Twelvemonth Guitar Studio

Mount Holly, New Jersey

D. L. Stieg, Director

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Playing music is fun and rewarding. There’s a certain amount of work involved because there’s no getting around the fact that you have to practice and develop skills. But the ability to play music gives people great enjoyment and adds an important dimension to their lives.

Music is traditionally taught using staff notation (notes, sharps, flats, and all that). But staff is hard to learn and even harder to teach. That’s why a lot of people try to learn to play music and never succeed at doing so. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Twelvemonth Guitar Studio is about a new and easier way to learn to play music. All you need is a guitar to get started. There’s a lot to read on this page and on this website, but it’s there mostly for the benefit of those who like to read and who like to be thorough. Don’t even worry about reading everything if you’re not that sort of person.

All you really need to do is check out the prices (which are very reasonable), and the studio location and hours, and maybe the Introduction. Then just come in to the studio and I’ll show you how I can teach you to play music. It’s never been easier or more fun to learn, and anyone can do it. If you want to learn to play the guitar and learn about music, or improve your guitar playing skills, this program is for you.


Twelvemonth Guitar Studio is a totally unique performance-driven music studio devoted exclusively to group instruction for the guitar. The preferred instrument is a steel string acoustic guitar. Classical or nylon string guitars are acceptable but not recommended. Electric guitars, at least with respect to studio participation, are not acceptable.

The Twelvemonth program is centered around two comprehensive textbooks entitled Melody Guitar and Rhythm Guitar, both by D. L. Stieg and both based on visualinear tablature, an innovative and deceptively simple guitar notational system. These books and the program itself place a strong emphasis on general musical knowledge and musicianship.

The studio schedule coincides roughly with the school year. There are three ten-week sessions (Fall, Winter, and Spring), each of which concludes with a studio-wide concert. All regular session classes are 45 minutes in length. There are in addition two five-week summer sessions, which are followed by a studio-wide concert in the early fall. Summer session classes are 60 minutes in length.

Studio Location and Hours

Twelvemonth Guitar Studio is located on the second floor at 39 High Street, above Holly News and Cards, in the lovely historic downtown district of Mount Holly, New Jersey. Ample free municipal parking is available across the street and behind the storefronts. Regular studio hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays between 6pm and 9pm. The studio shares space with the High Street Art Gallery, the regular hours for which are Saturdays between 4pm and 9pm, and Sundays between 6pm and 9pm.

Course Descriptions

Melody Guitar
This is the first course in the Twelvemonth program. It is suitable for complete beginners in the study of the guitar, as well as for students with some guitar playing experience but with little general musical knowledge. Basic skills in musicianship are discussed in connection with learning to effectively play simple melodies on the guitar. The visualinear tablature notational system, as well as the materials contained on the Free Downloads page of the Twelvemonth Music website, are gradually developed with a view toward learning how to play guitar ensemble music in a variety of styles, including classical music. Classes for this course may be age-specific, with adult classes, teen classes (12 and up), and mixed classes. The mixed classes are intended mainly as a vehicle for parents who wish to participate together with their children (9 and up). There is no prerequisite.

Beginning Ensemble
This is a beginning level guitar ensemble for students who have some guitar playing experience and who have developed some familiarity with the rudiments of music. In the first week of class the topics covered in Melody Guitar are reviewed. The balance of the course is devoted to learning and playing a variety of pieces selected from the Guitar Ensemble Core Catalog. Classes for this course may be age-specific.
Prerequisite : Melody Guitar (or equivalent)

Special Ensemble
This is an intermediate level guitar ensemble focusing on a particular style of music. The repertoire may be based on specific volumes contained in the Core Catalog, or may be representative of any one of the following genres : Classical Music, Barbershop Music, Ragtime Music, Marching Band Music, Spirituals, Hymns, Madrigals, Rounds, Christmas Music, and Popular Music.
Prerequisite : Beginning Ensemble (or equivalent)

Rhythm Guitar
This is a first course in rhythmic (chord-based) styles of play. It is suitable for complete beginners in the study of the guitar who are prepared to make a serious commitment to learning, as well as for students with limited guitar playing and general musical skills. Flatpick styles and fingerstyles are given equal emphasis, and a vocabulary of basic chords is developed with a view toward understanding how chords and chord progressions are derived. Playing techniques through a solid intermediate level of skill are covered. There is no prerequisite.

