Guitar Lesson Guru? – Mystery article
Over the years, I have done interviews with a wide variety of magazines and smaller local publications, either about my teaching or guitar making. I remember being sent these questions and observations to reply to, with the idea being that they would send someone to sit and do an interview to combine with the text below. I saved the content in a text document but cannot find the name or publication this was intended for. If anyone happens to find it, I would love to give proper credit.
Who is Don Warren and What makes him noteworthy and different?
When I looked into this guy, I could not believe what he has accomplished, who he knows and has performed with or given lessons to and why there is a picture of him with almost every top music icon ever to perform hanging on the wall above his desk.
Let’s start with this. In 1998, he decided he wanted a guitar that made more usable sounds than any before it. One year later, he not only did exactly that, he had secured a signature model deal with Nashville session legend Arlen Roth https://www.arlenroth.com/, Repaired a guitar belonging to Blink 182 and was building a model with Blue Oyster Cult legend Buck Dharma. http://www.blueoystercult.com/ See Warren Guitars http://www.warrenguitars.com
Let’s add to this that he had Don Toler of the Allman Brothers and Dickey Bettes band hanging out and asking for some lessons when visiting his apartment in Waterford, NY. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Toler
Then there is the fact that while working with his brother Bob Warrenhttps://bob-warren.com/ he has shared studio and or performed with 90’s country star Hal Ketchum http://www.halketchum.com/ Trey Anastasio of Phish https://phish.com/ and John Sebastian of Woodstock fame. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Sebastian
Then there is the picture in his apartment where he is with a few names you might know, including, James Taylor, Sting, Keith Urban, Bruce Springsteen, David Crosby, Neil Young, Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John and Weird Al to name a few.
If that weren’t enough, there is the pick invention that was purchased by the biggest guitar accessory company in the world. “It helps people shave months off their learning curve and I make about 3 cents for every one sold lol.” https://www.daddario.com/products/accessories/
Oh and one more thing. Turns out, he is a voting member of the National Recording Academy. The Grammy’s.
With permission from Don, I Spoke with a number of his students to get a sense of what makes him successful. The responses were sentiments expressed were noteworthy and covered an age range of 12–72
Q: In speaking with several students, the common thread was about your ability to connect with them and help them, using a seemingly endless variety of approaches to help them understand and enjoy the guitar or bass. Can you elaborate?
To me it just comes out. I remember not letting anyone know that I felt stupid when I did not understand something that others around me seemed to be just fine with. I always had questions and wanted clarity.
When my brother Bob showed me chords and some songs, I took it from there and tried books, videos and lessons and I just knew in my heart that there was something missing and I knew I wasn’t stupid, I was convinced that there was an easier way to explain what seemed to come “naturally” to other players.
Over time, I was able to take everything I absorbed and break it down into simple bite sized pieces that were easy to implement. However, not everyone was able to catch on, so never forgetting how I felt at the start, I kept creating new ways to explain several topics so that I could always find the one that would make the light bulb go off. I love watching it work.
Don Warren gives guitar lessons in Schenectady and is located at 1875 State Street, Schenectady, NY and only two blocks from the end of Balltown Road In Niskayuna. http://www.warrenlessons.com
I was intrigued when a student mentioned that you playfully challenged them to a bet and was shocked you were right.
(Laughs)… Yeah. I have a few key points during the course of lessons where I smile and point to a $100 bill that has been sitting on my desk for years. “I will bet you this $100 bill that I can have you playing…(insert whatever the topic is here) before you leave this lesson.”
Students eventually learn that the reason that bill has never left the desk is that he hasn’t been wrong yet.
“I get to keep my bill and they walk away with something much more valuable. A new skill and a sense of accomplishment.” It makes me feel so happy for them to know that they feel uplifted and good about the progress they are making.
For all his successes, it is the few that “got away” that still clearly bother him when I ask him about it.
Yeah, I can still recall the few that seemed unwilling to let me help them. I remember every conversation and detail like it was yesterday. In retrospect, I understand that they had pre-existing thoughts about how they either “aren’t talented, can’t understand music” or worse yet, an idea in their head about what lessons “should” look like or be.
One guy after years of classical lessons with another instructor, wanted to know how to improvise over chord changes. As I explained how I have successfully gone about that process, it quickly became clear that he was skeptical, despite my showing him countless students with no prior experience, improvising beautifully.
I finally got him to try a few things that would let him discover he could do it and as he was actually starting to do the very thing he had convinced himself he could not. For a moment, he was all smiles and practically giddy. The very next lesson, he stated he was not comfortable pursuing that, as he was sure he would not be able to understand it. That was the last I saw of him unfortunately. He denied himself the very experience he thought he craved, even in the face of realizing he was actually starting to do it. I can still see his face lighting up when he heard himself starting to open up.
The other person was very rigid and tied to an idea that lessons need be like those old stodgy instructors that were drill sergeants. I could see she loved my approach, but somehow thought she would not reach her goal that way. I saw her bounce from teacher to teacher only to give up.
What do you attribute your ability to “see” into people and meet them where they are, even when they may not recognize it within themselves?
Well, I grew up in a house where my parents, had 13 foster kids over the years and watched my dad use his truly amazing gift for counseling that had nothing to do with schooling. You don’t watch someone help people unravel years of detrimental behaviors while overcoming mental and emotional roadblocks, without picking up a thing or two.
But honestly… perhaps much of it is in our family, because my son Mike www.mikeanthonyguitarlessons.com is taking the ball further ahead with his students. He teaches guitar lessons in Schenectady and Niskayna.
What is the biggest frustration in working with students?
I almost never get frustrated with a student. If anything, if after trying a variety of ways to convey a topic, I get frustrated with myself for not being able to find the particular way that would let it make sense to them in the moment. I have a variety of approaches for any given situation, but sometimes I have to dig to see where they may have a block so I can help them step over it.
Is there anything you would like to say in closing?
Absolutely. To anyone wanting to learn guitar, bass, ukulele or songwriting in the Capital Region, Call me. Send me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me help you reach whatever goal you have. Don’t be shy and don’t worry if you can’t read music, don’t have “natural ability” or any of that. Let me worry about all that. You just come along and enjoy the ride. I got a hundred dollar bill on my desk that says you won’t be disappointed. 😉
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