Letter to Families about Liberty Guitar
After long careers as respected artists and touring performers, Joyce Andersen and I are now raising our children here in York, Maine. We are devoting a lot of energy to what we call “troubadour education,” to help our family and others in our community learn to play meaningful home-made music. It’s good for everyone, but it is especially good for children to play music, and as vital as academics or sports as a part of a basic education. We have developed a ground-breaking new approach to beginning guitar that makes it vastly easier than ever for anyone to have an immediate and continuing success experience with the guitar.
Not much has changed in 400 years of learning guitar. The basic 15 chords (C, D, E, F, G, A, Am, Dm, Em, A7, B7, C7, D7, E7, G7) are the same as they always have been, and they require the same number of fingers to play and hours to learn as they did in 1715. If you can't master the basic chords, you're out of the game, and the struggle to learn them is often not rewarding enough to keep people trying. Nowadays students can watch and listen to videos and recordings instead of relying only on personal instruction or written music, but to get over the hurdle of learning basic chords all these new high-tech tools are still not enough to solve the problem of how to get going. It hurts your fingers and is not really that easy to do. Fortunately, the motor-skill barriers that have always stopped 95% of those who try to learn to play even recreational campfire guitar have come down, and we are very excited to share our new ideas. We are now working on a “pilot” program here at home with our neighbors, friends and their families and would like to work with you if you are interested. We want to empower children to make their own music, and our own children and their friends are now leading the way as the "explosion" is beginning to happen.
The first thing to understand is that the goals and learning strategies employed in this kind of troubadour music education are quite different from what most of you may envision or have experienced as “music lessons.” That image embedded in our minds of a student dutifully playing scales and “practicing” while being prodded by their families and guided by a stern instructor bears little resemblance to the way almost every musician you have ever heard of has learned to sing songs with a guitar. After over 50 years at the center of the world music stage, the guitar is showing no signs of surrendering its place as the most prominent and popular instrument, and it’s way past time for its ways to be integrated into the world of music education. Sorry, but the way that your child can best learn to play music on a guitar has nothing to do with sight-reading, rote learning or music stands. It’s not wrong to try to learn to read music and play instrumental guitar music, but by far the most likely outcome of that kind of lessons is that you will spend quite a bit of money on an instrument and lessons, and after a lot of frustration by both the student, teacher and the parents, the enthusiasm will fade, the grumbling will begin, then lessons will end with the child unable to perform even a single song and burdened with an “I can’t do it” or "I'm not musical" attitude toward guitar and music in general. Literally millions of people who want to play the guitar have already been abandoned on the side of the “musical highway,” and that no longer needs to happen.
Home-made music with guitar revolves around using the instrument to strum chords and accompany songs, like essentially every popular artist has always done. None of the guitarists you have ever bought a ticket to hear are sight-reading, no prominent performers ever do it, and it's extremely unlikely that your child should invest energy trying to learn. The music notation system does not work well for guitar, and the best approach to learning to play music on guitar does not involve reading music. The key to our new Liberty Guitar method is that we have discovered a way to greatly simplify the playing of chords with the left hand. There are millions of great songs that can be done with just a few chords on the guitar, and we think that your child should start playing chords, enjoying the guitar from Day One, and learning to sing real songs while strumming. Instead of months of effort and frustration, your child (and you too!) can sit down, start playing the new easy, great-sounding Liberty Guitar chords and sing songs on any guitar in a few minutes instead of several frustrating months. Almost anyone can have an initial success experience and immediately begin to play real music. We have video footage of 5-year-old children who are able to play and sing and perform a song without practicing at all.
For the first time in the long history of the guitar, children as young as kindergarten can now learn to strum chords and sing songs on a full-sized adult guitar. Many adults seem to think they can’t or shouldn’t sing, but most children, especially younger ones, love it and will join in willingly with minimal prodding. It’s an ancient, instinctive and almost tribal experience, and even very young children can now learn to deliver their own music in a way that has never before existed. We use the term “joy-based learning” to describe what we think of as the ideal motivator for music. A child that enjoys throwing a ball or riding a bicycle will learn much faster and better than one who is forced or prodded to do it, and the same is true for music. There is no better stimulus for getting a child to spend long hours mastering music motor skills than a beloved song, and a big job for the teachers and parents is to help the child find and internalize those songs. We think it’s vital for parents and children to both get involved in finding, enjoying and performing songs with the guitar. You basically have to “know” and be familiar with a song before you can really learn it. How did all of us learn “Happy Birthday?” Certainly not from music lessons or sheet music.
Parents need to get involved in the learning process, and possibly learn along with the kids, but more importantly, to create an environment in your home where music is valued. Your primary job as a parent is to encourage your family to listen to music, both live and on recordings or video, and to foster a music-friendly environment in your home. Your child’s guitar education has a lot to do with first filling their heads with songs they like, especially the kinds of songs that work well with just a guitar and a voice. Most pop songs for the last 40 years have been heavily produced and pieced together in the recording studio. It is has long been hard for someone with just a guitar in their hands to figure out how to play them effectively. Luckily, the roster of pop stars of today now features a huge number of “troubadour-style” artists, who themselves generally perform with just a guitar and voice, so it’s a better time than it has been since the 1960's for a beginner to be inspired by popular performers. The more music you have in your life, the more your child can learn to play and sing. It's probably the best thing for you to learn also, though an adult might not be able to sing every song in the same key as a child. It can be quite tricky to figure out how to set up the guitar and play the chords so Mom, Dad or a child can sing in the right pitch for their voice.
With our very exciting and revolutionary new Liberty Guitar Method, our motto is “Guitar For Everyone.” If you have a guitar in your house, bring it to us and we’ll look it over and make sure it is working right, and if you don’t have one, we can help steer you toward the right kind of instrument so your whole family can play. You can use any guitar with the Liberty method, but some types work much better than others, especially for younger children. There is no longer any need to buy small-scale “children’s guitars.” (If you haven't bought one already don't!) For about the cost of a decent bicycle you can outfit your child with a guitar they can learn on(and that anyone in your family can also play) and even take to college when they grow up. We are organizing some groups of children and families, learning to implement our ideas, and getting our project off the ground here at home, so please contact us if you are interested in participating. All of our instructional books and our new Liberty capos are available for sale from us, on our web site, and from Amazon.com
Harvey Reid & Joyce Andersen