Should You Take Classical Guitar Lessons?
Way back in 2008 I took an eleven-year hiatus from playing the guitar (or any kind of music of that matter). I saved my pennies and purchased one of those beautiful Koa guitars from Ibanez. It was set up nicely and played through the summer. I loved that guitar but soon got bored of strumming. I started a little fingerpicking and then decided that if I was going to play the guitar, I should get some lessons. My brother shared with me Andy Mckee’s Drifting video which was what pushed me over the top. So, now who do I take lessons from?
Steel String or Classical?
I had a steel string and I talked to a couple of teachers at the local music store. The thing that didn’t stick with me was that to learn the guitar, I had to learn a lot of secular, rather anti-Christian material. That was at that time and still is the material out there for the guitarist to learn from. I was told in those days that if you take classical guitar, you could easily learn to play any style. So, I inquired about where to find a classical guitar teacher and was told that the local college was a good place to start.
They didn’t tell me how addictive classical and fingerstyle could be.
Getting a Good Teacher
Now let me tell you if you are going to take guitar lessons, please, please, please, get a qualified and knowledgeable guitar teacher who knows what they are doing. That was the kind of teacher I found, but I still had one problem. As a Christian, I still didn’t want to play a lot of secular works. I wanted to play (and still prefer to play) pieces that honor Jesus Christ. Enter Christopher Parkening.
A good teacher will teach from good material. My instructor told me to, first, buy a reasonable entry-level classical guitar (see my post on a good entry-level classical guitar) and second, purchase Christopher Parkening’s Guitar Method Volume 1. Off to the music store I go, still not wanting to play secular music, but really wanting to learn the guitar.
As I thumbed through the guitar method book I noticed in the back Christopher Parkening’s testimony. As I read his testimony, it cooled my concerns about playing secular classical music. I knew this was the direction I was to go in and that God was being merciful to me. First, by letting me play such a beautiful instrument, and second, by giving me someone to look up to who knew Him.
Learning Secular Music to Learn the Guitar
Let’s be honest. My whole life is pointed towards Jesus Christ. To be conformed to the image of Jesus is the goal (Romans 8:29). To love Him with all of my heart and with all of my soul and with all of my mind and with all my strength (Mark 12:29-31; Deuteronomy 6:4-5;). This includes all of my music. So, how is one to learn the guitar when the majority of the material to learn is secular?
As I’ve stated before, I found my peace in Christopher Parkening’s testimony, and added to it was that most of the pieces are instrumental. Could there be a terrible story behind the music? Possibly. However, I didn’t go digging around to find out. I just studied the material given to me, through a trusted source (Christopher Parkening) and proceeded to learn the guitar.
I also found out that I like many of the pieces written for the guitar and some of them have been written to praise and honor the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, one of my favorite pieces, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Bach. I hear Handel is another good resource for Christ-honoring music, but why stop there?
Playing the Guitar for the Glory of God
As you learn the ins and outs of the guitar, the technique, the technical, the theory, and the trials of the classical guitar (how’s that for alliteration?), you will learn to arrange and transpose music for yourself. I love hymns, modern and traditional.
These can be arranged in a classical style (or fingerstyle) and played for the church as specials. They can be played for home groups for worship, for your family and friends, or for your own enjoyment. I have started a series of hymns transposed for the guitar called The Hymn Project. On this page, you can download the hymns for free.
The bottom line is that the music you learn and play from the classical repertoire can teach you the techniques needed to adapt many pieces to classical and fingerstyle guitar. However, even if you only play the classical repertoire, remember what God has said in His Word, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17)
It was Bach who has been quoted as saying, “The aim and final reason of all music should be none else but the glory of God and refreshing the soul.” Luther also stated:
“We can mention only one point (which experience confirms), namely, that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. No greater commendation than this can be found — at least not by us. After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both word and music, namely, by proclaiming (the Word of God) through music.”
It is good for a man (that is the race of man, because there’s only one race, with only two genders, male and female, created by God (Genesis 2) to pursue the art of music. If the Lord has placed that on your heart. It is better for a man (the human race) to follow God (Jesus Christ). It’s at its best when we can do both.
As for the Ibanez guitar I purchased, it sits safely in its case in the closet… most of the time.
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