Rhythm Ensemble
This is a rhythm guitar workshop with ample opportunity for creative input from every participant. The basic skills developed in Rhythm Guitar are reinforced by playing simple rhythm arrangements in unison. Then these arrangements are expanded upon by adding melody and bass to the mix, and by fashioning complementary rhythm guitar arrangements. Intricate multiple rhythm textures and rhythmic rounds are created by using a variety of tools, including transposition, chord charting, and the use of alternative tunings.
Prerequisite : Rhythm Guitar (or equivalent)

Advanced Studies
These are intermediate level workshops focusing on specific types of music or specific styles of play. The following are among the topics on which advanced studies are likely to be based : Flatpick Guitar, Finger-style Guitar, Fingerpick Guitar, Guitar Tunings, Blues Guitar, 12-String Guitar, Bluegrass/Country Guitar, Folk Guitar, Jazz Guitar, Classical Guitar, Rock Rhythm Guitar, and Lead Guitar.
Prerequisite : Rhythm Guitar (or equivalent)

Intermediate Ensemble
This is a guitar ensemble for experienced guitarists who have developed appreciable skill in rhythmic styles of play and are competent musicians. The entire session is devoted to learning and playing guitar ensemble pieces in a variety of styles. The arrangements for these pieces are then enhanced by modifying the forms and by adding rhythm guitar, bass guitar, and solo lead guitar parts.
Prerequisite : Beginning Ensemble and Rhythm Guitar (or equivalent)

Advanced Ensemble
This is a performance-driven tuition-free ensemble that is comprised of consummate musicians dedicated to pushing the envelope with respect to the many musical possibilities given by the Twelvemonth program. Membership in this ensemble is by invitation or by audition only. This group will represent the studio in numerous performance venues besides the studio-wide concerts concluding each session, thus affording the members an opportunity to supplement their incomes with a share of performance revenues. Membership is open to guitarists of all persuasions, and performing experience is preferred, but music reading ability is not required.

Where Do You Fit In?

Twelvemonth Guitar Studio has something of value to offer you regardless of your level of skill at playing the guitar and regardless of the extent of your musical experience and knowledge. If you are a complete beginner in the study of the guitar and in the study of music, Melody Guitar is an excellent introduction to both disciplines. The Twelvemonth program, and in particular visualinear tablature and the fascinating and highly effective e-scores, is especially well suited to individuals who are taking their first steps in the journey into the world of music-making. This is so because the barrier to entry given by the complexity of the staff and TAB notational systems, which has prevented countless aspiring musicians from reaching their goals, has in effect been removed, thus making the ability to understand and to play music practically universally accessible.

Guitar ensemble music, like the music of an orchestra or a choir, is made possible by the combined efforts of a group of players, each of whom is assigned a monophonic (one note at a time) part. Monophonic parts music is an excellent vehicle for becoming acquainted with music in a wide variety of styles and genres in the best and most satisfying manner possible – by actually playing the music. Beginning Ensemble and Special Ensemble classes will allow you to participate in this rewarding activity by removing the barrier to entry into the realm of ensemble music that has traditionally been given by the need to master a musical instrument and/or the need to master staff notation. This is so because it is relatively easy to learn to play melodies on the guitar as compared to most other musical instruments, and because of the simplicity of visualinear tablature notation. An additional important benefit of learning to play melodic music on the guitar effectively is given by the fact that it teaches you how to produce the most beautiful tone of which the instrument is capable. This will inform and improve your playing regardless of which style of guitar music you ultimately come to prefer, and regardless of the level of your playing experience.

Most people who want to learn to play the guitar are most interested in acquiring the ability to play in the popular rhythmic styles that they constantly hear on the radio, on television, and in the soundtracks for movies. Rhythm Guitar is an excellent introduction to rhythmic (chord-based) guitar playing, especially since this course is not style-specific, and will therefore prepare you for specialization in whatever style of play you are most interested in learning. Rhythm Guitar is also a valuable course of study if you already play the guitar but have not yet developed the ability to play in a variety of styles, or have not yet come very far along in the development of general musical skill. Rhythm Ensemble and Advanced Studies courses allow you to further develop your ability to play the guitar in rhythmic styles, and are a valuable learning vehicle for individuals who have already developed rhythm guitar and general musical skills and wish to expand their musical horizons.

