Hi, my name is Jordan S. Lovinger and I am a guitar teacher in Annapolis MD. I've been teaching guitar since I was 16. I am also starting a non-profit (and a subreddit) that gives incentives for donating blood. Ask me Anything!



Proof: http://imgur.com/a/Uu3Ug

EDIT: I'm still going but my weekday work is getting in the way. Keep asking questions and I'll respond ASAP (01/26)

EDIT: Aright I think that is enough this time. This was fun, thanks for all the great questions.

Comments: 42 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

SilentEdge6 karma

I seem to have a mental block against learning how to jam along with people. As soon as someone starts talking about 1 3 5 or CAGED or blues progression, my eyes just glaze over and my brain shuts off.

The thing is, I want to be able to play with people at the drop of a hat. I'd love to be able to be told chords and timing and be able to rip out some saucy solos over them. I've been playing on and off for close to 15 years now, and I still don't know how to do this.

How would you recommend picking jamming up without falling prey to boredom once again?

Kallicles12 karma

I get these questions a lot. For starters

CAGED: is a type of way of looking at the guitar/fret board. There are five movable chord shapes linked with five major/pentatonic scales. I teach this method to my students, it is very effective.

135: is the chord formula for a major chord. For example, in the major scale of C (CDEFGAB) CEG is a C Major, C=1 E=3 G=5 . This can be done with any major scale to find what the independent notes of an (X) Major chord is. There are other formulas too, like 1-b3-5 being a minor chord (1-3-5-b7 is a Dom7 chord)

The blues progression is 1-4-5. What do I mean by this?

Each degree of the major scale has a mode attached to it (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, etc). If you were to create triads (135) starting from each scale degree you would get a pattern of major and minor chords:

In c:



CM7-Dm7-Em7-FM7-G7-Am-B dim7

Major minor minor major major minor diminished

This is the guideline a musician will start from when selecting chords for a song as these are the strict chords allowed in the key of C. There are of course substitutions and vamping, but this is the basic gist of it.

So a blues progression in the key of C includes:

CM, FM, GM. The 1-4-5 chords of the scale degrees.

Ok, but you don't need all this to start jamming. First, you'll need your pentatonic/diatonic scales. There's this awesome post I came across here (http://www.reddit.com/r/Guitar/comments/21xghz/my_gift_to_rguitar_learn_pentatonic_scales/) with diagrams. Then go to youtube and search for a blues backing track in A and begin practice jamming over it improvising with the pentatonic scale. Keep working at it and try to transcribe other solos you can steal riffs from.

Here's a resource for when you inevitably need to play rhythm blues:


22PoundHouseCat6 karma

Do you include sight reading and music theory in your lessons?

Kallicles6 karma

Yep I do.

With students who take a weekly slot of my time I usually try to steer them away from sight-reading. I find that forcing a kid, or even an adult, to slowly go through the process of learning to read is a great way to quickly lose students. Many contemporary artists do not know how to sight read, and I think of it as a different skill that's great for being "a musician" but maybe not required to be "a guitarist". I like to emphasize ear-training in place of musical notation and just rely on charts/tab.

But if I do get a student who requests it, or wants to learn classical composition, we go over musical notation.

Firespray236 karma

I've been donating blood for years and love this idea! Do you have any plans for online sessions? Skype chats or video lessons tailored to specific students or specific skill levels?

Edit: I really ought to read these fully before posting :) I see that in the bloodforgold sub the skype lesson is offered.

Kallicles3 karma

Yeah, check out


and you should see a how-to on how to redeem your free lesson. Unless you are in the Annapolis MD area all lessons are given over Skype (I set up through a kinect in my room).

NorbitGorbit3 karma

are there alternate notations than tablature or sheet music that you've seen are more intuitive to beginners?

Kallicles3 karma

There are musical charts (I.e. http://www.justinguitar.com/en/AR-003-Dom7arp.php) but other than that tab is the easiest I've seen.

If you're looking for an interesting/fun way as a beginner to learn songs RockSmith is a really neat tool.

dubau51 karma

I've been playing guitar for about 4ish years now. I grew up playing piano but not really understanding theory except reading and timing. Never understood scales/modes and improvisation, which I think is a huge hindrance to those who want to be in a band. I quit piano (I lost the fun in memorizing classical pieces) and moved to guitar. After the first year of playing chords, I had a semester away from lessons because of scheduling conflicts. During that time I watched a video that had a dude playing the og rocksmith, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever (didn't play rock band or anything like that). I picked it up, and I loved it. It was hard the first few weeks because that was the first time I was breaking into single notes. But my gosh that skyrocketed my skill and learning. I just played songs, making me comfortable with the fretboard. Never used the guitarcade feature (games dressed like arcade games designed for various techniques like sliding, tapping, scales) and I really regret that. Anyway my music school where I took lessons had me skip a teacher, or "grade", because I already knew how to do everything. Now I can tackle faster, harder, and more complex songs (and write!). But screw sweeping. Screwwwww sweeping.

tl;dr Used rocksmith, skill skyrocketed

Kallicles4 karma

Psshhh, you can sweep pick


(actually I like this video better, but both are good exercises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heRysecIJ3c )

And yeah, I use the rocksmith arcade all the time. I love the leaderboard (I always try to keep myself in the top 400 at least). In fact, I have a running gag with students that if they can top any of my highscores I'll give them one of my timber tone luxury picks.

