“David Brandon has been a top influence in my son’s life. His excellent guitar instruction has catapulted my son to a level of playing that has made him stand out among his peers. Even more importantly, he is a model for my son’s character. That is something no one can put a price tag on!”

- G. Eddins, mom

Give us a call at (806) 799-1916 to schedule your first lesson!

Crossroads

One of my most vivid guitar memories is at the intersection in the lives of two guitar greats, who had both been an influence on me and my students. The late guitar legend Chet Atkins had invited my wife and me to his Austin City Limits (PBS) taping in the late eighties. He graciously took us to dinner to his favorite Austin restaurant that served good ole down-home cooking and gave us tickets to his public concert the night after the taping. My wife and I were just about to go backstage and say hi to Chet when I ran into my friend Eric Johnson, who lives in Austin and was attending the concert. I asked him if he would be going back to see Chet, and he replied that he had never met him. I told him he could go backstage with us and that I would be happy to introduce them. Eric asked if his father, who was also at the concert, could come too. I said of course, and to go and get him. When we got backstage, I indeed did get to introduce Eric and his dad to Chet, who had also been a big influence on Eric as well.

Chet was gracious, as always. One of the greatest guitarists in the world, he was a true country gentleman. What impressed me most about these two musicians is the mutual respect and admiration, regardless of the style of music or level of fame. Eric was invited later to appear on a recording with Chet, an honor he shared with Jerry Reed, Doc Watson, Les Paul, George Benson, Earl Klugh, Liona Boyd, Mark Knopler, and Larry Carlton, among others. I felt privileged to witness the meeting of these two great guitarists for the first time and now, to continue sharing their music with students through the years.

As a footnote to that memorable moment, Willie Nelson made a surprise guest appearance at Chet’s concert that evening. Willie’s performance was very characteristic of his unique signature style. I’ve admired how Willie is able to use his old iconic Martin classical guitar, Trigger, (yes, the one with the big hole in the soundboard) so effectively in country music all these years. The two country legends had quite a history together, with Chet having produced many of the Willie Nelson hits at RCA in Nashville. Chet also kindly introduced my wife and me to Willie, who was as down to earth and humble as could be. Despite the great success of these musicians, they still treated people with sincerity and respect. In fact, Chet had a sign on his desk which read, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” Another lesson from one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

The Sound of Perfection

My favorite movie has long been The Sound of Music, with its great music, spectacular scenery, and inspiring story. So when guitarist Christopher Parkening asked me to record Silent Night with him and Julie Andrews for her 1990 Hallmark Christmas album, I was thrilled for the opportunity. I flew to Los Angeles, and after rehearsing the piece with him, we went to Julie’s office to work out the musical interpretation with her. Julie was as warm and gracious as she seems on the big screen. I remember thinking as I played and she sang, that I was hearing the very familiar and famous voice of Maria von Trapp and Mary Poppins along with our guitars. She remarked she had chosen Silent Night for her recording because it was originally written for guitar and voice, and that it has a lovely, intimate quality.

After we worked out the musical details, we recorded a version with her right there in her office on a small tape recorder. Chris and I then headed to Capitol Records, where we recorded our real guitar tracks with Neumann microphones while listening to our demo version through the headset. After we were satisfied with our recording, Julie recorded her voice on top of that. The producer then added the London Symphony Orchestra and Ambrosian Boys Choir to fill out the arrangement. The result is a intricate full version of Silent Night that just started with an informal recording at the Julie Andrews headquarters.

We met with Julie again two days later at Capitol Records to do a promo video for Hallmark. It was a staged production, with Chris and I actually “guitar syncing” to our real recording. Julie’s voice was live, but it was not the actual final version. It was great to hear her wonderful voice once more along side our playing. Overall we spent hours and hours on the project, making sure every detail was right. Julie Andrews is indeed a perfectionist, and she was brilliant to work with. In fact she said that, “The amateur works until he can get it right. The professional works until he cannot go wrong.” That’s great advice from one of the greatest movie stars and singers of our time.

Enough Guitar Concertos?

