Paul Gruen offers banjo, guitar, and ukulele lessons at The Magic Flute.
Paul offers general instruction at all levels, as well as the following specialties:
Bluegrass (Scruggs-style and “melodic” style)
– Clawhammer style
general instruction, plus the following specialties:
– Django Reinhardt-style “Gypsy Jazz”
– “Straight-ahead” jazz
– Strumming accompaniment
– “Chord-melody” style
– standard as well as baritone ukulele
– popular, jazz, Hawai’ian, country repertoire
Helping students develop proper technique, for the particular instrument and musical style, is one of the teacher’s most important tasks. For example, the right-hand technique for bluegrass banjo is completely unrelated to that for clawhammer banjo. And the flatpicking technique for gypsy jazz guitar is (to the surprise of many) completely different from that of bluegrass guitar. I devote substantial in-lesson time to working on technique, since that is the only time that students’ technique can be observed, guided, and corrected.
I tailor lessons to the individual student, based on each student’s age, prior musical experience, abilities and interests. My students range in age from 4 to the 80’s. Music lessons are optional and should be enjoyable and stimulating. I use a combination of rote learning (imitation of the teacher), “tablature” (an easy-to-learn written system of representing fretted instrument music), ear training, and standard musical notation where appropriate. Theory is introduced along the way as needed or desired. I wiIl frequently create arrangements of songs that students request to learn.
I help students get “off the page” — i.e., learn to play without looking at the music. Experience has convinced me that part of musical development occurs when students use their ears to help them choose or remember the notes they will play. And for musical styles which are normally played in groups, I frequently accompany students, in order to give them the experience of holding their own while having to hear and keep up with other musicians.
I have been playing banjo, guitar, and ukulele for over 30 years. From early on playing fretted instruments defined me — I performed classical guitar at age 11 for Spanish composer Castelnuevo-Tedesco, and at 17 I won first place in advanced bluegrass banjo at the Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest. I developed my knowledge and abilities in various musical groups, performing in various contexts at venerable Los Angelesinstitutions such as the Ash Grove, Troubador, and McCabes. I was educated at UCLA. In my 20′s I recorded banjo for a motion picture soundtrack (“Breaker-Breaker”).
I have been the lead guitarist — filling the “Django” chair — in the Gypsy jazz quartet, “Bo Django,” which has performed at the “Djangofest” at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley as well as numerous other venues, and which has featured violinist icon, David Laflamme (from “It’s a Beautiful Day”). Singer Dan Hicks performed with us at the Throckmorton. Previously, while in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in the early 2000’s, I performed with Katherine Whelan of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and was principal guitarist with the Europa Jazz Quartet. I have also performed frequently with other professional musicians, including the outstanding mandolinist, Phil Lawrence, and multi-instrumentalist John Youngblood.
I have been teaching banjo, guitar, and ukulele since 2002, both in North Carolina and Northern California (in the Bay Area). I have taught students of all ages, from young children to octogenarians. Most lessons are individual, but I have taught classes consisting of as many as 12 students.
To take lessons with Paul Gruen, or for references or any questions you may have, contact Paul.