Guitar instructor provides “Music instruction for the song inside the soul” at Vinton Library

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VINTON–In bygone days children came to public libraries for story time and to gather information for homework and projects. Adults came to check out books. With advancements in technology, computer labs were added. Now libraries like Vinton’s also have Makerspaces where technology and creativity combine, and even small business centers.

However, one of the biggest improvements in the Roanoke County library system doesn’t have much to do with technology; it involves groups of adults gathering together to share common interests.

Needlework and craft classes were popular at the old library and have only grown in scope since the new library opened in November. The Roanoke Valley Dulcimers group started last summer and has grown exponentially with the move to a larger and more inviting space.

Elliott Martin teaches a guitar workshop at the Vinton Library on the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m.
Elliott Martin teaches a guitar workshop at the Vinton Library on the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m.

Last week another group got underway–the Guitar Workshop conducted by Elliott Martin had about15 students of all ages who wanted to learn to play the guitar.

“I’ve been doing these library workshops off and on for a little over a year,” said Martin. “I do them a couple of times a month at various libraries in Roanoke and Roanoke County. I do workshops because I want to be a guitar teacher and share my love of music with others in the hope that guitar gives them the same things it gives me.”

He says he got the idea of using libraries for the workshops from when he used to perform locally with the Jack Tale Players from Ferrum College.

“Some of the many venues we used were local libraries,” said Martin. “Years later when I started doing these workshops I remembered those performances and found that all I had to do to book a space and time was call and ask around. The staff generally is more than willing to let you use meeting rooms and they even help promote it.”

“The purpose of the workshop is to introduce new students to the art of guitar,” added Martin. “The reasons are twofold. When I was a child, and again when I was about 16, I was given a guitar. At the time I had very little interest in learning to play. It wasn’t until I was 20, which I consider late, that I started playing guitar and pursuing music seriously. It has given me a creative outlet, and countless hours of joy and hope, so that I kind of wish I started playing it earlier. In addition, I have often heard people say that they wished they had learned to play a musical instrument. The guitar, if you’re willing to put in the time, is one of the easiest instruments to learn, and can be learned by anyone with a desire to learn it. Whether you want to be a hobbyist or a rock star, it’s never too late.”

The guitar workshops will be held on the second Thursday each month at 6 p.m. in the meeting room of the new library. There is no fee to participate and Martin says the subject matter is meant for beginners.

Guitar instructor Elliott Martin provides basic  group and individual instruction at his guitar workshops at the Vinton and South County libraries.
Guitar instructor Elliott Martin provides basic group and individual instruction at his guitar workshops at the Vinton and South County libraries.

At the first session, Martin started off with getting all the guitars in tune. He explained some basics such as how to hold the guitar, the numbers of the fingers on your left hand, the names of the strings, and the numbers of each fret on the neck.

Then he showed the students the five most common major chords and the three most common minor ones.

Next he walked around and personally coached each student individually–answering their questions, telling them what adjustments to make, and encouraging them when they had done it correctly.

“I pass out an instructional leaflet that diagrams each chord, reiterates the opening basics, and recommends some free applications for them to download to their smart devices, such as a tuner app and a metronome (beat counter) app,” Martin said. “Then I demonstrate two to four songs, each of which is included in the leaflet, that use the chords we went over, in order to for them to see how to use what they have learned.”

“I believe doing so makes practicing more enjoyable and builds one’s confidence,” said Martin.

The songs run the gamut from folk songs to current pop songs, depending on how much time is left in the two hour session.

He teaches students to use the Internet to find chord sheets for their favorite songs, and how to read those sheets.

Since the workshop is geared for beginners, he mentions early on that he also teaches private, one-on-one lessons as well.

“For the beginners, this can provide them with ongoing instruction and help them decide if they want to continue to play,” said Martin. “For more advanced students, with private lessons we can cover more advanced topics, such as tablature, notation reading, chord progressions, and so on.”

Martin recently started a WordPress blog, Facebook page (Music by Elliott), and YouTube channel, on which he will post topics covering all skill levels of guitar, from beginners to advanced.

The next guitar workshop is scheduled for February 11.

More information is available by calling the Vinton Library at 857-5043. A monthly calendar of all Roanoke County Library events can be found online at www.roanokecountyva.gov/.