Thursday, November 15, 2018

Guitar 360 Method - A Homeschool Coffee Break Review

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If you've been around my blog much, you have probably picked up on the fact that music plays a very important role in our family and in our homeschool. My daughter Kennady is the guitarist in our family, and although she's been taking lessons and plays regularly at church, our schedule has been so crazy so far this year that we haven't been able to fit her studio lessons in. What a timely privilege it was to be able to review the Semester 1 Bundle from Guitar 360 Method!

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Guitar 360 Method is a 13-week self-paced course that does a lot more than just teach students the basics of playing guitar. Instructor Krisz Simonfalvi has an extensive performance and teaching background, and has designed this course to be both practical and comprehensive. Along with learning chord shapes, fingerstyle, and strumming patterns, students learn music theory and develop their own creative skills and ability to hear and identify notes and chords. All of it is very hands-on. Krisz teaches in video segments that clearly show what he is playing on the guitar and have on-screen diagrams as well.

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Each week of lessons begins with a video explaining the goal - for example, the Goal in Week Four is Rhythm Guitar Dynamics and Structures - and giving an overview of the lessons. The video lessons are short (most are around 5 minutes), and can be played over and over again. Along the way, you'll also find some Ear Training exercises, a few Quizzes, and downloadable chord diagrams and other printables. And the Practice sessions - these are great! These are where you get to put the lesson to use and play along with Krisz and the background tracks and get a pretty good feel for what it would be like to play with a band.

Krisz plays an acoustic guitar in some videos and an electric in others, and all of the lessons can be done using either. He explains that while some of the skills and techniques are most often associated with one or the other, they can certainly apply to either instrument.

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When Krisz demonstrates a skill, often there's a split screen so you can see a closeup of both the left hand and right hand. This is really helpful!

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How did we use it?  As I said, Kennady has already had a few years of guitar lessons, and I may be a bit biased, but she certainly has a natural talent as well. And she loves to play, so she's worked on her skills a lot already. She clearly didn't need the Absolute Beginners lessons (which are free, and I'll talk more about those in a bit!), and had already learned a lot of the basics in the Semester 1 course. Ideally, she would have started at the beginning of Semester 1 and gone through all the lessons in order, even if she breezed through a lot of them very quickly.

So personal disclaimer here: Although I allowed her to jump around in the lessons available and work on whatever skills she was interested in, and in whatever order she felt like, the only reason we did that is so that we could get a feel for the whole program in a short period of time. Even if you already play guitar well, I strongly recommend doing all the lessons in the order they are presented. There's a reason and methodology behind the order, and skills are built on foundations laid in earlier lessons. I do plan to have Kennady go back and complete all the lessons in order. Since the course is self-paced, she can go quickly through lessons that cover skills or theory she already knows well, and then slow down whenever she encounters something she needs to practice more.

There's another super practical reason to do all the lessons in order. Guitar 360 Method Semester 1 is accepted as a College Accredited Course at Visible Music College, which we've already started researching a little as a possible higher education destination for Kennady. In fact, this is the same curriculum Krisz uses at Visible Music College, which he describes as "practical, real-world musical mentoring".

So anyway. Yes, I let her skip around. Week Three turned out to be a favorite. It taught solfege, which she already knows really well from being in chorus, but of course it's applicable to guitar and any other instrument as well. It also taught articulations and different methods of expressive playing using a simple major scale. In the Practice, there was opportunity to play in a simple and expressive style, to add creative and individual touches to a simple melodic idea in order to improvise. In other words, your lead guitar solo! This practice session featured a close up video of Krisz playing along with cues for what to play (Sparse and Expressive, Repeating Idea with Variations, Go For It!). The student is instructed to listen to how he uses articulation and dynamics to create the expression and variations on the theme, and then to play along with the track making the solo their own. If it works, I've got a video of Kennady trying this that I'll include in a bit.

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She looks pretty relaxed but she's focused on the screen!
I thought it was great that students are playing real music that's interesting right from the start, and that it makes scales and chord structures relevant to creating interesting melodies and accompaniment. If you're going to practice your scales, it might as well be in the context of using them for a great lead guitar riff!

Every skill and technique taught is demonstrated clearly so you can hear and see what to do. And everything is applied to actually playing great-sounding music! The explanations are clear and easy to understand. Kennady complained a little that she didn't think vibrato was that important to learn, mostly because she didn't like trying to do it - it didn't come easily! I mean, we're all tempted to just give up on something that is difficult. But she tried adjusting her finger position a little bit, tried a couple more times, and I noticed that she made a pretty good job of vibrato the next time she played along with the practice. Apparently a little different perspective and an explanation of how vibrato can add richness to the guitar sound might have given her a little motivation to keep at it.

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By the way, I should also mention that your progress in each lesson is shown by a progress bar in the Contents list, and a check mark when it's completed. You can click a box to mark a lesson complete too. So as you go, you can see everything you've completed, and if you might have missed something along the way. And more good news - just because a lesson is completed doesn't mean you can't go back and review it and practice it as many more times as you like.

Now here's that video of Kennady practicing that I promised (she did say it was okay to share). At first she is watching and listening to Krisz play, then she takes over.

That Beginners Course I mentioned?  First, I wish I'd had time to borrow one of Kennady's guitars and try it, because I haven't played in years and years, and it would be fun to see what I could do! Also, one of my adult sons said not that long ago that he might like to learn guitar, so I told him if he could get permission to use a guitar, he could start any time. He was kind of peeking around the corner one evening, so maybe he will do it. Anyway, there is a FREE guitar course for beginners offered! Even if you have never touched a guitar before, this course will quickly get you familiar with the parts of the guitar, teach you to tune your own guitar, and have you strumming your first chords in no time at all. In just three weeks or less, you can go from total noob to playing your first song.  And then check out the Bonus Songs - Beginners can learn to play "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey and "Rejoice" by Israel Houghton. 

What we liked best:
  • self-paced so you can go at the speed that's right for you, and you can repeat and review anything you like
  • learn to play real songs right from the start, and enjoy practice that's really a jam session with a good backing band
  • very clear, high quality sound and video, with several different camera angles so you can see exactly what the instructor is demonstrating
  • all the music theory that is covered is applied practically to making good music
  • creativity and improvisation is encouraged right from the start
What I need to mention:
  • as of right now, Weeks 12 and 13 in the Semester 1 Bundle aren't on the website. That content will be available in just a couple of months though. Keys 360 Method and Drums 360 Method are in the works as well, so stay tuned!
Our bottom line:  This is a great course for anyone who is motivated to learn guitar or work on their skills. Because of the emphasis on playing creatively and learning the use of varying strum patterns and fingerstyles early, I think it would be good preparation for someone wanting to play guitar in a church worship band or similar setting. 

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Would you like to make music with Guitar 360? Here's what you need to know:

Visit the website:

Pricing:  The Semester 1 Bundle, which includes the entire 13 week course, plus the 3 week Beginners' Course and the 2 Bonus Song mini-courses, is available for $149. Guitar 360 Method is generously offering a 20% off coupon code to homeschool families reading the Crew reviews! Just use the coupon code HOMESCHOOL20 at checkout, and the price will be just $119.20.

Age recommendations: Best for ages 15 and up, although it's quite suitable for younger students if they really want to learn!

You can follow Guitar 360 Method on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Unknown said...

Great Job Kennady!! I watched your video, and you ROCKED it! Keep it up and feel free to reach out with questions.

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