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Passport to Play Guitar by Tim Pells & Jens Franke

Jens and I have worked for years in the Junior Departments of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he at the Barbican and I at the Centre for Young Musicians. My own work at CYM spans several decades and has given me a great opportunity to develop the widest possible view on the subject of learning to play the guitar. During our time working together our conversations tend to always end up in the same place – ‘how can we develop the levels of musical engagement and achievement for learners of classical guitar?’. The central question of achievement always seems to relate to the big musical issues in teachers’ lives – things like sense of time, sense of style, value-added skills like improvisation and sight reading. Then the subject of communication comes up – do we learn best by listening, reading, playing from memory, playing solos or ensembles?

The teaching materials used today, and those used historically, form another basis of discussion, and we ask hard questions about the value of material being taught. Neither of us doubt the value and breadth of great 19th century methods of learning, and equally that of the original and innovative work that has been done since by many great teachers.

However, we both felt that we had seen many examples of students being asked to play material that had little or no meaning for them culturally, and that combined with this was a method of delivering the material in a way closer to the 19th that the 21st century. Presenting children or young adults with printed material that takes literally months to unscramble, and which requires a premiere league code-breaker to work out, is something both of us felt was a teaching method that was in need of an update. What about devising a teaching method that demanded the ability to play in time right from the first lesson, but that was really easy for anyone, readers or not, to follow?

That is where the original plan for Passport to Play Guitar came from – the desire for our students to learn musically, from the beginning, using all the skills that they had right at that moment.

About Tim Pells

With a strong profile in education, Tim’s publications include Sight Reading for Guitar, Learn to Play Guitar, and First Lessons and Repertoire for Beginners. His most recent publication is Passport to Play Guitar Vols. 1+2. As an educational composer he has published with Trinity College London, ABRSM, and is now working with London College of Music.

Canadian guitarist, composer and arranger Tim Pells has studied at various universities including the University of British Columbia, the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity and the Royal Academy of Music. He also completed his PGCE at the University of Essex.

Until recently, Tim was Head of Guitar at the Centre for Young Musicians (Guildhall School), serving for 37 years and retiring in 2022. He was also Lecturer in Music at Colchester Institute for 23 years, retiring in 2021. In 1985 he was elected Associate of the Royal Academy of Music. Tim now teaches Guitar at the Royal Hospital School in Suffolk, and performs with the English Guitar Quartet.


Passport to Play Guitar
Tim Pells & Jens Franke

Learn the Guitar in a creative new way: Playing music that makes you feel good, right from the outset. Passport to Play Guitar is a tutor series which is focused on learning to play the guitar through listening, reading and playing together, and is suitable for both classical and acoustic guitarists.

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