Have only had one defeat so far.

chinstrap2 karma

It seems to me that it takes a strong desire to play to get past the beginning stage of playing guitar. For a long while, it hurts, you can't play anything cool, and you sound terrible. Do you find that the people who come for lessons usually have the motivation to push through this, or do you have to struggle with students who just don't have it? If so, are you ever able to ignite it in them?

Kallicles2 karma

I haven't had any drop outs, just one person moved, so that's a good sign. If I am doing something that encourages students to practice I wouldn't describe it as "igniting". Good practice comes from good habits. Motivation is a finite and (rare) resource, we all feel it fleetingly once in a while and then it goes away. A good teacher creates an atmosphere that is rewarding, organized, rigorous and familiar so that the student will practice when they don't have motivation. I facilitate this environment by physically rewarding my students with exotic picks when they reach certain milestones, making sure they have a binder and are writing down every exercise I give them, and making sure that students understand their aims and goals (i.e. "why did we do this exercise"). I also split their practice into sections, an example might be "ear-training homework", "Chord homework", "scale homework". After a couple of months with me I expect that the student should start sensing how to teach themselves.

The beginning of teaching guitar tends to be difficult with adults, but not so much with kids. Kids get difficult when they first get the pentatonic scale and are introduced to soloing, they start to just play around a lot without differentiating between "play" and "practice". They also vehemently hate ear-training, because by the time I can go over that with them they can already read tab and just look up whatever solo they want, so getting stuck playing "Twinkle Twinkle" sucks.

Neeklaus2 karma

what, in your mind, gives someone the disposition to teach guitar?

What I mean is, I am often asked for lessons and tips, etc, but I've never really thought of myself as much of a teacher. There's actually an employment opportunity in my area for a teacher and and I have considered dropping a resume by but I just don't have the confidence.

in your mind what does it take to teach?

Thanks in advance!

Kallicles3 karma

Three main things, extreme familiarity with the guitar, at least an intermediate familiarity with music theory, and the passion to educate others.

I've flat out fired teachers because they lack the third thing. They love playing guitar but they don't understand that being a good guitar teacher means you should not have to pick up your own guitar for the majority of the lesson. Using a musical vocabulary and a variety of notation you should be able to constantly push your students, doing the work for them and playing yourself is not going to help them very much unless you are actively demonstrating something. Even demos should not take more than a measure or two.

Your job as a guitar teacher is half coach and half education. You need to be invested in your students, especially kids. Show them slight disappointment when they don't complete their exercises, get really excited when they succeed, bond with them so that you can push them through boring units of work (like the beginning of ear training). Assign homework that is effective and introduce rigor into their practice. The worst guitar teachers are the ones who treat their lessons like separate conversations, without an active goal that drives every lesson.

Basically TLDR; You need the disposition of your favorite high school teacher.

jumpup1 karma

i have an acoustic guitar and i'm wondering how do you know if its properly tuned,?

what are your estimated goals as to the amount of blood your hoping to get a month?

Kallicles3 karma

You'll need to get a tuner which will tell you the pitch of your open strings. They need to be E-A-D-G-B-e .

Luckily, if you have a smart device, there are plenty of free apps that work well enough. Just search "tuner", I have an iOS device and I use epic tune.

Right now we're working out our official logo to put on business cards. We've contacted our local hospital who should be giving these cards out on their trips to high schools. We're hoping to eventually be redeeming 5 lessons a week.

MinusTheBun1 karma

I'm just starting out and bought RS 2014. It seems really great but for the life of me my fingers feel really uncomfortable, and I'm having a very difficult time remembering where the frets and strings are without liking. Do you have any advice on what will help your fingers feel more comfortable and how to memorize where your finger go? It seems to me that once you remember where the strings and frets are, and where to pick each string, only then can you actually learn to play a song.

Kallicles1 karma

Go to guitarcade and play the duck-frets game (it's called something like that, but basically it has ducks). This mini-game is specifically aimed at improving your ability to hit certain frets in a small amount of time. The "String Skip Saloon" will also be helpful (If you own an xbox you can try to beat my highscores , GT: Denworoy , goodluck ;) ).

