Guitar Coaching & Consulting

I give guitar lessons in my home studio in the West of Toronto and I also offer Skype lessons for students interested in studying online. Skype students I have worked with have been located in the UK, Holland and Belgium but location is unimportant provided we can work around any time difference.

Here is a short overview of my 30 years as a guitar player. After graduating from Art School in Glasgow I played in a couple of new wave groups with contemporaries, Andrew Innes (later of Primal Scream) and Alan McGee (Creation Records founder) before forming Lloyd Cole and the Commotions with Lloyd Cole and Blair Cowan. After 7 years with the Commotions as lead guitarist and co-writer I became a freelancer playing with Lloyd, Mae Moore (in Canada), Axelle Renoir (France) and many others. Since then I have concentrated on improvised music and composition whilst retaining my love of song based playing.

My full discography, touring and appearance chronology can be found here.

As musicians our basic goal is to learn what we need in order to realize our ideas effectively. Some of that process involves learning to operate the instrument by training our fingers and hands to move the way we want them to and some of it involves theoretical study. Our individuality comes from the creative choices we make when we’ve attained that knowledge.

As a teacher / consultant, I work with you to identify your goals as a musician and guitarist, then help guide you there – bridging the gaps in technique and theory that may be making your achievement of these goals more difficult. In most cases I apply a song-based, practical approach that, as closely as possible, emulates ‘real world’ situations.

Over the years my own education has involved a combination of one-on-one lessons, an improvisation course at Berklee with Gary Burton, workshop situations and practical on the job learning (in rehearsals, studios and gigs of all sizes),

I like to work with creative players and writers, so I tend to reject the normal designations of  ‘beginner, intermediate and advanced’. However, when we are starting out we need to first begin to build the technical vocabulary that matches our aspirations. If you are in that category I can guide you along the right path and offer regular encouragement while you put in the hours required to build muscle memory – usually, 4 – 8 sessions with me and a lot of practice in your own time. There aren’t any short cuts but regular practice does pay off.

Lessons are booked in blocks of four and paid ahead of time in person, or for Skype lessons, through PayPal. I also offer Masterclass courses that are tailored to the individual with a pre-agreed duration of a few months to a year.

Please Contact me  for further information and pricing.

Study areas that I teach:

The guitar fingerboard and its relation to the piano keyboard

Learning to identify the key centre of the song

Learning to write and read chord charts

Blues progressions

Learning chord construction so that you’ll never be stuck trying to remember a shape again

Chord knowledge – arpeggios

Learn about different Song Forms

Pentatonic Scales and The Blues Scale

The essential modes of the Major Scale and how to actually use them

Intervals and other partials of chords

Playing off of the vocal line

Listening skills: learning from recordings

Transposing and using the Cycle of Fifths

Playing and ‘feeling’ odd and compound time signatures

Soloing and Improvisation

Target tones and using the melody

Playing over changes

Connecting scales

Advanced theory and soloing

Extended and quartal chords

Additional scales and their modes: The Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor and Symmetrical Diminished.

Chromaticism

Additional areas of study and techniques

Capos, slides, alternate tunings, ebow and other tools

Guitar maintenance and customization

Tube amplifier maintenance

Effects chains and effects

Gig preparation

Home studio set up

Basic recording setup

Basic recording techniques

Recommendations:

Was a bit daunted at the start of my first lesson as it’s not every day you meet one of your guitar heroes! However was soon put at ease by Neil’s friendly, down to earth and supportive teaching style. Neil generously shared secrets of some of his classic Commotions guitar parts, and went the extra mile by providing tabs and song arrangements. The six lessons were a fascinating insight into Neil’s expertly crafted guitar playing, and a rare musical education.
John Dixon, Folkestone UK – Skype lessons 2012.

Anyone who has followed Neil’s music over the years knows that he is the exception to the rule – he is a guitar player that doesn’t over play. His guitar playing and wrting is there to serve the song. His teaching is similarly considered – if you want basics, he’ll provide basics – if you want to dig deeper into theory, or learn how to get a specific sound – he’ll help with that. Personally I’d been playing 20 odd years when I started learning with Neil – and he was quickly able to find the gaps in my learning, begin to plug the holes and effectively lay out the blueprint for the next 20 years…But – it’s up to you – if you just want to learn ‘Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken’ I’m sure he’ll be happy to oblige!
James Meurer, London UK – Skype lessons 2010

Neil Clark is one of the finer guitarists of our time, justly renowned for not only his ability but for the taste and inventiveness of his playing. He helped me improve my own playing a great deal, and anyone who is lucky enough to have the chance to take lessons with Neil would, I am sure, also benefit greatly from his encyclopedic knowledge of the guitar and guitar styles.
Rupert Heath, London Ontario – studio lessons 2011-12.