ON HOW I TEACH FOLK MUSIC
Learning how to play folk music in this day & age is difficult. I mean we don't live (most of us, anyway) in communities where this music is part of our daily lives. The onset of mass medi a(like all functions of capitalism) destroys community and regional styles. I am told one could formerly tell the difference between and East Texas and a West Texas fiddler.
I am convinced that the best way to learn folk music is by immersion. That's sort of the way I like to teach, sitting down with a student (or two or three), and just playing the tunes over and over. Not by the clock either! It depends on how much people can swallow at one sitting. I mean some folks are satisfied after one glass of beer, and some have an unbelievable capacity, and can keep coming back for more.
It all depends on how much you can absorb over a period of time (in some cases, including my own, it takes years). I like to teach the way I got to learn, sitting down with an instrument and a master of that style, and you keep playing until you come close to understanding how it's supposed to work.
It's all a matter of time, energy, dedication and the willingness to
live with your mistakes.
In fact, I'm convinced that the best way to learn this is by apprenticeship. TOTAL immersion. But few people have the time, the energy or the financial resources to do it that way anymore.
So what you do is this; You get yourself the best instrument you can possibly afford. Then you figure out which direction you want to head. Find yourself the best guide to that destination, be it an instruction book, video, or a teacher. Than be prepared to spend some time with your axe. In fact commit yourself to spending a LOT of time! Try and hold on to your job (don't quit, you need money for strings, accessories, better instruments, rent, food, phone bills, etc.), your relationship, your place in society, your stamina, and your sanity.
These days I'm teaching finger-picking and flat-picking guitar, old-time banjo, old-time fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, autoharp and Hawaiian guitar. Lessons are $25 (no particular time limit) and you need to bring a blank cassette tape (I don't do notation, much,and this way you don't have to try and remember everything off the top of your head), a spiral notebook (to write down chords and chord charts for songs), and of course, your instrument of choice (or two or three).
I'll be out on the road for the next month or so, but I will be accepting students after July 15, 2002. Hope to hear from you. Take It Easy, But Take It!