Twelvemonth Guitar Studio has something of value to offer you even if you already play the guitar well and are a highly competent musician. Learning to play guitar ensemble music will allow you to become closely familiar with a wide variety of musical styles, which apart from the great enjoyment it can provide will broaden the base of your understanding of music in general. Participation in the Intermediate Ensemble or the Advanced Ensemble will also allow you to further develop musically by taking solo turns in the context of guitar ensemble arrangements. One of the most important features of the Twelvemonth program is the fact that because of the ease with which visualinear tablature can be learned, you can plug right in to the program regardless of your musical background, and whether you read music or play by ear (either approach can result in an extraordinary level of musical ability and accomplishment). If you have already concentrated your efforts and become very accomplished at a particular style of play, you might want to consider teaching an Advanced Studies course. And finally, you might want to consider becoming familiar with the entire Twelvemonth program with a view toward opening your own studio, which will allow you to bring the joy of making music to others.

Session Schedule for 2005  
Spring April 4 – June 4  (concert June 7)  
Summer I June 13 – July 16  
Summer II August 1 – September 3  (concert September 10)  
Fall October 10 – December 17  (concert December 20)  
Schedule for Spring 2005

6:30 – 7:15     Melody Guitar

7:45 – 8:30     Beginning Ensemble

Thursdays 6:30 – 7:15     Rhythm Guitar

7:45 – 8:30     Rhythm Ensemble


The tuition for a ten-week regular session course is $120. One third of the tuition ($40) is payable the first week of class. Another third ($40) is payable the fourth week of class. The balance ($40) is payable the seventh week of class. All payments must be made no later than one week after the due date. You may pay the entire $120 tuition the first week of class if that is your preference.

The tuition for a five-week summer session course is $80. One half of the tuition ($40) is payable the first week of class. The balance ($40) is payable the third week of class. All payments must be made no later than one week after the due date. You may pay the entire $80 tuition the first week of class if that is your preference.


The easiest and quickest way to register for a class or classes is to do so online. Depending on the number of registrants, classes for Melody Guitar and Beginning Ensemble may be subdivided and separately scheduled for the three different age groups (adult, teen, and mixed), so be sure to specify your age group if you are registering for either one of those classes. Click here to register online. If you choose to register online, you will receive an e-mail acknowledging your registration, and another e-mail reminder when classes are about to begin. If you would rather visit the studio and register in person, you may do so during regular studio hours. Since all classes are open to the public for the purpose of observation, feel free to come in while a class is in session if that is your preference.


You may have questions regarding the course descriptions or the prerequisites for the various courses. Or you may wish to contact the studio for some other reason, for example to offer to teach an Advanced Studies course, or to arrange an audition for the Advanced Ensemble. Click here to contact the studio by e-mail. You can contact the studio by snail mail at the following address:

Twelvemonth Guitar Studio
39 High Street
Mount Holly, New Jersey 08060

The Twelvemonth Program

The Twelvemonth program is an innovative method for learning to play the guitar and for developing musical awareness and the ability to play music effectively. The cornerstone of the program is the visualinear tablature notational system, which despite its simplicity and the ease with which it can be learned is capable of accurately expressing intricate and complicated music in written form. The program is further distinguished by the emphasis on group instruction, and by the emphasis on understanding music as a means to playing music effectively, and by a unique conception of the possibilities for making music with the guitar.

The traditional music studio model is based on one-to-one instruction. This is usually the most sensible and effective approach, since for most musical instruments the technical requirements for mastering the instrument are considerable and all but require individualized instruction. This is not the case with the guitar, however, which unlike most instruments is largely self-explanatory. This accounts for the fact that a great many individuals have become accomplished guitarists without the benefit of formal instruction and without recourse to a theoretical understanding of music.

Apart from self-instruction, which produces successful results far more often for the guitar than for other instruments, the most common way in which people have always learned to play the guitar is by means of the oral teaching tradition. This consists mainly of learning by imitating, and is dependent on face-to-face contact between the student and a more accomplished player. Guitar instruction in studios and in schools, and in particular beginning level instruction, is based on the same model, largely owing to the lack of a simple and efficient means for representing the music in written form.

