Last updated 10/7/2020. Previously updated 10/21/2009, 7/2007, 5/2006, 7/23/2001, 10/20/2000. Send comments to:

Featured Videos

For more audio examples of the results of the following approach, click

See also:

Regardless of what style/genre you are interested in, here's what 
I think a good guitar teacher/student would cover:

- General music theory
- Ear training including recognition of intervals and listening
       to music performed by the best performers possible as
       a reference.
- Exercises including: 
       - Separation exercises
       - Scales, arpeggios, ornamentation (includes harmonics and chords) 
       - Rhythmic, and related to this is... 
       - Dynamics (accents, and pianissimo to forte)
       - Pitch modulation:  Vibrato (horizontal, vertical), bends, slides
       - Modulation (other):  Key, Tempo, and Dynamics modulations
- Performing: 
       - Find music you want to play that is
       		within your ability or a practical near term goal.
       - Sight Reading
       - Improvisation
- Strategies for improving (teaching oneself):

There are many more aspects, of course, but these are what are
most important fundamentals to me.  

Here are some more details from my previous outline:

- General music theory 
        - Notation: key signatures, time signatures etc. in conjunction with
                the following:
        - Rhythm:  based on 2's 3's and combinations, down beats, up beats accents:  
			 Mastering Odd, Complex Time Signatures And Rhythms, Updated 
		(Hear examples in "So Much For Justice":"
        - Scales: 48 heptatonic scale structures (See, including
           - Modal: 
		- Western: major, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, minor, locrian
		- World: 48 scales mapped to western chromatic scale, including 
		    Hidustani that's and derivatives for rags, Maqam, etc.
           		- "Hungarian":  sometimes called "adorian" is a modified
                	   phrygian:  The phrygian scale is allowed the 3rd to be
                	   raised (major) on resolution from a dominant (such as the
                	   2nd chord).  The Hungarian scale keeps this major 3rd and
                	   adds the leading tone of a raised 7th (major 7th) as
                	   opposed to the minor 7th of the phrygian. 
           		- "Thats" of North India not covered in modal above: Primarily 
			  Todi & Pervi.  Todi "scale" includes minor 2nd & 3rd, 
			  augmented 4th, perfect 5th, minor 6th, major 7th 
			  (Again "So Much For Justice":")
			  (Also Todi is equivalent to the scale used in the Egyption
			  "Gaziara": See for
			  a sound sample ). 
           - Modal subsets and derivatives:  Pentatonic, blues,jazz,rock
                and bluegrass (includes accidentals between whole tone
                steps in pentatonic scale).
           - Diminished (used a lot over dominant and tritone substitutions
                in jazz and some in classical)
           - Augmented (whole tone) (mostly jazz and classical)
        - Harmony (based on scales learned)
           - Chords using each note in scale as root.
                Triads and 7th chords first...
                - Different voicings and their arpeggios are learned
           - Roles of each chord (dominant, sub-dominant, substitution, etc)
                and the use of "passing" (dissonant) chords to create
                tension to be resolved by other more consonant chords
           - Common progressions based on roles of chords:  Cadences,
                Chaccone, etc.
           - Counterpoint
           - Multiple tonal centers (Modern classical and jazz):
                Building 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th chords by superimposition:
                For example, adding a major triad with a minor chord
                whose root is the major third of the first gives a
                major 7th chord. Melody & counterpoint may progress
                in either key as long as it is harmonically consistent .
                - Different voicings and their arppeggios are learned
	    - Perception of sound and harmony vs tessatura.
	    - "hyperharmony"
        - Modulation:
                Key (tonal center, primary pitch)
                Tempo (rhythm, accelerando, decelerando, etc.)
                Dynamics (loudness: piannisimo to forte)
        - Melodic and harmonic patterns as trajectory structures

