Interviewing Joe Walker

Hello Joe, could you please tell us something about you?

Joe Walker guitar teacher My name is Joe Walker, and I teach guitar lessons in Seattle and via webcam (Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.) at Deft Digits Guitar Lessons. Before starting Deft Digits in 2011, I earned a Master's in jazz studies at San Diego State, performed with a variety of rock, jazz, and blues bands in southern California, and kept a popular practice journal in blog form at From the Woodshed.

Nowadays the web is full of resources and useful guitar-related stuff. In your opinion, is it possible to become a good self-taught guitar player? Or it's mandatory, at least at the beginning, to learn from a real teacher?

To become a good guitar player, I think it's only mandatory to musically interact with people who can teach you things on a regular basis. One way to do this is to hire a private instructor. Another is to join a band (or jam) with musicians who are more experienced than you are. These interactions will yield the best-absorbed and most valuable lessons you'll ever get. Supplement them with self-teaching from books, videos, articles, and you'll improve that much faster. But the person-to-person interaction is crucial.

What do you think about skype lessons and the like? Do they work? Do you usually give remote lessons?

Most of the lessons I teach are in person in Seattle, but I also enjoy connecting with people from around the world through Skype lessons. These remote webcam lessons are great for students who find it impractical to commute to a face-to-face teacher, either because they live far from urban music hubs or their busy schedule is otherwise too demanding. Webcam lesson pricing is comparable to in-person lessons, and you can even seek out the celebrity teacher of your choice.

Free youtube videos or well-established pay websites such as Guitartricks or Jamplay?

It really depends on the way you learn, which you know better than anyone else.

Signs that free videos will work for you:

  • You're a quick learner.
  • You can fill in the gaps when your instructions aren't comprehensive.
  • You never read the manual.

Signs that a premium site with a structured curriculum will work for you:

  • You learn best in structured settings.
  • The free resources you've tried aren't helping you very much.
  • You always read the manual.

Do you have some favorites software or apps that you use in your daily teaching/practice? Could you name a few?

Amazing Slow Downer is by far the best software I've used for my own musical progress and in teaching lessons. There are lots of alternatives on the market that will change the speed and pitch of a recording, and any will do, but I like the palette of shortcut keys found in Amazing Slow Downer that makes operation easy and efficient. I use it most often for transcription, figuring out how to play something by ear. I can take a recording (lately it's Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" or John Coltrane's "Giant Steps") and slow it down to a speed that allows me to hear and identify individual notes as I find each one on the guitar. When I hit a trouble spot, I can quickly loop that bit of music over and over until I can clearly hear what I'm listening for. I'll also use it for playalong tracks. If one of my students, for example, has learned a complete Stevie Ray Vaughan solo, I can send them an mp3 of the solo at 2/3 speed, pitched up to standard tuning (Stevie tuned down a half step), and they can practice along with it.

Please give a hint to the guitar learners

Use all the great technology that wasn't available to the legendary guitarists of the past, but don't ignore how those players got so great: playing vinyl records at half speed and learning other players' solos note for note, nuance for nuance. Skip that step at your own peril!

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