On a Monday night in Syracuse, brand-new York, guitar instances line the wall surfaces of a hotel conference room. Approximately 70 players, countless cradling your instruments, room listening come a presentation by singer-songwriter Tim Burns, leader that the local Americana band two Hour Delay. Burns is sharing ideas on exactly how to ago up one more guitarist, and also to demonstrate, he’s invited to the stage John Cadley, a veteran that the bluegrass/country step in upstate new York and beyond (Lou Reid & Carolina when topped the bluegrass charts through Cadley’s track “Time”).

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Setting up to play his song “Evening,” Cadley capos his Martin in ~ the fourth fret, where he provides C forms to beat in the crucial of E. Note Cadley’s place on the neck, Burns explains, “I desire to acquire a little much more separation in between our guitars, maybe make my guitar sound choose a mandolin—a fake mandolin—so ns going to uncover something further up the fretboard.” Burns capos his Larrivée all the method up at the ninth fret, whereby he provides G forms to sound in E, and adds small embellishments over Cadley’s rhythm.

“So i heard John’s melody the he’s singing,” Burns speak the audience ~ the nearby of the song. “It’s real easy to find that melody and also then simply embellish that a tiny with hammer-ons, or find some various other things to make you look prefer a lead etc player.”

Welcome come a meeting of the guitar League, a long-running group that brings together pickers from every around central New York. Top top the first Monday of each month, Guitar organization brings in a jug player to provide a workshop/performance—a local musician prefer Burns or, ~ above occasion, a visiting guitar star favor Tommy Emmanuel, Laurence Juber, Stephen Bennett, man Knowles, or frank Vignola. (Full disclosure: as a resides of the Syracuse area this days, I’ve to be a moderator at guitar League.) The main presentation is simply one part of each meeting; beforehand a member provides a pre-concert, and afterward come breakout instructional sessions—organized, in maintaining with the Guitar organization name, through the designations “Rookies,” “Minors,” and “Majors.” Tonight’s offerings encompass a Rookies great on transposing chords, and also a Dylan tune circle—the sound that “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” play on an armada the guitars, fills the air.

In Syracuse, together in various other places, ar music events and also groups often tend to grow and also then fade together their leaders and participants move on to other things. Yet with a secure membership the 120 and also attendance that 60 to 80 football player at every meeting, Guitar league is going strong after 13 years, and also in reality has begun to broaden to other cities. Plainly the team has found strategy and format that clicks with a large spectrum the players.

“It doesn’t issue how great you are or how negative you are—it’s an possibility to discover something and also hang out with like-minded people,” Burns says. “It’s favor a fraternal organization approximately music.”

Up native the Couch

The motivation behind Guitar organization came indigenous Jim Horsman, a self-described “recovering drummer” who, in his 50s, had actually grown tired of the bar-band grind and resolved to discover guitar—as quick as that could. “YouTube and the web wasn’t really doing it,” he recalls. “Trying to discover off the books, etc., wasn’t really doing it, and I felt kind of as well old to take guitar lessons native a 25-year-old. My quickest method is if you can show me part things.”

Horsman conceived the Guitar organization as a location where guitarists of any type of level or style might congregate and also learn. For help in making it happen, he got to out to etc teacher/performer cock Ward and to Loren Barrigar, a homegrown etc hero who performed at period six in ~ the grand Ole Opry and also nowadays tours around the world in a duo with new Zealand fingerpicker mark Mazengarb. Horsman, Ward, and also Barrigar brainstormed a format and held the an initial Guitar organization meeting in 2005.


At first, castle figured your members would be generally gigging musicians—that’s why they booked meetings top top Monday nights. “What we didn’t realize,” Horsman says, “is how numerous very great and passionate players there are who never play out and also never intend to, necessarily. These couch players space the lifeblood of guitar League.”

One together player is note Sukoenig, that is deeply linked to the acoustic music world—he’s one old friend of banjo master Tony Trischka and plays a prized 1941 young name D-28. Sukoenig’s job as one optometrist limits his time for playing, yet he attends guitar League almost every month to stay in touch with the instrument. “I come to listen and learn,” he says, “and be approximately people with usual interests various other than optometry, which is what i’m doing every day.”

