PRS & Music Education: An Interview with Dave Weiner // Guitopia
Posted May 24, 2017
Paul Reed Smith and our company believe that guitar building is an ongoing process of discovery. In the same way, we believe guitar playing is an ongoing process of discovery. And of course to be discovering means you need to be learning!
In this blog post series, we interview music educators who love PRS and have built businesses that educate tens of thousands of musicians.
Dave Weiner // Guitopia
Guitarist, engineer, producer and four-time Grammy nominee, Dave Weiner, has been playing guitar and writing music for 3 decades. Starting at age 10, within 3 years, Dave had an original band and released a full-length record; another one at age 16. After high school, Dave went to college where his cover band played countless gigs and upon graduating (with an Accounting degree!), he moved to Hollywood to attend Musician’s Institute: Guitar Institute of Technology. While at school, Dave interned for Vai’s manager. Through this work, Dave met Vai and eventually Steve heard a demo Dave had recorded and, impressed, invited him to join his band. That was 1999. 17 years, 10 world tours, multiple live dvd and cd releases and Dave is still Steve’s go-to guitarist. Dave also produces, has multiple records of his own released (daveweiner.com), is the creator and host of Guitopia.com, the internet’s premier guitar-education resource and is very active in his home community where he started the Philly Guitar Club (phillyguitarclub.com).
What is Guitopia?
Guitopia offers experience-driven guidance and a unique, music-focused, results-driven teaching philosophy to help aspiring guitarists gain the tools necessary to become well-rounded players as quickly as possible. This is done by offering 3, feature-packed Membership tiers starting a literally less than $1 per week, so it’s affordable and accessible to all.
Members have access to many amazing, exclusive features such as the massive library of “Lesson of the Week” episodes (over 500 of them) for weekly motivation and inspiration. These episodes offer examples of how to use what is being learned in the form of fun, usable, musical licks. The lesson are taught in an easy-to-follow format where you’ll learn each lick, note-for-note, the concept behind the lick (i.e. the theory used and how it was built), the rhythm, phrasing and technique behind it, and you’ll be shown how to practice the lick over a jamtrack and implement it into your improvisation!
“The Guitar Path” is Guitopia’s actual guitar course. The aim with The Guitar Path is to be the most comprehensive, detailed, in-depth guitar course ever developed, well beyond even collegiate courses. This is a hand-held guidance system. It answers the question: “I just bought a guitar, where do I start?”. We show you where to start and hold your hand to the next step and beyond. From the absolute beginner to the seasoned professional, the course will offer insight and guidance for everyone. And of course, it features our “music-focused” learning philosophy so that every step of the way, you’ll be making music! This course is currently in development with the first 11 Steps of the Beginner phase online. More parts are added weekly.
The Jamtrack Jukebox is another amazing feature. A learning musician (and a professional aiming to sustain their abilities) need to be in musical situations as much as possible. These musical situations challenge the player to adapt to the key, quality, genre, BPM, feel, meter, etc. If you want to be a player, you need to PLAY and you need a source to provide high-quality jam tracks to keep you musically sharp and constantly outputting. The Jamtrack Jukebox features over 230 (as of 5/15/17) high-quality, hand-built jamtracks covering the widest range of genres including: Blues, Jazz, Country, Funk, Rock, Reggae, R&B, Metal, Soul, Folk and more. These are professionally recorded, mixed and mastered and are all 10 minutes long to provide the proper amount of time to dig in, get comfortable, loose and have fun!
Another amazing feature is The Bootcamp. Many aspiring players don’t know what or how to practice on a daily basis to achieve and maintain a well-rounded foundation. The Bootcamp is a monthly video series that offers examples from my regimen and shows players what to practice in the form of warm-ups, general theory (scales, chords, arpeggios, etc), neck theory (learning the neck and putting the general theory on it), technique/lick-writing (building physical proficiency and licks to practice that technique) and finally, "Jam With Me”. Jam With Me is where we put on the jamtrack and implement everything we’ve learned in that month's Bootcamp. We implement the lick, we improvise with the scales, we do virtual “trading”. It’s super fun and extremely important and effective.
Guitopia offers a lot more features but for the sake of brevity, I’ll list them so you can get signed up and back to playing! :)
- Resource Center - a vast library of scale, chord and arpeggio charts to view and/or print for reference
- The Woodshed - a massive video library where I am your 24/7, virtual practice partner. We practice theory, technique, rhythm and more, together, since it’s more fun to work on all of this with a partner!
- Live Chats - once a week, we do a live chat and cover a specific topic or have an open discussion about all things guitar. We often have special guests join us live as well. Members get their questions answered from industry professionals, manufacturers and artists. And if you can’t make the live chat, we record EVERY chat and post it in our Chat Archive to watch on demand at anytime! (most other sites don’t do this).
- The Guitopia Forum - Guitopians can join our friendly and encouraging forum to discuss all things guitar, converse about lessons, trade/sell/buy gear and more!
- Live Chat Support - We offer live chat support for Members. Not only can you ask technical questions about the site, your account etc, but you can even ask learning-related questions like “what are the notes of a B Mixolydian scale?” No other site offers this exclusive, handy, progress-enhancing feature!
