Ted Greene

By Garoian, Jason | Acoustic Guitar, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Ted Greene


Garoian, Jason, Acoustic Guitar


The renowned teacher left a legacy of passion and knowledge for his students

Ted Greene was one of a kind, a teacher's teacher. Although he only released one album under his own name, 1977's Solo Guitar, his contribution to music, through guitar teaching, is immense. The brilliant guitar instructor passed away at his home in Encino, California, on July 25, 2005, at the age of 58, leaving behind legions of inspired students and a catalog of superb teaching materials. Chord Chemistry, the comprehensive chord book which is his best-known work, has secured him high rank in the pantheon of guitar geniuses. A consummate teacher and scholar, Greene's commitment to music and his students is a testament to what is possible in the world of guitar pedagogy.

PINPOINTING A STUDENT'S MUSICAL PERSONALITY

Greene was a gentle, caring spirit who extended himself far beyond the typical teacher-student relationship. "If you kept coming back and you became friends with him, he would go that extra mile, doing whatever it took to help you," says Tony Darren, a longtime student and friend of Greene's.

To Greene, teaching wasn't just his job. According to his students, he felt he was entrusted with their musical development, and he took great care with that appointment. Extremely sensitive to his students' level and interests, Greene would quickly pinpoint a student's musical personality and assist them in their musical evolution. He'd get a sense of what someone liked by playing records and chord progressions for them. In Barren's lessons, that attention even extended to chords. "He knew what I liked," says Darren. "At the time, I didn't know these chords, but he'd play major sevenths, major ninths, 6/9s, and I thought, 'I love that chord.'" Greene would compile tapes for Darren and introduce the new voicings in increments.

GUITAR GURU

Greene's home studio was lined with stacks of books, records, and videos, and he had piles of amps and guitars. No distinction was made between living space and workspace. He could always be found with a guitar in his hands, most often his '52 Fender Telecaster. Famous guitar players would seek him out for a lesson when they were in town. "Going to Ted's was like going to Yoda's den," says Darren. "He always had bare feet, he never had shoes on, and he never sat in a chair. He'd always sit cross-legged on the floor. And then, when we'd listen to music, he'd close his eyes and just kind of bob his head up and down and really get into it."

Even though Greene was an expert guitarist, he was always able to meet people at their own level. If a student wasn't getting something, he would find a different way to communicate the concept. "His mind was like an iron trap, and it worked a million miles an hour," says Darren. "Sometimes I couldn't keep up with it. Then, he'd break [the concept] down and simplify it to its most basic element. He wouldn't stop until you understood it. You wouldn't meet a sharper guy that's for sure. He was definitely firing on all cylinders."

While writing out a lesson, Greene would have Darren play the material they'd covered the previous week. Never skipping a beat, he'd correct Darren without looking up from the paper. …

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