And those mini-games should really be your focus for now. Like I said in another response, Rocksmith is a great tool but can only really be a portion of your practice. You need to augment it with either a good guitar teacher (my suggestion for a beginner), a book, or online courses/exercises. Your fingers are going to feel awkward for a while, they should. Playing guitar is not something your body was built for, but luckily the guitar was built for your body to play. Keep at it and eventually it'll feel natural (and you'll get callouses).

Here's a beginner course from Justin-guitar. Until you get a teacher I would primarily focus on getting through this and the intermediate course, while using Rocksmith in the background.


MinusTheBun1 karma

Awesome, thanks again bro. And I'll look you up, I'm on the XBox as well.

Kallicles2 karma

Do it! I love competition.

ulobmoga1 karma

A little late but...what you're doing is great. I give blood any chance I get but it'll be a while before I can do it again, thanks to being on blood thinners. So, to make up for it, I make sure my wife donates every chance we get.

Now, a question.

What do you think of the Rocksmith game series as an introduction to those who want to learn to play?

Kallicles1 karma

Thank you!

Yes I think it's a fantastic way to start. I have the game on my Xbox and use it for practice myself, especially the guitarcade games.

It can only be a part of your practice routine though, don't expect Rocksmith to be your end all be all method.

[deleted]1 karma


Kallicles1 karma

Yeah it is. My job is to bring something I love and am passionate to other people. I couldn't think of a place I'd rather be.

TegoTexiTectum1 karma

What's your musical background?

Kallicles1 karma

I am a pretty eclectic guitarist at this point. I perform mainly percussive acoustic guitar based off of a method I created myself. My background is predominantly in Jazz and Blues though. As a critic put it, I think like a jazz musician but play like a blues musician.

I did two apprenticeships (lessons everyday), my first with a Jazz musician named Pete Muldoon and my second with a blues musician named Matt Kelley. I've had a couple teachers since, but none that have been as influential as those two.

None of my recent stuff is online yet (recording my EP next month), but my high school band put out two albums:


alinktoschrodinger1 karma

Could you help me comp a song called Groove Merchant by Thad Jones? I have an audition soon for a band and I'm encountering difficulty comping this song.

Kallicles1 karma

Hrmmm don't see that one in my real book. Do you have the sheet music or are you trying to do it by ear?

alinktoschrodinger1 karma

Yes. I have the sheets. The song can be found here (sorry for youtube link)

here is an image link of the sheets: http://imgur.com/a/dxhLZ

Kallicles1 karma

Ok cool, what exactly do you need help with? Do you not know these chords or can you just not switch between them fast enough?

Try removing the complicated extensions and just playing the chords as major, minor, or dominant 7th. So

Ab7(#9) = Ab7

Cdim7(#9) = Cminor

Db7(#9) = Db7


(sorry if I got those wrong, its hard to examine the writing closely)

It'll sound very close to the original and then you can either a) Improvise the alterations/variations or b) if you have enough time, once you get used to the changes, go back and relearn the complicated voicings.

cptainsister1 karma

Guitar only, or are we lowly accordionists welcome?

Kallicles1 karma

Sadly right now the only instructors we have working for us are guitarists. As we grow in the oncoming months I'm hoping to add other instruments.

Nothing would stop you from submitting to r/blood4gold though

murph951 karma


As an Irish man who donates blood I was wondering is there any way you could offer advice on getting my friends to do it too? There is no financial incentive here you see.

Really like the blood donation ideas!

Kallicles1 karma

Ey Hey, a fellow irishmen!

What I do is make it part of my time together with my friends, as if I was running any other errand. I don't have a car so this is really easy for me. "Hey X, I'll buy you a couple rounds if you give me a ride to the local blood bank". By the time we get there and they hear me going through my whole Blood4Music thing they usually do it with me.

You can also always show them our site. If they have any kids they can comp the session to one of them. That's usually how I get my current student's parents to donate.

SifikaLoL1 karma

Ear-training: Where to start and how to continue? "Just transcribe songs" doesn't work for me and I'm looking for something with a little more of a method behind it. Basically this is one of the few things still missing from my practice routine that I cannot figure out.

Kallicles2 karma

When I was first learning how to transcribe by ear my teacher, Pete Muldoon, had a great method. He would have me choose a number between 1-6, and then he would have me choose a number between 1-12, and then one between 1-4. The first number was the string, the second number was the fret, the third number the finger I fretted the note with. Now, from here I would have to play any number of nursery rhymes he would come up with. I still do this exercise today, and it is the way I test my students.

Since you are just starting I would say use this method on yourself, but only with "mary had a little lamb" for a while, then move on to "twinkle twinkle", "Frair Jaque" etc. When you are very comfortable with nursery rhymes try actual songs but not solos just the melodies. Finally, once you feel, ready look for a computer program that can vary its playback speed and try to transcribe the solo on "Stairway to Heaven".