- Title: Fingerpicking Guitar Techniques
- What it is: Two-part online guitar course
- Presenter: Stefan Grossman
- Publisher: MusicGurus
- Price information: £18 per part
- Available from: Part 1 / Part 2
Guitarist and teacher, Robert Ahwai, checks out the online guitar course
MusicGurus publishes a collection of varied online courses taught by accredited performers (the gurus) on their respective instruments and available at various prices in the form of instructional videos, supported by pdf. downloads. The full range of courses, prices and levels of ability required can be viewed on the MusicGurus website.
The course that most appealed to me was the two-part Fingerpicking Guitar Techniques, partly because the acoustic guitar is going through a renaissance at the moment with many young, successful artists – such as singer/guitarist, Ed Sheeran – using fingerstyle picking in their accompaniments. In fact, I find I am teaching more acoustic guitar than electric these days because of these artists. On top of this, the course is taught by Stefan Grossman, whom I know to be a master of his craft as a blues/folk guitarist (the only other MusicGurus tutor I’ve heard of, to be honest, being the great Chet Atkins on The Guitar of Chet Atkins course). So I thought I’d check this one out at £15 per part. I will refer to the tutor as Mr Grossman out of respect for the great man.
The parts are conveniently divided into short video sections or ‘lessons’, each no more than about five minutes in length, some just two minutes, which makes it easy to go back and view the sections again to fully understand the instructions – a bit like re-reading a short chapter of a book to make sure you are following the plot. A great idea! It is also very easy to scroll back to the right place, using the small inset ‘stills’ that follow the cursor.
The quality of the video (on this course at least) is excellent, with close-up camera angles on the guitar providing a clear view of Mr Grossman’s skilful finger work. Coupled with his very precise instructions, delivered in simple terms, at a good pace and with a voice that is easy on the ear, I enjoyed listening to him and picking up new ideas. Some of the sections are just old video footage of legendary guitarists performing one of the classic tunes being taught with Stefan Grossman then playing his own interpretation in the next section. This, I found rather unnecessary as, with just a link to the video on YouTube, I could have checked it out if I’d wanted and not wasted valuable lesson time if I hadn’t. There was not much to be learnt from the old, grainy footage, I thought, and it looked like padding to me.
Although I think the course is excellently presented and taught, I’m not sure I would recommend it to my acoustic students, who are mostly in their teenage years, simply because of the very narrow style of music played. Despite a brief preview describing the course as ‘Mr Grossman explores the world of Fingerpicking’, he focusses exclusively on ragtime blues music, which was popular in the 30s and 40s and still has its niche today but which young learners will most probably find too corny to relate to. I know from experience that style is important when trying to teach music to young people and, if they can’t relate to it, they will reject the whole package (‘baby with the bathwater’). Having said that, some pupils, on being introduced to ragtime, may find the genre interesting and pick up on it and, of course, there are the more mature learners who may particularly want to learn old-style blues, as played by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in the 40s, and even up to the 60s in the folk revival period, but, to be honest, it’s not something I have ever been asked to teach.
I would love to see a more modern version of the course with a nod to more contemporary artists who use this style in their playing. To go back a bit, I can think of the music of Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, George Harrison (Here Comes The Sun), coming right up to date with the likes of Ed Sheeran as I’ve mentioned, Jason Mratz and James Bay – to name just a few. Some of the earlier names above may not register with my students but the style of the music would definitely strike a chord. I hope MusicGurus can come up with such a course as the cost works out at about the same as a private lesson and you can watch it over again with all the extra information provided. Now that I would highly recommend!
To sum up, I think the Fingerpicking Guitar Techniques course is very well presented but, with no disrespect to Mr Grossman who is an excellent guitarist and teacher, the content is too dated for me.
About Stefan Grossman
Stefan Grossman is an American fingerstyle acoustic guitarist specialising in blues and folk music.
He was influenced by old blues recordings of artists such as Woody Guthrie and Reverend Gary Davis, with whom he studied for several years. Active in the folk rock scene in America in the early 60s, he travelled to Britain in 1967 where he stayed with Eric Clapton and began playing in folk clubs with British guitarists such as Bert Jansch and Ralph McTell. Later, he returned to America and started to produce instructional videos for his own record label, KM Records.
About Robert Ahwai
Robert Ahwai is a self-taught guitarist and teacher with over 30 years’ recording and gigging experience with artists and producers such as Chris Rea, George Michael, George Martin and Brian Eno.
He has been teaching in schools and privately for several years, in all styles, while still actively touring with Chris Rea.
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