unique approach to learning about music, which is made considerably more interesting and more enjoyable by the use of e-scores, is nowhere better demonstrated than by the fact that there is arguably no better way to understand how a Bach Chorale is constructed than to learn to play each of the four parts of which it is comprised.

Apart from the obvious innovation given by the use of visualinear tablature, the guitar ensemble music contained in the visualinear tablature guitar series employs an innovative performance model consisting of monophonic parts arrangements played on steel string guitars. The monophonic parts guitar ensemble concept has heretofore been largely restricted to the use of nylon string (Classical) guitars, but the more widely owned and more widely admired steel string guitar is better suited to this musical purpose. This is so because of the superior volume and sustain of treble notes on the steel string guitar, and because the two possible styles of play on the steel string guitar (flatpick and fingerstyle) offer a much wider range of musical expression. The novelty and potential of the steel string performance model suggest that the process of translating these arrangements into musically satisfying performances promises to be as instructional and as engaging for musical directors as it is for the participants.

Not least among the many benefits of learning to play guitar ensemble music is the fact that the development of melodic playing skills translates directly into an improved ability to play the guitar expressively and in a musical fashion, regardless of the style of play employed. Guitar ensemble music also offers a unique opportunity for beginners in the study of music to participate in musically satisfying group performances, the importance of which is not likely to be lost on music educators. But despite these and the many other benefits of this innovative learning model, students are likelier to be more interested in learning to play the guitar in the chord-based rhythmic styles of play employed by their favorite recording artists. Taken together, Rhythm Guitar and the Rhythm Guitar Core Catalog comprise a comprehensive study of rhythmic styles of play through an intermediate level of skill, and the RGCC Study Notes in particular allow for a detailed consideration of how musically sensible rhythm guitar arrangements are fashioned.

The interrelatedness of the two Catalogs, given by the fact that the RGCC arrangements are all accompaniments to GECC arrangements, allows for an expansion of the ensemble performance model, since the rhythm arrangements can be played by more advanced students, either as soloists or in groups (not incidentally, the sound produced by a group of guitarists playing a simple rhythm arrangement in unison has a very compelling musical effect). And since advanced students who are not sufficiently challenged by the RGCC arrangements can devise their own rhythm guitar or even lead guitar parts, there is ample opportunity for meaningful participation in ensemble performance by players ranging in skill from complete beginner to accomplished rhythm or lead guitarist. Advanced students can also be encouraged to take advantage of the fact that since only half of the GECC arrangements serve as the basis of RGCC arrangements, rhythm accompaniments for the other GECC arrangements can be devised by means of ensemble score harmonic analysis, and by means of an application of the many ideas relating to the derivation of effective rhythm arrangements that are discussed in the RGCC Study Notes.

Music educators who are desirous of incorporating the learning materials of the visualinear tablature guitar series into their curricula should consider purchasing the Twelvemonth Music School/Studio Package, which consists mainly of the two manuals (Melody Guitar and Rhythm Guitar); the 10 volumes of the GECC in e-score, print score, and CD format; and the 12 volumes of the RGCC in print score and CD format. In combination with the TablEdit music notational program, which can be purchased at for $60, the school/studio package affords music educators great flexibility in the matter of fashioning an effective music learning program. The school studio package also includes duplication rights, which means music educators are free to copy and distribute to their students any of the learning materials included in the package, and performance rights, which means music educators are free to perform in public, with no royalty payments required, any of the music contained in the two Catalogs. Other components of the school/studio package that are only available for sale as part of the package are CDs of the guitar ensemble music, part scores for the 190 guitar ensemble arrangements, and CDs for the 6 principal volumes of the RGCC.

The main purpose of the GECC CDs is to provide a better approximation than that afforded by the MIDI soundtracks of the actual sound of a steel string guitar ensemble performance of the music. The GECC CDs can also be put to good use by facilitating discussions about how the sound of the CD track for a particular arrangement might be improved upon. The two most obvious considerations in this regard are the fact that many of the arrangements should be played at a brisker tempo (many of the tempos were purposely slowed for the benefit of beginners), and the fact that many of the arrangements should be played in fingerstyle (all of the music contained on these CDs sounds like it is being played with a flatpick). As any music educator knows full well, part scores are essential to running a musical ensemble efficiently, and to achieving satisfactory results in performance. Apart from being easier to read and less intimidating than full ensemble scores, part scores, like melodic scores, are normally contained on a single page, thus eliminating the need for spreading or turning pages of score. This is obviously an important consideration in the matter of the performance of the music of the GECC by a guitar ensemble. The CDs for the 6 principal volumes of the RGCC are an important learning aid because the rhythm guitar arrangements can be heard much more clearly than on the Duets CDs or the Rhythm Sampler CD.

