Saturday, April 20, 2013

Teaching Myself Bass

I love learning new things all the time. I don’t believe I have to master everything, but to participate in a lot of things, even in a little way, gives one respect for the process and what it takes to be great at something. This puts a value on the pursuit and its practitioners. It also keeps me sympathetic and supportive to the beginner’s mind, which is so important for a teacher.

I am currently teaching myself bass. But of course, I know many musicians who are happily advising me, so I am not really alone in this. I have a headstart, as well, because I play guitar. And as I have always told my students, if you can analyze another stringed instrument for its similarites to the guitar, you can figure out how to approach it and the techniques for playing it. Everything is relative. I have a book called Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish  wherein the author, Margarita Madrigal (how musical!) teaches the reader from the get-go to recognize that many, many words in English are the same in Spanish, just pronounced differently, so you have your headstart right there. She gets you “speaking Spanish” immediately.

Once I was on a boat (lord, help me) with some players and the only instrument available was a mandolin. Sometime before, someone had shown me two chords, probably C and G, at a bluegrass jam where it had got to a point that all the guitars were taken or had broken strings. Now on the boat, I exclaimed, “Somebody’s gonna have to show me that third chord!” and someone showed me a D.  With these three chords, I would be equipped to play zillions of songs (more on that later.) And suddenly, I noticed that the mandolin chords looked like reverse-image, abbreviated guitar chords, so I was able to figure out how to play more than just the G, C, and D chords. I played about 100 songs that day. Even some Monkees songs with the signature licks.

Now onto bass. Think I’ll study with Paul McCartney this month. You know what I mean.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Worlds to Gain

Without the student, there is no teacher.
I believe in this yin-yang ideal. I honor anyone who comes to me to learn something, and I couldn't be a teacher myself if I didn't love to learn.
So I keep a balance by sharing what I know about music with those who know less, and learning from those who know more, whether it's a teacher or another, better musician.
This process never ends. I love to be a beginner.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What the Students Say

Some of my students are performing singer/songwriters. Their names are highlighted and you can click to link to their websites.

I bought a cheap acoustic guitar off Ebay the summer before moving to New York.  That fall, I enrolled in a group guitar course at the New School where I was very lucky to have Monica as my teacher.

Through her course, I was able to learn familiar songs really quickly. She also introduced me to a bunch of incredible music I'd never heard before (like Lucinda Williams, Shelby Lynne, Cheryl Wheeler).  This new music ended up having a huge impact on my own songwriting.  Within 3 months of starting her class I had written and recorded an album of my own material and released my first solo record.
I have continued to study with Monica privately over the past decade.  I have tried other teachers throughout the years, but have found her method to be so much easier to learn than the others.  She is willing to go the extra mile to learn songs you are interested in order to teach them to you if you send her something in advance of your lesson.

I really can't say enough about how great I think Monica is.
She's has been more than a guitar teacher to me; I feel lucky to call her one of my mentors. – Kelli Scarr

I have studied guitar and ukelele with Monica for a number of years and it has been an incredible journey for me. Not only is Monica an amazing performer but she is a very gifted teacher. She has the utmost respect for her students, is encouraging and inspiring and lots of fun. She finds what the student is interested in, and helps the student with what their particular journey might be. In my case, I am especially interested in Latin American and Cajun music. Monica searches for interesting and unusual songs and transcribes them to fit my level of ability.
Her world view keeps her very open to this kind of exploration and her talent as a musician and her wide musical knowledge has really enabled me to participate in an exciting musical exploration. In addition, Monica is a delight. She is is funny and sweet and very authentic. I can't believe how fortunate I am to have found such a good teacher. – Jill Roberts ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Monica was able to teach me guitar the best way for me - learning songs and strum patterns to not only help me learn material and become a better player, but to help me write my own songs on guitar. Lessons were always fun and interesting, and I definitely became a better guitar player. – Elisa Peimer

When I get tablature off of websites or out of books or magazines, I struggle to figure out the measures and the strum patterns. I feel like I was spoiled having been a student of Monica's. Her tablature is the best in the business! – Jennifer Shaoul

Monica is a fun and encouraging teacher. My family liked it when I practiced because she helps you choose good songs that you can play! – Claire Quigley

I had always wanted to play guitar but never got around to taking lessons. Monica makes it easy and fun, even if you can't read music. I was able to begin playing songs almost immediately. I've been taking lessons from her for 12 years now and she always makes it fun and challenging. – Mike Caputo

Monica is a fabulous teacher! I continue to learn so much from her, not just about guitar techniques, but also about performing, songwriting, and all things musical. She's a walking encyclopedia of many genres of popular music from all decades. She's very understanding about how uncomfortable it can be to try something new, and she makes you feel that it's all OK. – Drina Seay

Monica, you are so talented and inspiring to your students, and your teaching method is really great for students of all levels, particularly when getting started. – Nicole deSantis

I couldn't have asked for a better guitar teacher: I was an adult with absolutely no experience, and Monica's method and song choice made it fun even at the beginning when I was learning the very first chords. I took lessons with Monica for several years and developed a large repertoire of songs, both strummed and finger-picked. She's terrific. – Lauri Hornik

You know those ubiquitous "Dan Smith Will Teach You Guitar" ads you see all over New York City? I hope Dan Smith's students are half as happy with their guitar lessons as I've been with Monica's. She's the real deal. You'll stay with her for years. I did. First as her student, through all of the various levels offered at the New School, and then privately. Practice what she teaches and you will be playing and learning quickly. Everyone who wants to learn guitar in New York City (or through video chat) should have a guitar teacher as good as Monica Passin. – Josh Block

Monica is my first and only teacher. Everything I know about the guitar is through her. I started studying at the Guitar Study Center in 1991 and was lucky enough to be in Monica’s Beginner Class. Not one to fully flourish in a group setting, I sought to take private lessons with her from 1992-1994. Monica’s knowledge, humor, clear instructions and artistic sensibility were the key to unlocking my creative potential. She gave me the foundation, skills and techniques I needed to start writing songs. Better yet she encouraged me to explore how songs are written and to enjoy the process of PLAYING.
I stopped lessons in 1994 but took what I knew and ran with it. One band, three demos, two full length CDs and a lot of gigs later, I felt I needed to add more to my arsenal. Fast forward to spring of 2011 and there I am looking for a teacher I could communicate with and who understood me. Who did I seek out seventeen years later? Monica. Two years later, I’m still getting my weekly dose of sanity.
Whether you are a novice or a pro, Monica’s fresh approach engages, stimulates, challenges and supports. Most importantly, she is a wonderful musician whose vast knowledge of and deep reverence for the subject she’s teaching is contagious and inspiring. – Meredith Minogue
, singer/songwriter for Violet

I signed up for a guitar class at The New School some years ago, and Monica Passin was teaching the class. I was immediately hooked by her teaching methods and amazing talent. I soon took private lessons with her, and now look back on that decision as one of those life changing moments. Thanks to Monica, the guitar in now a real and constant part of my life. She is simply one of the most dynamic guitar teachers around. Whether you're a beginner or an advanced player, she is a true musical experience! Grab your guitar and get ready to start playing. – Sophia Friedman

i should have learned how to play an instrument when i was a child. it's one of my biggest regrets.
but monica's patience, style and demeanor has turned back the clock for me and has made learning to play an instrument fun. As she has said on numerous occasions (usually when i get frustrated and impatient), "you PLAY an instrument, so have fun!" I do. thank you monica. – Gary Martin