Overview of the Community Guitar Program

The Community Guitar Program represents 10 years of experimentation which started with a single question:

What would an instructional program look like if it were really oriented towards helping acoustic guitarists learn to play together, rather than alone?

If you would like to know a little bit more about how that question arose, why it seems worth pursuing and what trials and errors have brought us to this point, please have a look at our History. For those who would like to cut to the chase, here's a quick overview of the Community Guitar Program as it stands today.

The CGP has two mutually reinforcing goals:

  1. To provide a thorough, graduated program of acoustic guitar study with a focus on those skills and styles of music that lend themselves well to playing with others in more or less unrehearsed settings.
  2. To provide a vehicle through which participants can meet other guitarists and develop shared skills, repertoire, and satisfying musical relationships.

The program combines these goals for the simple reason that, in our view, neither of them works very well without the other:

  • Without solid skills and a shared repertoire it’s hard to make satisfying musical connections.
  • Without opportunities to share the songs and skills we’ve learned, our progress tends to slow and enthusiasm wane.

The program consists of group classes in which participants work on both the rhythm and lead guitar parts (and vocals, if they are so inclined) for songs that really lend themselves well to jamming. Unlike some group class situations, the group setting itself is a real asset in learning community guitar. We can look at how this is so in greater detail elsewhere, (see “Isn't private instruction better?” under Q&A.), but for now, suffice it to say that if you want to meet other players and move forward together as musicians, group instruction make a lot of sense.

Groups meet on a weekly basis so you get both the ongoing guidance of a Community Guitar instructor and the opportunity to see what you can pull off in the flesh. It’s safe to say it won’t be the same as what you can do when you’re at home alone with one hand on the rewind button, which is precisely the point: a Community Guitar class is your chance to “go live”. That’s the best way we know to get ready for “real life” jamming opportunities.

Community Guitar classes are offered at 3 distinct levels so you can meet and learn with players who are ready to tackle more or less the same challenges as you. A "level" is determined by three interrelated components:

  • The technical difficulty of the rhythm and lead parts.
    Level 1 assumes only familiarity with very common chords and modest facility with a pick. By Level 3, participants are tackling riffs from players the likes of Norman Blake and Django Reinhardt, with multiple rhythm guitar parts that span the entire fingerboard.
  • The theory and fingerboard insight covered in supplementary materials.
    At every step along the way we use the songs we're learning as vehicles for deepening our understanding of both basic music theory and its application on the fretboard. From learning the names of the notes in open position (Level 1) through understanding how to apply tritone substitutions to cycling dominant chords (Level 3), the Community Guitar Program helps keep your head in synch with your hands.
  • The degree of creativity expected or encouraged.
    Although creative expression is welcome at all levels, our program design introduces more opportunities for students to work up their own rhythm and lead parts as they move up through the levels.

One of the distinctive features of the Community Guitar Program is that while we recognize the value of breaking into groups at different levels for purposes of instruction, we think there's a time to come back together as well. That's why we arrange most of our songs at two - or even all three - levels. To borrow the terminology of architecture: we're looking for material that has a wide entryway on the ground floor (to accommodate anyone with basic skills) but with plenty of headroom (for advancing musicians). Every so often, we encourage Community Guitar students to get together for a jam that spans all levels. Our work is building bridges, not walls.

In short, a Community Guitar Program offers host institutions, teachers and participants alike a unique, integrated alternative to the options most people have today when it comes to connecting, jamming and learning. This program has been a long time in the making and we aim to make it easy for others to enjoy the fruits of our labors. It is sweet fruit indeed. Please roam the rest of the site to whet your appetite and then get in touch so we can dig in together. Bon appetite!