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Learn the Acoustic Guitar

Course Times & Enrolment

Wednesdays from 15th January 2020 (Code MU181-202) Wednesdays from
15th January 2020 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (10 classes)
G21 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Brian McGrail MA PhD
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

A practical course in guitar playing, covering rhythmic accompaniment, melody, and ensemble performance.  This course will cover several styles including acoustic rock, fingerstyle, classical.  Exercises will introduce musicianship skills in reading chord charts, tablature, and music notation.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

This is a not-for-credit course offered by the Centre for Open Learning (COL).

Content of Course

The central framework of the course will draw on a recognised guitar tuition syllabus from the Registry of Guitar Tutors (London College of Music).  Three ‘grades’ will be covered – Initial, Preliminary, and Grade 1.  Each level builds on core playing and accompaniment skills.  The Initial Grade starts by learning 4 chords (C, F, G, Am) and 1 scale (C to the fifth); musical elements which are immediately applied to learning 4 well-known tunes / songs, and to performing 4 (unknown) ‘chord charts’.  The latter teaches ‘generic’ movements between all known chords at each grade – a skill which enables students to ‘explore’ many other simple tunes (reflective of their own interests and tastes).  The Preliminary Grade and Grade 1 materials use the same learning technique, but expand the number of chords to 7 and then 11, and the scales to C (full octave) and F (at Preliminary) and then G, D, Am and Dm (by Grade 1).

Additional, supplementary material will be added, making the course a unique offering.  These will include warm up exercises, rhythm games, music theory lessons, technical ‘etudes’, and alternate repertoire (such as a 12-bar Blues in A, and a couple of classical guitar pieces for fingerstyle).

Teaching method(s)

Teaching will be student-centred in a tutorial ‘group’ setting.  Small group work, entire class (ensemble) work, and individual learning / practice tasks will be linked to the set repertoire and technical skills presented each week. Students will receive some individual attention during technical lessons, though the core element of the course is for students to ‘learn together’ by playing together.  A limited amount of ‘homework’ (pieces and exercises for routine practice) will be set for each week, and good practice will be encouraged (such as working with a metronome when playing at home).  Students will gain from the experience of playing with others (all others in the room; in small groups, to be varied each week), from playing different parts (rhythm, lead line, bass line), and from listening to / performing in front of others.  For those who want to consider gaining a graded award, advice and guidance will be provided.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Play / produce / perform music (on guitar) with others;

  2. Communicate (demonstratively, using the instrument, and orally) about music and its performance using widely accepted terminology (e.g. chords, semitones, scales, progression; open / closed fretboard positions);

  3. Read and comprehend a ‘standard’ song chord chart (as found in folk, pop, rock and jazz music traditions);

  4. Demonstrate an appreciation of sound qualities (harmonies) sense of rhythm (timing);

  5. Read a melody line (utilising either notation or tablature).


Core Readings


Selections from the following to be recommended by the tutor after first class:

Graded repertoire and exercise books (Initial Stage, Preliminary Grade & Grade 1) from RGT@LCM (Registry of Guitar Tutors at London College of Music).

Graded repertoire and exercise books (Initial, Preliminary and Grade 1) from Trinity College London: Guitar and Plectrum Guitar Syllabus.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.