‘It doesn’t matter how great you are or how poor you are—it’s an opportunity to discover something and also hang out v like-minded people.’

Tim Burns

Patty valve Houten, that runs a little auto fix shop through her husband the end in a countryside town, likewise highlights the social benefits of the group. “I live in a sort of secluded area, and I an extremely much miss out on playing through people,” she says. “So I prefer the camaraderie and also the sharing and also jamming.”

At Guitar league meetings, the share goes both ways. Members not just pick up tips however pass along their own knowledge—either informally, one ~ above one, or periodically by top instructional sessions themselves. Guitar organization member stack Read, for example, doesn’t play out, however he’s obtained plenty of endure on the instrument—he’s been playing since 1964 and took years of jazz lessons. “I’ve done a pair of breakout sessions myself,” the says. “I go one critical month, teaching just how to improvise. I taught the key-of-C scale, very first position, and I showed them the you can basically play any type of note in the scale. Ns just got everybody i was sure to let that rip over the C scale.”

Over the years, Guitar league has carried quite a few players the end of your shells. Ward, that runs the monthly meetings and tracks the membership, look at a clean trend amongst the guitarists who sign up with the group. “In my experience, plenty of people, once they involved their first meeting, carry out not carry their guitar v them, since they’re fear someone is going to shot to make them beat it,” that says. “Then they discover out just how welcoming it is, and also it’s a whole various story.”

The setting of a Guitar organization meeting is decidedly short key—much less intimidating to newcomers 보다 a usual jam or tune circle or even guitar-shop floor. In fact, claims Barrigar, “There’s a decent portion of world that we’ve lifted out of the fear of even touching the guitar in front of world to acquiring out there and also performing. We’ve taken castle to whereby they’ve built their confidence.”

Along through the social and educational aspects, the authorized of Barrigar—when he’s not on tour—is secondary draw at Guitar league meetings. Barrigar is an all-around grasp of the instrument, native Chet Atkins–style fingerpicking to cause chord-melody jazz; he and Mazengarb (as the duo Loren and also Mark) have toured with Tommy Emmanuel. Therefore Barrigar has actually serious chops and credentials, however is also genuinely modest and approachable.

“He loves come share his guitar specialization with other people,” claims Ward, who’s recognized Barrigar due to the fact that he was in eighth grade. “What we carry out with Loren is placed him in a room and also say, ‘if you want to pat a song with Loren, walk in there.’ he’ll play a tune with somebody and also offer a suggestion or two.”

Growing the League


As it has actually for so countless members, guitar League definitely kick-started the learning process for Jim Horsman, who experiences as a midlife beginner sparked the creation of the group. Together he got an ext comfortable on the instrument, he began hitting open mics and eventually gigging occasionally as a one-man tape with back-up tracks. “I still think about myself a Rookie,” he says. “Maybe I’ve gained one toe in the Minors. However I’m still at it, and also it’s tho joyful.”

Meanwhile, the success and also longevity of Syracuse’s Guitar organization has fueled the idea of dispersing to various other cities. “We currently feel the we’re ready to open the doors,” Horsman says. “Our dream would be to have actually chapters transparent the country.” That way when members travel, they can go come meetings elsewhere—a little like AA but addressing a healthier addiction.

The expansion has begun. A 2nd chapter is currently up and also running in southern Wisconsin, and also Horsman, who freshly relocated come Asheville, north Carolina, is in the process of launching a chapter there. All that’s essential for a new Guitar league chapter, the points out, is a venue—a church, town hall, neighborhood center, hotel, etc., v a decent-sized meeting space and a pair of side rooms because that breakout sessions. There space no startup fees, and memberships, at this time priced in ~ $75 every year, save the procedure going.

In Syracuse, Horsman to be amazed to find so plenty of passionate guitarists who may live next door yet you’d never understand they played, and also he is convinced the same would be true anywhere.

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“I don’t know any kind of other regime that flushes out guitar players favor Guitar league does,” the says. “I bet there space so numerous darn guitar players hidden in every community.”

Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, Acoustic Guitar’s founding editor, is writer of The finish Singer-Songwriter and also the new book/video past Strumming. Jeffreypepperrodgers.com

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This short article originally showed up in theAugust 2018issueofAcoustic Guitarmagazine.