The most important component of the school/studio package, in terms of allowing for the instructor’s creative input, and in terms of allowing for the greatest flexibility and cost-effectiveness in the use of these materials, is the TablEdit music notational program. The TablEdit program was used for the creation of all of the .tef files and printed scores associated with the guitar ensemble component of the visualinear tablature guitar series. This versatile software is relatively easy to learn to use, and will allow instructors to devise and print their own teaching materials and monophonic visualinear tablature scores. The .tef files will allow music educators to adapt the GECC scores to their own specific needs and purposes in a number of ways. The fact that the GECC arrangements can be played by a variety of combinations of instruments is well demonstrated in the backing tracks for the RGCC recordings. The guitar ensemble performance of the GECC arrangements can be enhanced by a doubling of the melody line by another solo instrument, or by a doubling of the entire arrangement by an ensemble of other instruments, or by the addition of other monophonic parts for the guitar or other instruments, or by the addition of a bass guitar part. Any of these adaptations can be made rather easily with the TablEdit software, and part scores or ensemble scores can be printed.

The fact that part scores for any instrument can be printed with the TablEdit program highlights an important feature of the TablEdit and TefView programs that may be of vital interest to some music educators. Either program allows for the display in staff notation of all the music contained in the GECC, either alone or in combination with visualinear tablature. The TablEdit program and the set of .tef files allow for printing this music in either of these formats. The use of staff together with the tablature makes more sense, especially for beginners, since the use of staff alone forfeits the benefit of the simplicity of the tablature. Music educators are nevertheless free to convert any of the arrangements contained in the GECC to staff if doing so is better suited to their purposes. It should be noted in this connection that the staff notation is correct with respect to the time values and pitches of the notes, but the rests are sometimes awkwardly placed, and rests are sometimes omitted (which suggests the instructive exercise of deducing the missing rest). These imperfections in the staff notation are a result of the fact that the scores were edited so as to produce the desired visualinear tablature display and printout. Correct staff scores can be generated rather easily, however, by editing the staff notation in the TablEdit program.

The materials contained in the Twelvemonth Music school/studio package are equally well-suited for use in a school or in a studio, since the universal appeal and familiarity of this music are conducive to participation of players of all ages. The use of these learning materials in a school setting is suggested by the emphasis on group performance (and therefore also on group instruction), and by the fact that these materials will allow for the development of a cost-effective program, or an adjunct to an established curriculum, that is likely to appeal to a great many students, including some who would not have been drawn in by a more conventional program (the guitar is widely considered by students to be cool, whereas the oboe and the viola are not). Studio proprietors might want to consider that incorporating these innovative learning materials into an existing program could add new dimensions to that program, particularly in the areas of group instruction and ensemble performance. It is important to note that the use of these materials is in any case limited to educational and non-commercial purposes.

Another interesting possibility is given by the fact that these learning materials suggest an entirely different studio model that is in effect almost the exact opposite of the traditional model. The traditional private music studio model is largely based on one-to-one instruction, and the studio itself is normally compartmentalized into small rooms in which this one-to-one instruction takes place. The studio proprietor normally has a great deal of administrative responsibility, including hiring and managing a staff of instructors, and overseeing the execution of a busy and complicated instruction schedule. The use of these learning materials would allow for the development of an entirely different type of studio – one that is based solely on group instruction, and that consists of a single reasonably large room. The performance of ensemble music would be a major focus, and group instruction could be offered in Melody Guitar and Rhythm Guitar. Rhythm guitar ensembles and workshops could also be offered, including bringing in accomplished local guitarists to conduct classes in specialized styles of play, and the inclusion of rhythm guitar music would make for more engaging end-of-session performances.

The most intriguing aspect of this studio model is the fact that the proprietor could do practically all of the teaching. This creates the possibility for the establishment by an individual of a simple but financially rewarding part-time business that would require only a very modest initial investment. Given the fact that the establishment of such a business would be a creative and community-based endeavor, and of course given the opportunity to be involved with music, the personal rewards of such an enterprise could be considerable as well. And success in creating a viable community program, with a tradition of well-conceived and well-executed end-of-session concerts, would yield far greater rewards for all concerned (teachers, students, and the community) than are presently possible. For the benefit of those who might have an interest in establishing a part-time business based on this alternative studio model, the Twelvemonth Guitar Studio page will serve as an example of what a web site for such a studio might contain. Purchasers of the school/studio package can make free use of any portion of this writing, on their websites or otherwise, and are at liberty to use the trademarked names “Twelvemonth” and “visualinear tablature” in connection with their teaching activities, and may link their websites to the this website in any manner they choose.