Started: Age 10
Styles: Rock, Jazz, Classical
Gear: PRS Guitars, Mese/Boogie Amps, Taylor Guitars, Hofner Jazzica guitars
Lesson Text: Learn to Play Guitar With David Saenger David Saenger is a versatile guitarist who excels in styles ranging from classical to jazz to rock. In high school, he began performing out with numerous groups and studying with local teachers to further his studies. In 1996, David began studying classical guitar with Julie Goldberg at St. Xavier University and also joined the jazz band to advance his interests in jazz. In 1998, David transferred to Millikin University to complete his degree. While at Millikin, he studied both classical and jazz under Manley Mallard for three years. David performed with the Jazz Lab Band I and sat first chair in the classical guitar ensemble. He was also selected as the guitarist for the Illinois Collegiate Jazz Festival All-Star Band in the spring of 2001. In addition, David began teaching private lessons in classical, jazz, and rock guitar and continues to do so today. David recently graduated in 2004 with a Masters Degree in Jazz Performance at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. While there, he performed with the CCPA Jazz Orchestra, jazz combos, and sat first chair in the classical guitar ensemble. He studied jazz guitar with John McLean and classical guitar with Pamela Kimmel.
David graduated Summa Cum Laude from Millikin University in 2001, toured the U.S. with an original rock group and performed at such venues as The Roxy in L.A. and Schubas in Chicago. He also played in a jazz orchestra under the direction of the incredible Maria Schneider, and was selected as the guitarist for the Illinois Collegiate Jazz Festival All-Star Band in the spring of 2001. In addition to his lessons for WorkshopLive, David has been a DayJams teacher at the Chicago campus for the past six years and currently teaches at Northwest Music School, a private music school in the suburbs of Chicago, where he has been an instructor for three years. He performs regularly with a motown tribute group, a jazz fusion group, solo jazz/classical gigs, and has been doing a lot of theater pit work, all in the Chicago area
When did you start playing? I began playing guitar at the age of 10. My brother was playing drums in a band at the time and it definitely sparked my interest in music. When did you start to notice that your playing was different from everyone else's? In high school I began practicing extremely hard and I definitely saw it making a difference. I was playing in a couple groups and I noticed when we played out, my playing was more polished than the other kid's my age and that just motivated me even more. As for finding my own voice, it's definitely an eclectic one that is still evolving. It includes a strange mixture of rock, blues, jazz, and classical. I first began fingerpicking when I was studying classical guitar but it quickly worked its way into all my playing. I think fingerpicking is an amazing tool to have under your belt because it allows you to use the guitar to its fullest ability. You are essentially rhythm, bass, and lead guitar in one. How do you keep your playing fresh? By listening. When you're playing in different groups you can learn a lot from the other musicians you are playing with and they are all bringing something different to the table. If I'm playing in a group with a trumpet or sax player or any other musician for that matter, their style will rub off on me so it keeps my playing evolving. I'm always trying to play with people that will push me as a musician. What do you do when you get stuck? I like to try and take a step back and take a deep breath. It's very easy to get frustrated when you're trying to work something out and it's just not happening. Sometimes the best remedy is to leave it alone for a day and sleep on it. There's plenty of other stuff you can be working on in the meanwhile and you'd probably be surprised the next day when the really hard thing you're trying to do may seem just a little bit easier.. What do you still find hard to do? I'm always working on two things: my time and improvisation. I feel that my rhythm can always be improved and there a lot of exercises I do with the metronome to help improve it, as well as playing with recordings. I'm always trying to keep my improvisation fresh as well. It's very easy to play the same ideas you are most comfortable with so I make it a point to really force new harmonic ideas into my playing until it becomes natural, and that's not the easiest thing to do. How often are you surprised by your playing, or what you're listening to, or music in general? Whenever I get in a performance situation is when I tend to surprise myself the most. No matter how much you work on something at home, it may come out differently on the stage and in jazz that definitely isn't a bad thing. That's one of the reasons why I love improvisation so much. The interaction between the different players can be different every time and be amazing each time. There's nothing wrong with taking musical chances when you are comfortable with your instrument. Do you have a regular practice regimen? Do you have a practice "tool-kit" - metronome, tuner, recorder, etc.? Do you have a special place for practice set aside in your home? I did for quite a while especially when I was in school but now my schedule has become a little more hectic so I squeeze it in whenever I can now. I try to be in a room with no distractions because it will definitely help me focus more and I'll be way more productive. I ALWAYS have my metronome with me. It doesn't matter if I'm working on exercises or tunes, I'm always playing with a metronome. It gets much more difficult to maintain a routine while you're on the road, but I have to say playing out every night in front of