- Ear training including recognition of intervals and listening
       to music performed by the best performers possible as
       a reference.
        Intervals:  This is done in parallel to learning scales and
                harmony:  Time separated intervals (all of scale) are
                learned when learning scales.  Learning to pick out
                notes of chords is learned when studying chords.
                The teacher can play intervals or chords and have
                the student state the relative intervals by ear.
        Listening to best performances:  Both live and recorded
                performances.  Playing along with other good musicians
                or recordings is a great way to calibrate rhythm,
                tone and playing in general.
	Ear training is important for developing musicianship.   
		Once you can discern pitch interval patterns from melodies, 
		you can start to appreciate the "Where's Waldo" aspect of 
		finding the patterns repeated on many levels throughout 
		fractal music such as with
		  Pure Fractals 2 and
		  Pure Fractals 
- Exercises including:
       - Separation exercises 
                  1) On a given string, left hand finger 1,3,2,4,4,2,3,1
                  2) On alternate strings with progressive string separation
                        repeat fingerings above
                  3) Reach exercises
                  4) Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) exercises
       - Scales, arpeggios (pick, hammer-on, pull-off, slide, combinations)
                (in conjunction to theory)
                - Different voicings and thier arppeggios are learned
                - I would include the study of harmonics here
		- Along with the study of arpeggios, I would include
			double stops and chords
       - Rhythmic
                - Especially direct changes from one time base to another
		- Combinations and permutations of accents various 
			places in the measure of each time signature.
		- Rhythmic articulation
		- All combinations of 3's and 2's: 5/8, 7/8, 11/16, 13/8, etc.
		  (See for sound sample 
       - Pitch modulation:  Vibrato (horizontal, vertical), bends, slides,
       - Modulation
                - Practice the Key, Tempo, and Dynamics modulations
       - Melodic and harmonic patterns as trajectory structures

- Performing:
       - Encourage students to find music they want to play that is
       		within their ability or a practical near term goal.
       - Sight Reading
		- Pre-read:
		     Scan the music for the most difficult sections
			to develop a strategy ahead of time.
		- Emphasize rhythm, especially when playing with others:
			missing notes is usually better than playing
			the right ones at the wrong time or getting
			totally lost. 
		- Learn to recognize rhythmic, chordal and melodic
		   phrases as one learns words made from letters.
	           This allows you to concentrate on phrasing more
		    	so that it sounds more musical.
       - Improvisation
		- Know what you want to say
			Speaking through your instrument about
			what you think and/or feel at the moment
			will reduce the probability of being
			redundant or playing with an apparent
			lack of focus.
		- As in sight reading, being aware of the rhythm,
			chord structure and any melodic precedent
			and being aware of the effects of phrasing
			are fundamental to me.
		- Strategies for creativity: analytical and intuitive:
			- eastern approach: related to the natya shastra
			- western approach: from general problem solving, brainstorming, lateral thinking, etc.
			- additional:  generative trajectory structures approach
- Strategies for improving (teaching oneself):
       - Identify strengths and weaknesses relative to interests in
       - Devote more time to key weaknesses than strengths.
       - Enhance feedback to increase sensitivity to errors and
	   reinforce successes.
       - Learn how to identify Cannonical forms and extrapolate ideas
	   to economize memory and effort.

Questions from web-sters:

About modes: scales over chord patterns.
About the use of exercises.
About flat picking (updated 5/10/96). (How can you play so clean and so fast ????)
About sweeps. How do you improve an irregular sweep upstroke?
More about flat picking. (How do you skip strings using fast alternate picking?)
About mastering Odd, Complex Time Signatures And Rhythms, Updated and
About scales: Complexity built on simplicity: 576+ scales from 6 sets of 3 intervals. 576+ scales from 48 diatonic scales as modes of 16 basis scales from 6 tetrachords (March 11, 2012).
About world music: How To Learn To Play Music Of Unusual Genres , a column for Guitar Nine.
About playing unusual genres: Hazards Of Playing A Wide Variety And Mix Of Genres, another column for Guitar Nine.
About Equipment I used (as of around 2000).

About Kevin Ferguson:

Ferguson studied Music Theory and Composition with Carmen Rodrigez-Peralta of New York's Julliard School of Music. He has given guitar teaching advice to teachers as far away as South Africa. He currently performs regularly in the Portland, Oregon area. His current CD, "STRAD TO STRAT" includes transcriptions of virtuoso violin music from Baroque (Bach, Vivaldi) through Romantic (Paganini, Sarasate, etc.) performed on the electric guitar with synth orchestra accompaniment. Released in late 1995, it is enjoying airplay across the US, Canada, Europe and Australia (Available from Guitar Nine Records and distributed via ZNR Records, Louisville, KY). Audio samples are available via the World Wide Web from