Guitar Camp for One

Summer House with PorchVacation is getting closer and now that I’ve narrowed down my choices for the guitar (or guitars) I will bring on vacation (see Vacation Guitars) I need to do some planning for Guitar Camp.

Guitar Camp?

Just as parents send their children off to summer day camps or summer away camps, over the years there has been an increasing number of specialty camps for adults. Rock and roll fantasy camps, country blues guitar camps, blues harp camps and so on. I have never attended any of these, but I like the concept. Instead, each year I attend private lessons at a guitar camp conveniently located wherever I happen to be vacationing. You can too. The magic that allows me to do this is that I’m the organizer, administrative staff, and teaching assistant. I create the curriculum and lesson plans. And of course I’m the student.

About ten years ago I noticed many of my guitar playing friends suffered from the same problem I did – we hadn’t made an effort to learn anything new in years. We had been playing the same riffs and tunes for 20 or 30 years. We had those riffs down pat but anything else – well there was nothing else.

Guitar books and dvdsThe problem, at least for myself, wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in learning new things on the guitar. I’ve purchased plenty of guitar books, educational CD’s, videos and DVDs over the years. I have a huge library of music books covering different styles, genres, theory as well as fake books and song books. I’ve downloaded extensive freely available lessons and materials from the internet. What was missing was a study plan and a reserved study time. I’d buy a new book and spend a few hours over the next week looking through it, then put it aside.

Then one year about the time I was preparing for our vacation I read a newspaper article about one of these guitar fantasy camps and realized I could have my own personalized camp. I chose two guitar instruction books I owned which included example tracks on CD. I rip all of my instructional CDs so they are more conveniently accessible from my computer (or iPod). I chose a small number of lessons I felt I could learn in a week. Then I told my wife I intended to set aside about an hour a day for lessons, usually a half hour in the morning after breakfast and a half hour in the evening after dinner.

My wife and I tend to prefer low key vacations. There is a lot of reading at the beach and elsewhere. There’s also walks along the beach, some kayaking and if I’m lucky I might get to sail once or twice. My wife usually insists on some cultural activities and some adventures. But overall our plans are flexible and somewhat spontaneous. It was therefore fairly easy to dedicate a small amount of time each day for my lessons. If you are a high key, super active sort of person then this might not work as well for you.

You could (and should) do this anytime. We all should be following a lesson plan throughout the year. Even 10 or 20 minutes a day of studying (not just messing around) would make us better guitar players. Some of you do. Good for you and congratulations. I’m proud and envious of you because most of us, in spite of good intentions, don’t seriously practice throughout the year. The guitar camp concept seems to work for me because everything about vacation is a break from standard routine. Fitting lessons into this new but temporary vacation schedule seems easier than fitting it into my normal daily routine. Also, planning lessons for daily practice throughout the year seems like hard work but planning for vacation guitar camp is special and exciting.

So what will my curriculum be for this year’s vacation guitar camp? I’m leaning towards learning one or two finger style arrangements of jazz classics. My first choice is the Paul Desmond classic, “Take Five”. I’m still trying to decide which tune to pick as my “backup” tune. It might be something by Wes Montgomery such as “Full House” or “Yesterdays”.

I’ll discuss more about my lesson plans and tools I find helpful in my next post.

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