Student Album – Why Participating Highly is Beneficial to You


At GLI, we teach “musicianship.”  This means that specific songs are generally left up to you to look up on sites such as Ultimate Guitar and YouTube.  Gone are the days when you, the student, would just sit and wait for sometimes substantial lengths of time, while we, the teachers, would transcribe and write out music you wanted to play!
There is something to be said for intense focus on one piece over a period of time.  This is the way classical music operates; it’s very piece-driven.  But you all play such diverse styles (which I love) that it’d be counterproductive to force you to become deeply involved in a piece that wasn’t exactly up your alley aesthetically.  So what to do?
The answer is: twice a year you’re asked to consider focusing on 1 of your favorite pieces of music in depth.  These are the Student Concert in early Summer and the Student Album in the Fall.  These are not obligatory, but for those of you who have done them already (which many of you have), you’ll agree that it is well worth the effort.

Practical Advantages

  1. Creative Expression: Through writing and recording original music, you’ll have the chance to express yourself in a unique and personal way, nurturing your creativity and uncovering your distinct artistic voice.
  1. Sense of Accomplishment: Completing an album is a significant milestone that instills a profound sense of pride and accomplishment. This boosts your confidence and self-esteem, solidifying your belief in your capabilities.
  1. Real-world Experience: Participating in the album mirrors the professional music-making process. You’ll gain insights into studio sessions, recording techniques, and collaborating with engineers, providing invaluable experience in the music industry.
  1. Portfolio Building: A recorded album serves as a powerful addition to your portfolio, showcasing your musical prowess and dedication. This tangible representation of your skills will be a valuable asset to share with potential employers, colleges, or clients in the future.
  1. Collaboration Skills: Crafting an album necessitates teamwork, cultivating vital skills in communication, compromise, and working collectively towards a common musical vision. This experience will foster an invaluable ability to collaborate effectively.
  1. Time Management and Discipline: Successfully completing an album requires dedication and disciplined time management. You’ll learn to allocate your time effectively, meet deadlines, and achieve your musical goals – a skill that transcends the realm of music.
  1. Feedback and Growth: Engaging with constructive criticism from teachers, peers, and listeners will fuel substantial growth in your songwriting, performance, and recording skills. This iterative process will nurture the refinement of your musical abilities.
  1. Exposure and Recognition: The album has the potential to capture a wider audience’s attention, offering exposure for your musical endeavors. This recognition can serve as a springboard for future opportunities within the music industry.
  1. Memorable Experience: Creating an album is a momentous and meaningful journey that you will cherish and reflect on with pride. It stands as a tangible manifestation of your unwavering dedication and hard work towards your musical craft.

Musical Advantages

Deeper Understanding of Various Parts of a Tune:

– Navigating the Melody: You’ll learn to interpret and perform the melody, discovering the nuanced art of translating musical themes into guitar expressions.

– Harmonizing the Piece: By mastering the rhythm guitar parts, you’ll provide the foundation and support that elevates the melody, allowing the piece to resonate more profoundly.

– Rhythmic Considerations: You’ll grasp the intricacies of tempo, time signatures, strumming or picking patterns, and groove, crucial elements that give the music its heartbeat.

Overall Arrangement/Form of a Piece:

– Through the recording process, you’ll be encouraged to thoughtfully arrange your piece, defining the intro, verses, chorus, bridge, and outros. This exercise fosters an in-depth understanding of musical composition.

Timing, Expressive Elements, and Phrasing:

– Perfecting the timing ensures that notes are executed with precision, incorporating techniques like syncopation to add an engaging rhythmic dimension.

– Mastering expressive elements such as vibrato, slides, bends, and dynamic variations infuses the music with character and emotional resonance.

– Delving into phrasing allows you to shape and structure musical phrases, thereby imbuing the performance with a distinctive mood and message.

Enhancing Songwriting Skills

Traditionally, about 20% of the students write their own music for the album.  Doing so will help you take a quantum leap in your songwriting abilities because you’ll be actually putting something out there into the world with their name on it.  You’ll have to make decisions, sometimes with short deadlines, about how and what to present, and of course you’ll have to execute those ideas on the instrument.  You have more work to do than students who play covers, and yet their reward is richer.

Instrumentation to Accompany Your Guitar Track(s):

You’ll be empowered to select the accompanying instruments that best complement your guitar track. Choices may include bass guitar, drums/percussion, keyboards/piano, or vocals, each contributing to the piece’s sonic tapestry.

Achieving Desired Tone with Effects/Pedals:

The opportunity to experiment with effects and pedals grants you the means to sculpt your desired tone. Overdrive/distortion, reverb/delay, EQ, modulation effects, and compression are tools at your disposal to craft a unique sonic signature.

How to Get Started

The first step is choosing your piece.  Here are some questions that will help you select it.  Write your answers in a document and email it to Dennis.

  1. What song(s) have a I lately connected with emotionally?
  2. What song(s) would make me feel proud to cover?
  3. Would I prefer to write a piece?
  4. What song(s) would show off my current skill set?
  5. What online resources can I use to help me learn the song (chords, tablature, sheet music)?
  6. How many different parts would I have to write or learn (chords, melody, solo, etc)?
  7. Is there a solo in my song and I am going to learn, write or improvise it?
  8. Regarding the chords, can or should I use a capo? Do I know all the chords?  Can I simplify some of the harder ones?
  9. Regarding the rhythm, what is the tempo, time signature and style? What is the strumming pattern?
  10. Regarding the melody, how am I going to represent it? If by singing, is it in a good key for my voice?  If by playing, how am I going to learn it: by ear, by reading standard notation in the sheet music, etc.?
  11. Regarding the form, how many sections does or will it have? What is the arrangement (i.e. which sections come when and for how long)?
  12. Any special considerations regarding dynamics, texture or timbre? What kind of guitar(s) will I use?  Will I use effects? If so, what kind?
  13. How many weeks might it take me to learn all the parts?
  14. How many weeks might it take me to get the parts up to tempo?