While on tour a number of years ago with classical guitarist Christopher Parkening in Europe, we landed in Vienna for the last concert of the season. While arriving at our sound check at the intimate Brahms Hall, we noticed famous conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story) rehearsing in the adjoining Symphony Hall. I asked Chris if he knew him, and he replied that although he had met him before, he didn’t know him well. We decided that after our sound check, we would go over and say hello. After introductions had been made, Chris casually encouraged him to write a concerto for the guitar. (Andrés Segovia had given the mandate to increase the repertoire of the classical guitar, and Chris has been faithful to do so.) Maestro Bernstein laughed and said that the guitar had enough concertos. Then he said, “Now the tuba…there’s an instrument that could use a concerto!” That was as close as the guitar world got to a having a guitar concerto from one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. I was inspired, however, to see Christopher Parkening use that and other opportunities to try to enrich the repertoire of our wonderful instrument.

BGS Fast-Track System

Glad You Asked…Could you explain the BGS Fast-Track System? David responds:

The new BGS Fast-Track System is an overall teaching philosophy. It refines and puts a name to how I have taught guitar for over thirty years. The five system components are Great Music, Strategic Exercises, Practice Goals, Technique/Musicianship, and Theory/Improvisation. It is essentially what each of our instructors keep in mind as we teach guitar lessons, regardless of the level or style. In other words, we like to balance our lessons to include a variety of important elements.

Is is hard? By no means. In fact, most students don’t realize they are on the FTS. They only see the quick results and rapid progress in their playing.

Here is an example of how FTS works in a lesson. Let’s say we are teaching Eric Clapton’s Layla. Learning fun music promotes quick progress, whatever the style (Great Music). If we find the student is having difficulty with the first lick, we create a brief study of it to help master the move (Strategic Exercise). We suggest unique ways to practice the song during the week (Practice Goals). We might adjust a hand position, suggest an alternate fingering, or fine tune a strum pattern (Technique/Musicianship). We also examine the differences between the straight 8ths electric version with Derek and the Dominos and the swing 8ths Unplugged acoustic version. We explain how Clapton uses the octave principle to derive his lead lick from the rhythm riff. We even have the students jam over the Verse in C# minor and the Chorus in D minor, creating their own solo (Theory/Improvisation).

All of this happens very naturally as the student enjoys learning the song. Students not only have fun playing great music, but they come away with a deeper understanding of the mechanics behind the music as well. Once learned, all of the techniques can easily be applied to other songs for even quicker progress.

Feeling Inspired?

My wife once showed me a quote featured on the Kirk Cameron/Ray Comfort ministry show, Way of the Master. By Ernest Newman, it stated, “The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working. Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand with as much regularity as an accountant settles down each day to his figures. They didn’t waste time waiting for inspiration.”

I often find this to be true in guitar practice as well. Sometimes it takes a little discipline to sit down with the instrument; but once I do, the music takes over and I find myself inspired to create music. Professional guitarists cannot be ruled only by inspiration, because we are often called upon to learn a piece for a specific venue, or to practice the same piece that we have played hundreds of times before. Likewise, students sometimes need to practice things that are a bit of a struggle. That soon gives way, however, to fun, creativity, and inspiration. The same goes for most of life’s rewarding pursuits, whether it be golf, tennis, chess, or painting. Let the dedication and work inspire you, as you devote time to practice the guitar. You will find it well worth the effort!

Recording the Audio Samples

Glad You Asked…How did you record the audio samples found on the Teaching Program page? David responds:

I recorded those one Friday morning in August with the amazing help of my son, Jared. He set up Garage Band on his Mac, and I recorded through the Line 6 POD X3 Live. I used the Line 6 Variax guitar to achieve multiple guitar emulations. The Line 6 Variax/POD X3 Live combination is great for quick studio use without having to bring a lot of equipment to a session. It’s also fascinating to play with all the digital technology. I used a Strat emulation for the blues, Gibson hollow-body for the Jazz, Telecaster for the Country, Resonator for the Bluegrass, and Acoustics for the Folk and Praise/Worship (which also used a partial capo on the 2nd fret to emulate an altered tuning). I did use a real Petrucci Music Man guitar for the Rock, since it needed a whammy-bar. The Classical and Flamenco (more like Flamenco Nouveau) tracks were from my Legacy CD. The Electric Bass was recorded on our faithful standby Studio Fender bass. The samples were a lot of fun to sit down and record and represent only a small portion of the styles and techniques we teach. There is nothing like getting to play with guitar toys!