an audience is just as good as practicing. Is there a piece of gear you just can't live without? I've never been one to be obsessed with gear, so other than my guitars, I'm not super particular about it. As long as I know how to work it, I'm good to go. Are there one or two core ideas that are central to your teaching that you make sure every student learns? I emphasize rhythm as the important thing in music. It's the common foundation for everything. It doesn't matter if you are playing with a group or playing solo, you want to strive for having a good internal sense of rhythm. It will not only help your rhythm playing but it can also make your solos more interesting as well. In jazz, the most important thing you want to be able to do is swing, and you need to make a conscious effort to work on it every day. Do you find yourself returning to listen to the artists who inspired you when you first started to play? Who are they? Whenever I need some good inspiration, I'll definitely revisit some of my favorite musicians. For jazz, I definitely check out Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Jim Hall, and John Scofield. As for rock/blues you can't deny Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan. If I want to get in a really rockin' mood, I'll throw on some Nuno or Rush. Does your playing change when you switch instruments? Without a doubt. I have a specific guitar for each style of music and each of these guitars have a specific voice or tone that I associate with it. It's pretty fun to be able to switch gears from jazz to rock to classical. How often, when you're playing, do you find those moments of pure music, when your head is clear, your fingers are working, there are no distractions, and it's just you and the music? For me, it's hard to simulate that feeling when you're practicing because you can be thinking about so many different things and you're focusing on improving your playing, but once I get up on stage, it's all about that moment. We have a feature called "Big Ears," where we suggest interesting music to our members that they might not have heard before. What would you suggest for them? Since I'm a big fan of jazz and rock, I highly recommend checking out the Alex Skolnick Trio. He's made a great transition from rock to jazz. On his first two discs, he took popular rock tunes and turned them into jazz tunes. It's very cool stuff. I'm also a huge fan of the mandolin player, Chris Thile, especially his album Deceiver. His playing is quite virtuosic and he's influenced by many styles. He's definitely taken that instrument to a new level. What are you listening to these days? Do you search out music that's new and unfamiliar to you? I'll try and narrow it down. As for jazz, I've been listening to Elastic by Joshua Redman, The Real McCoy by McCoy Tyner, and Out Louder by John Scofield. As for rock, Stadium Arcadium by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Light Grenades by Incubus, and Love by Dramagods. I'm always keeping my ears open for new music as well as looking for those classic recordings that I've yet to discover. There is so much amazing music out there and I try to appreciate it as much as I can. Whenever I'm not performing, I'm always trying to catch some shows in Chicago. Do you have a musical wish list - other instruments to learn, people to play with, artists or styles to explore? I've always been a huge fan of stringed instruments. I played upright bass for a little while and I've always been interested in the banjo and mandolin. There are so many great players out there taking these instruments to new levels. There are MANY artists I'd love to play with, so I'm not quite sure how I would narrow that down. As for new styles, I'm always keeping my ears open. I'd have to say my music collection is pretty eclectic and it will always be growing. I have been checking out a lot of bluegrass lately, especially Chris Thile. Have you ever had a really great teacher? What made him/her so good? I've had a few exceptional teachers. They were great for a number of reasons. The more prepared the teacher is, the more the student will get out of the lesson. My best teachers were extremely organized and set goals for me from week to week. They would also give feedback, good and bad, because you definitely need to hear both. Positive encouragement played an extremely important role as well. How do you learn best? I learn best by having clear goals to work for. I tend to get easily overwhelmed when I look at the picture, but as long as I'm setting attainable goals, I definitely notice the progress. I also can't emphasize how important it is to transcribe recordings. The only way to learn how to speak the language of jazz is to learn how others before you spoke it. If I hear something really cool on a recording, I make it a point to figure out what exactly they are doing and why they did it. Then it will hopefully work its way into my playing and my learning of the instrument and the language. Do you have any practice tips we can share with our subscribers? I think it's extremely important to set up a practice routine every day and stick to it. You'll definitely see the most progress if you're playing everyday as opposed to trying to make a ton of progress in one day. I think if you set small goals and achieve them, it's much more encouraging than getting frustrated trying to learn that super hard solo in one day. The key is to break down whatever you're working on and take it piece by piece. It's so easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged, so I recommend taking things at your own pace and don't treat it as a competition. If you're a better musician than you were yesterday, then you're definitely on the right track. visit David at jazzchicago.com
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