- Guidance Consultations - Here’s another Guitopia exclusive: we know learning guitar can be an overwhelming adventure at times. I’ve been there! It can be difficult to know exactly what and how to practice to reach your goals as fast as possible. Guitopia’s vast resources are in place to help you get there, but it can be hard to know how to best use them to your advantage to see constant improvement.
So, to help keep our Members progressing as effectively as possible, we’ve implement Guidance Consultations. These are short Skype sessions to discuss goals, put Members on the right path to seeing result teaching them how to best use the resources and features on Guitopia to serve those plans accordingly. This isn’t a guitar lesson, but it is extremely beneficial and above and beyond what you’ll get anywhere else, guaranteed.
There are many other features on Guitopia, but these are examples of our dedication and passion to guitar, learning and helping everything become the best player for a lifetime of enjoyment.
Q&A With Dave
PRS: Guitopia seems centered around immediately placing the students’ newly learned skills into a musical context. Why is this important to you and why is it so helpful for students of guitar?
Dave: Exactly, the main mission statement and philosophies at Guitopia.com are very different from other guitar education resources including university-level courses. Our aim is to get our Members real-world, usable, musical results with every new item (theory, lick, technique) learned IMMEDIATELY, before moving on. We want to promote musical progress on a daily basis.
Most resources focus on input. That’s a given. But, the more important focus of “can you actually use that?” is unfortunately far overlooked. Guitopia will teach you everything (input) and will help you immediately use it in your improvisation, song-writing, lick-writing, etc. (output). And that’s not just in the form of examples (licks and concepts learned in the Lesson of the Week episodes), but also by instilling the concepts necessary to think musically (rhythm, phrasing, style, dynamics, etc) and creatively; to be able to churn the process of input -> creativity -> output -> usable real-time vocabulary. Basically, we don’t give you a fish, we teach you how to fish.
PRS: How has your experience as a professional musician helped you develop Guitopia as an educational platform?
Dave: Experience is THE key factor. Today, anyone with a guitar, a webcam, an internet connection and a functioning brain can start doing videos and call themselves a “teacher”. But what is the qualification? This has led to massive amounts of half-truths and misguiding “information" on the internet from people that don’t have enough experience to REALLY understand the concepts, yet alone teach them. I’ve seen this misguidance lead aspiring players down wrong paths that I’ve had to undo. The internet is awesome in that it's obviously a never-ending pool of information, but you need to make sure the source of that information is qualified. That’s where experience comes in.
My experience of 30+ years playing, over 20 years teaching, being a graduate and instructor at Musician’s Institute: Guitar Institute of Technology, multiple records released, countless clinics and master classes taught all over the planet, my vast discography of Vai releases... it’s this real-world experience I’ve acquired that most “teachers” on internet sites (and even colleges and universities) don’t and won’t have.
I’ve been a touring and recording professional for nearly 2 decades. You can’t buy that. You can’t sit at home and get that and that’s where the real education is gained. I am very fortunate to have toured the world more times than I can remember at this point, working with and learning from some of the best names in the business (Vai, Satriani, Petrucci, Malmsteen, Gilbert, Morse, Lukather, Johnson, etc). I’ve worked closely with these players and in that time, absorbed what they do and how they do it. From that experience and my desire to grow, I’ve developed a learning philosophy with methods to deliver quick, easy-to-understand, effective and efficient exercises. Guitopians (as we call Members of Guitopia.com) easily gain the theory and technique needed to become a well-rounded guitarist for life. And we have a fun, light, supportive community of Guitopians that really encourage each other. It’s awesome!
Bottom line is only through doing.. through experience... can you gain the understanding needed to be a good guide and mentor to lead aspiring players to success as quickly as possible.
PRS: How has PRS been a useful tool for you as both a professional player and teacher?
Dave: It’s important to find what motivates and inspires one to play and that can come in many forms: visual, aural, tactical, psychological and more. It’s different for everyone but for me, my PRS guitars hit on all levels. The look, the feel, the tone.. the fact that I know the people making them and I know the process that is full of care and passion... that all gives me a trust, a confidence, a comfort and a desire to pick them up constantly to practice, write or record. That leads to productivity. And when I’m stepping out on a stage in front of thousands of people on a world tour with my PRS, that trust and quality gives me the confidence to perform my best night after night.
PRS: In addition to practice and repetition, what is one thing in particular that you believe helps students improve their playing?
Dave: That’s easy. It’s that “output” I mentioned before that is the foundation of Guitopia. Aspiring musicians need to know how to use what they’re learning. Otherwise, I always say it’s like going to Home Depot and buying one of everything. You just spent a lot of time and money, but do you know how to actually build anything? Not necessarily. Just because you acquired the tools doesn't mean you can use them and then they become pointless.
Every step of the way, everything you learn, make sure you can use it musically before inputting something else. For “day one” players, learn that C chord and then learn a simple rhythm and start strumming (this is an actual lesson on Guitopia). Now you’re outputting and making music. Mission accomplished! Use that philosophy on a daily basis, serve the purpose of your instrument and you’ll gain that instant and constant satisfaction in your playing that many players don’t find, because they’re learning incorrectly. You’ll stay motivated to keep learning more and you’ll actually be a player.
Below, check out an example of a recent Guitopia lesson on "Combining Major and Minor Blues!"
from on Vimeo.
CONNECT WITH DAVE
CONNECT WITH GUITOPIA