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Why I teach worship guitar courses.

A short while ago I received this comment from one of the guitar students on the worship guitar course:
“Absolutely loved learning all the great songs of worship – great for my own faith – my own daily worship”.

Music is a never-ending journey – I figure that’s what draws us on deeper in to it. The phenomenal jazz guitarist Mike Stern says “I’m still plugging away and trying to push whatever potential I have. But it always seems like the more I know the less I know”. (Guitar Player, March 2000, p. 36). If he says that we (guitarists) are all likely to feel the same.


I tried brainstorming. I started with the word “music” in the centre of the page, because that seems to be the cornerstone, and dived in.
From the word “music” I spontaneously wrote five other words radiating from it; I came up with mystery; emotions; moving; sublime and (of course) guitar.
From each of those five I spontaneously wrote five more words/terms:
Mystery; enigma; mystique; puzzle; secret; riddle.
Emotions; the heart; sentiment; reaction; passion; gut-feeling.
Moving; affecting; touching; poignant; inspiring; emotional.
Sublime; out of this world; divine; fantastic; majestic; awe inspiring – This made me think of J.S. Bach.
Guitar; instrument; expression; twang; six-strings and the truth. That lead me on to a train of thought that included ‘50s rockabilly, ‘60s Beatles mop-tops and suits, 70s disco…
All of these seem to be facets of what I would aspire to.

When I left school I studied sculpture at art-college but dropped out, as many have, to pursue a passion for music. I travelled the world playing the guitar; Europe; Bermuda; the USA, Australia… I then began to feel that I ought to “know” something about music. I took a grade 8 music theory exam, which led to a music A level, which led to a B. Mus. degree, which led to an M.A in ethnomusicology, which led to a Ph.D. “MELODIC IMPROVISATION ON A TWELVE-BAR BLUES MODEL: AN INVESTIGATION OF PHYSICAL AND HISTORICAL ASPECTS, AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO PERFORMANCE.”

One of my driving passions is to uncover the secrets of music – which is a never-ending quest.

I recently read that an eminent guitarist was told when he was young that he would have the desire to teach in later life. He didn’t believe it. But he found that it was true. It’s a desire to give something back to others.

The Study of Music

Two things drive me: the thrill of discovery – the desire to pass on knowledge. Thrill of discovery involves the study of music particularly as it relates to expression on the guitar; the passing on of knowledge is in the form of writing courses and coalface teaching – particularly in the worship context.

I have a desire to inspire people – to help people through the pain of learning towards the point where they feel joy at what they can do. You might have seen this blog by Seth Godin:

I was recently looking through some old music notes and came across material from a three-day seminar that I attended in the ‘80s; the eminent LA session guitarists Howard Roberts taught it. I was struck by the impact and influence that this had had on me, and I had forgotten that much of the structure and thought behind my own music teaching had originated in Roberts’ seminar. He had studied the psychology of learning and formulated a comprehensive, step-by-step methodology examining “insights into professional playing; mastery of the fingerboard; practical music theory and accelerated learning methods.”

I did a little internet research into Roberts and found “From the late 1960s, Roberts began to focus on teaching rather than recording. He traveled around the USA giving guitar seminars, and wrote several instructional books. For some years he also wrote an acclaimed column “Jazz Improvisation” for Guitar Player magazine. To support his teaching activities, he founded the Guitar Institute of Technology.”

Mick Goodrick, guitarist and author of the excellent The Advancing Guitarist, says “Many guitarists never had a chance to learn the instrument in an intelligent, logical and complete manner. The fact is that the vast majority of method books don’t really explain very much at all, and the vast majority of guitar teachers are the product of these methods”.

The HTB Worship Guitar Courses

We set up the worship guitar courses at HTB eleven years ago at the suggestion of Andy Piercy. At the end of the Beginner Worship Guitar Course the students asked, “What do we do next? We want more.” So I wrote the Intermediate Worship Guitar Course. Eventually the intermediate students wanted more too; so I wrote the Advanced Worship Guitar Course.

At the end of a recent Advanced Course I was asked again “what happens next?” I found myself saying “well there’s a guitar college in London… ” I felt uncomfortable saying this as I have heard from an ex-students that some colleges are money making machines. Besides they aren’t teaching worship music.

There seems to be a hunger in people who want to play some worship songs on the guitar – initially for their own worship time, but perhaps to go on to lead others. This just in this morning from one student who has moved successively through Beginners, to Intermediate, to Advanced classes:

“Hey Simon, really feel my playing has suddenly gone up a notch, and I was practising my peddle-tones last night and I intend to use that method in the worship leading at my pastorate today.” Sarah.


Here are some other recent testimonials that I have received from students on the worship guitar courses over the last couple of years:

“Thank you so much, Simon, this is a fabulous way to learn to play the guitar”

“I’m so much further on than I could possibly imagine.”

“I think the speed of the course was just right – enough to keep you on your toes but not so much that you feel lost.”

“Great course! I’ve really enjoyed it and would (and already have!) recommended it to others.”

“Really enjoyed the course and surprised at how much I’ve learnt.”

“The course made me feel, and dare I say sound, like a guitar player. Thank you so much.”

“I learnt a lot more than I thought possible in just a few weeks.”

“Simon’s approach and the relaxed atmosphere make it easy to learn”

“I have really enjoyed every week of the course and can’t believe quite how much I’ve learned in ten weeks.”

“Simon you are a great teacher! I like the way each lesson built on the previous. I always walked away from the lesson feeling good (slightly challenged at times). Thank you for your time, passion and energy.”

“I wanted to personally thank you for the course. I really enjoyed it and it has been a big help in my guitar playing and also my worship leading. Thank you.”

Those comments alone motivate me to teach. They instil in me the confidence that I am doing something right.