How I Teach…

My teaching method – it’s all up to you.

My teaching is all student-driven. You’ll learn to play songs you love and want to play. We’ll focus on technical or conceptual issues that interest you. Or we can do both!
You’ll decide what you want to learn. And you’re welcome to change your mind, direction and focus at any time.

It’s a building process. You’ll learn a task…then review the task…and build on the task. All along the way, we’ll continue to review and improve previous lessons, so they won’t be lost. Each time we return to familiar material, we’ll add another layer of technique, interpretation, nuance… Over time, even your old material will get better and better.

We’ll also work on things occasionally that are unfamiliar, so you’ll develop a wide range of approaches to learning and playing music.

Which learning style works best for you?

I teach to each student’s strongest learning style – and work on their weakest styles a bit at a time, in a way they usually don’t even notice.

  • Learning by imitation
  • Learning by ear
  • Learning by tablature
  • Learning by reading music
  • Writing and improvising from charts
  • Transcribing

What about music theory?

I usually teach theory on an "as is helpful" basis. Together we’ll recognize, for example, that a concept that’s making your current song work is the same concept that made your previous song work. Over time, the puzzle pieces of music theory will gradually come together. But because the theory is song-based, it will always be interesting, relevant and fun.

Occasionally, a player of other instruments will study theory with me.

My approaches to teaching

I teach in a variety of major styles. Most students are comfortable with one style, and they occasionally sample whatever suits them best at the moment. Technique and tone production unfold naturally as we work in manageable pieces that interlock and systematically build repertoire.

Song-Based Learning

The majority of my students prefer "song-based" learning. They bring in a CD of songs they wish they could play, and we work from there. At any point, (especially in junior high) they can change their mind and bring in a new CD.

If you love the song we’re working on, you already know what it’s supposed to sound like. The desire to play the song will help get you through the technical challenges of playing it, and you’ll barely notice the hurdles you’re overcoming.

"Special of the Day"

Sometimes you won’t have a specific song in mind, but you’ll just want to be exposed to something new, and often in a variety of styles.

In this case, I usually pick something that I know you’ll like. It may be right up your alley, or off-the-beaten track. The choice will improve your technique or your appreciation for new styles and genres. Or it might involve new chords, or a new song, melody or technique that applies to something you’re already working on.

Exploring the frontier beyond the 5th fret

Ever felt trapped behind the 5th fret?

Ever feel like you could learn hundreds of songs, but you still wouldn’t have the musical freedom you desire?

Want to do something different than the other guitar or mandolin players in the jam?

This emphasis is for students who want to become creative improvisers and versatile melodic accompanists and/or rhythm players. You’ll learn all the notes on the fingerboard, in the most painless way possible. You’ll gradually learn to "see" the whole fingerboard. This will give you more options – the freedom to play anywhere on the neck, improvising, and applying nuances in phrasing.

Skills for Improvising and Accompaniment

For students who want to learn to improvise and/or be part of a group sound, I help you develop many tools for communicating musically:


  • Grooving/Feel
  • Rhythmic flexibility
  • Tone production
  • Phrasing (with rhythm, articulation and melody)
  • Dynamics
  • Use of silence and space
  • Use of effects and textures

Nuts and bolts:

  • Ear training
  • Double stops, Triads
  • Scales, modes, chord construction, Drop 2, Drop 3, closed, octave and Drop 2/4 voicings
  • Intervals and inversions
  • Identifying tonal centers
  • Harmonic concepts, counter-melodies, chord substitution, and tetrachords

I encourage the use of "slow down" software for learning some instrumentals and solos. This allows you to hear in slow motion, so you can "get it in your head" faster. Once it's in your head, it'll soon come out of your fingers. You can play with a song in slow motion, and gradually work up to the speed of sound. Writing down solos is a great way to learn about improvisation and improve your hearing skills. I'm glad to help you learn to transcribe, and often provide slow versions of the songs you're working on, whether it a be a melodic line or rhythm part.



"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
—St. Francis of Assisi


Mandolinist Mark Machacek climbing "Wavy Gravy." Wavy Gravy is in Indian Creek, Utah, about an hour south of Moab.


"Sometimes people find their way to another musical niche through lessons with me. I have never given up on anybody in a musical sense. The only person I ever almost gave up on grew exponentially when we found the right music. He still plays, and collects and builds instruments."


"Everybody should have his personal sounds - sounds that will make him exhilarated and alive or quiet and calm. One of the greatest sounds of them all is utter and complete silence."
—Andre Kostenaletz, American Conductor, 1901 - 1980


"Music makes time audible."
—Suzanne Langer, American Philosopher, 1895 - 1985


"It takes a long time to learn how to play like yourself. But another part of it is finding what you have to offer to the music. For me, I’m always trying to find out what I can do that will be meaningful...I’m looking for some type of expression. Sometimes that‘s it - expressing the human condition through art."
—Bela Fleck, from the Bela Fleck and the Flecktones' "Hidden Land" CD/DVD.