The visualinear tablature system frees students from the confines of the oral tradition, and allows them to work independently toward their goal of becoming a competent guitarist. Since the notation is accurate and can be learned quite readily, the student can place the emphasis almost at the outset where it rightly belongs, namely on mastering the ability to play music rather than on mastering the notation for that music. There is an appreciable difference, however, between playing notes and playing music.

Learning about what makes music hold together, and learning about the technical details of playing the guitar, are essential steps in the process of developing the ability to play guitar music effectively. By first acquiring and then applying this knowledge, with the use of visualinear tablature notation, the student can in very short order learn to play melodies on the guitar in a musically pleasing fashion. This is the essence of Melody Guitar (the book as well as the studio-based course).

In the Twelvemonth program, learning to play melodies is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Playing melodies alone is not a very satisfying musical activity. This accounts for the fact that most musical instruments are normally played together with other musical instruments, for example in an orchestra or another type of musical ensemble. The guitar and the piano are unique among musical instruments in that they both lend themselves well to the creation of self-sufficient music by an individual player. But the guitar also lends itself well to the creation of ensemble music, and the very notion of an ensemble made up entirely of guitars is as intriguing as it is practicable. This is the essence of guitar ensemble music, which is by definition a group activity, and the essence of the Guitar Ensemble Core Catalog.

Group instruction for the guitar in a studio context makes sense for a variety of reasons. Not leastly, it is more affordable. It also incorporates a social element into the learning process, which is an important consideration because music-making is largely a social activity. It also gives players of limited skill the opportunity to combine their efforts in the creation of far more satisfying music than they would be capable of individually. But perhaps most importantly, it allows for meaningful and instructional exposure to a wide variety of musical styles and genres.

Apart from the use of visualinear tablature, the process of learning to play guitar ensemble music in a studio setting is greatly aided by the use of two important tools. The first of these is part scores, which contain only the music for the individual part to which each player is assigned. The use of part scores is identical to the manner in which orchestral players function, and it is far more sensible and effective than having players use full ensemble scores. The second tool is an innovative and fascinating learning tool called e-scores, which are full ensemble scores that are displayed on a computer monitor and that automatically track while the music plays.

The use of e-scores allows players to learn and to practice their parts at home and independently. The same result can be obtained by working from part scores and by playing along with e-score soundtracks, which can be freely accessed on the Twelvemonth Music website. In either case, the fact that players can learn their parts independently means that studio time can be devoted to perfecting the ensemble sound, which is a much more enjoyable and productive use of that time.

The Twelvemonth program model for melodic and guitar ensemble music also applies to rhythmic guitar music. The use of visualinear tablature frees students from the confines of the oral tradition, and allows them to concentrate on learning to play music rather than on learning to read notation, and allows them to work independently toward their goal of becoming competent rhythm guitarists. Learning about what makes rhythm guitar music hold together, and learning about the technical aspects of playing the guitar in rhythmic styles, are essential steps in developing the ability to play rhythm guitar music effectively. This is the essence of Rhythm Guitar (the book as well as the studio-based course). The fact that this can be done in a group instructional setting makes it more affordable and more of a social activity, and takes advantage of the powerful musical effect of a group of rhythm guitarists playing together.

Beethoven was a great admirer of the guitar, and regarded it as a miniature orchestra. But like most classical composers, Beethoven never wrote any music for the guitar. The guitar has always been and will always be used as an accompaniment for singing, and as a rhythm instrument in musical ensembles, but has never been considered an orchestral instrument. The classical guitar and jazz guitar styles of play combine melodic music and rhythmic music into a single solo performance idiom that is rather difficult to master. The ultimate goal of the Twelvemonth program is an altogether different type of music that can best be described as layered composition.

The first step of the layering process is given by the combination of melodic parts into a guitar ensemble arrangement. Then the musical texture is made more complex and more interesting by the addition of rhythm guitar accompaniments, which is the essence of the Rhythm Guitar Core Catalog. Then the texture can be even further enriched by the addition of bass guitar and solo guitar parts. The result is music of great complexity and beauty that is created by an orchestra made up entirely of guitars. This intriguing format takes full advantage of the guitar’s tremendous versatility, and lends an entirely new meaning to the concept of a guitar ensemble. The musical possibilities inherent in this concept are as considerable as they are varied. It makes eminent sense to use this most commonly owned and most universally admired instrument in this fashion, since doing so will bring the singular opportunity for meaningful and satisfying music-making to a greater number of people than ever before possible.