More to lessons than learning tunes

Mark PMark P Posts: 2,314Member
For a long time I've thought that there should be more to lessons than just learning tunes

I was aware for quite some time about a Truefire guitar course - "DADGAD Explorer - Intuite" - by Pierre Bensusan.
Davey Graham who popularised DADGAD also used the tuning with Indian and Morrocan influence.
Pierre Bensusan is very much a one off guitarist with his own style - crossing various genres including world, classical, jazz, traditional, and folk. He can be pigeon holed in one way - he plays exclusively in DADGAD tuning. But it's not the DADGAD tuning type of play that is usually very celtic based.
A lot of celtic based DADGAD arises due to the DADGAD drone making it very suitable for celtic music with it's similarity to the voicings on Scottish and Irish pipe music.

Pierre Bensusan is also unusual in that he does include improvisation in his repertoire.

So (1) as I nearly always use DADGAD, and (2) as I love to improvise (aka noodle), the course was of interest.
I also enjoy DADGAD for non Celtic music so I thought the course could be useful for pointers to other styles.

But I was put off by Bensusan being such a good player and felt the course material would be way above my level. I do find it difficult to understand quite a few of his pieces of music.

Anyway - I saw the course had a 20% offer (it still does) and I felt I was stagnating a bit, and I thought what the hell. It has turned out, with an additional discount for signing up to the newsletter, to be a very good value buy for around £20.

There are 6 pieces of his featured amongst the lessons and they are either relatively simple ones or have been simplified down from the more complex originals. His commentary / analysis on these pieces is that of guiding the player towards techniques they can use and sounds they can produce rather than just getting the pupil to parrot what he plays. I do have a preference for that sort of lesson - you, as the player, then have more opportunity to put your own voice into your music. The trouble for me with trying to play a piece like someone else is it feels unnatural and just ends up sounding like a very poor imitation. In the case of a Pierre Bensusan piece a very, very poor imitation.

I rather like taking a written / tabbed piece as a general guideline for a piece of music and vary it in notes played, timing etc to make it more my own. So this course style suits that.

There are also lessons giving guidance on chords, finger independence, adding accents, bass notes on and off the beat, stretching, left hand ornamentation, arpeggios, damping, nail return, harp effect and harmonics. Quite a collection (of nearly 4 hours) lessons to get something out of.

I've been doing nail return with fingers for a while (up strokes and also down-strokes with the back of the nail), but one of the lessons unlocked the technique to do this with the thumb too - rather a nice colouring for pieces on bass notes. I've seen Tony McManus do this to good effect with bass note triplets in Celtic pieces.

Stretching the left hand like Bensusan is a no go - he can do index finger on 4th fret at the same time as pinkie on the 11th! OUCH! 4th to 8th is my maximum and then my joints start to twinge and ache for the next few days.

There are some very mentally challenging exercises on placement of bass notes in less obvious places. It made me relaise how I use bass notes in improvs mostly on the first beat, sometimes the third beat, and rarely elsewhere. There's a great demo he does of playing a falling four note arpeggio each bar while at the same time playing a variety of bass notes that alternate between the 3rd and 4th beat of each bar. A mind stretching exercise and when played well it can produce a very attention grabbing musical progression.

Hmmm. I'm not sure what the point of this post of mine was now?

I guess partly just to point out that one can have very false expectations of how much / little a course may be to you.
Partly just to say how much I am enjoying this one.
Pierre Bensusan makes for a very friendly down to earth teacher, with an enthusiasm for his subject that gives positive results.

I'm glad I am giving it a go. I'm also finding it easier get to grips with his recorded music, which is a plus.


  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,139Member
    Thanks for writing this. I look forward to hearing some demos of yours.
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,656Member, Moderator
    Your opening sentence, Mark, remkinds me of the saying, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." I think you are saying that applies here as well as Mr. Bensusan's playing and teaching styles suiting you down to the ground. It sounds a potentially great match.
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,139Member
    Scales. I think that's what Lester is talking about.
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,139Member
    Perhaps the dory-an mode ?
  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,314Member
    I used to visit a guy called Ian, just so that I could ask him if "Do you have any beer in the Fridge-Ian"?

    Moving rapidly on ....

    The only evidence emerging so far of a concrete kind that has suggested to me that the lessons are beneficial was when I recorded a random improv one evening and ended up with this 12 minute meander - I don't recommend a full listen, but dip into a section of it to get a flavour. Some wince inducing stumbles litter the recording, but never mind - it's the price to pay for music on the fly.

    It does have more of a Moorish / World type of sound, rather than my usual Celtic genre playing.

    I do like lessons like these Bensusan ones where the player is given guidance and then encouraged to experiment to apply the guidance to something in their own voice.
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,139Member
    Or any ale-Ian ?
  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,314Member
Sign In or Register to comment.