Skype and artist Shane Scarazzini compose virtual guitar lessons

“I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions.” – B.B. King

The King of the Blues and today’s guest writer have that in common. Hailing from the Hudson Valley, NY, guitar player and artist Shane Scarazzini is a widely versatile musician whose music is rooted in blues, country and rock. Crediting his two biggest influences as Les Paul and B.B. King, Shane’s professional career launched in 2011 when he began performing as a regular guest with his hero’s oldest son, Rusty Paul. Since then, he’s performed all over the U.S. with a variety of Nashville-based acts. He recently made debut in theater as a cast member of the award-winning Hank & My Honky Tonk Heroes musical, written in homage to country legend Hank Williams—and is about to launch his own trio The Shane Scarazzini Band.

With all of the above and over 150 shows per year, Shane still finds time to share his passion for the guitar with his music students and teaches them from wherever he is over Skype. Here is Shane’s Skype story.

Shane Scarazzini Photograph by Amanda Monahan

Turning a childhood interest into a profession

As a young child at home, I was always listening to music, whether it was the radio or my parent’s music collection. I remember my brother giving me a trash bag full of cassette tapes that he was about to get rid of… and I was in heaven. This definitely sparked my desire to start creating music myself. However, after fumbling unsuccessfully with the trumpet, I was a bit discouraged in my efforts.

That is, until I heard B.B. King for the first time when I was about 13. He could make his guitar cry, sing, complain, weep… it was incredible. At that moment, all I could think about was how to make a guitar sound as beautiful as B.B. made his sound. So off I went, with a cheap acoustic guitar that hurt my fingers to play, and a B.B. King CD on repeat. I worked with an instructor for about three years, which definitely helped me start to find my identity on the guitar.

What really made me decide to pursue the guitar as a profession, was the profound effect that music was beginning to have on every aspect of my life. Suddenly I had this way of bringing my emotions to life in the form of music. Everything I experienced on a day to day basis; everything I felt and every new place I visited made me hear some kind of music in my head that I could then translate with my guitar.

I tend to approach playing guitar like one would approach meditation—dismissing your thoughts and simply allowing yourself to feel what you feel in the moment. As a largely improvisational guitarist, I find that shutting off my thoughts allows me to be “honest” with what I play—it comes from my heart. When I began to perform in front of audiences, it was easy to see that playing music was spreading joy to the people who listened. Moving people with music is a feeling I thrive off. I knew I had found my purpose and that purpose was the guitar.

Teaching the guitar over Skype

I started using Skype several years ago to keep in touch with family from far away, and found that the interface was very user friendly and easy to understand. The Skype lessons are actually a very new endeavor, but are serving to carry on a teaching career that I have sustained over the last five years. Students who have worked with me in a studio setting can now continue their instruction virtually with Skype.

The platform allows me to keep my students organized and provide them with a positive experience.
When I started getting busier and busier with touring and performing with different bands, it became difficult to maintain a steady lesson schedule in a physical environment like a studio. Skype allows me to teach lessons from anywhere in the world and also provides the same benefit to the students who enroll in my lessons. This is especially helpful to those who may not have access to transportation or are otherwise unable to get to a music shop or studio for lessons. Skype infinitely increases the convenience, flexibility, and freedom of participating in guitar lessons.

Shane ScarazziniPhotograph by Amanda Monahan

What a Skype guitar lesson looks like

The first thing I will do, before beginning a session, is ask the student to give me an idea of their individual goals or the topics they would like to learn about. This is part of the sign-up form on my website. I will then write a personalized lecture for them, or a curriculum if the student is planning on taking multiple lessons. That way, we can dive right into the topic once the call is in progress and we have said hello.

I treat a Skype lesson as if we were sitting in an actual room together—I may demonstrate an idea or a technique and ask the student to play it back to me at the best of his or her ability and examine their playing to offer feedback, or pin point any struggles they may be having. The student is free to pause and ask questions at any point during the lesson and I will always follow up with the student at the end of each lesson to discuss the progress we have made together and determine where we’ll go from that point on.

Aside from video calling, another feature I use that is very helpful and enriching to the lessons, is the ability to send files and other media mid-lesson. For example, I can create charts or other resources specific to a particular lecture, and pass them on to the student instantly, maximizing the efficiency and longevity of the lesson.

A couple of memorable teaching moments

A student who had been with me for several years began bringing lists of songs to our lessons that he wanted some help learning. They were some pretty funky songs and we had a lot of fun with them. Then one night, I stopped into a local restaurant—and there he was, playing guitar in a full band, dressed to the nines and rocking the socks off those songs we worked on. It was coolest feeling, and I was so happy for him.

On another occasion, I was on the road, performing all week at a small club in North Dakota. The accommodations for the band on this particular gig were, well, different for sure. On the outside it was a gas station with the gas pumps removed. It looked abandoned, and not very welcoming. On the inside was an elaborate, nicely trimmed home. This abandoned gas station had been converted into a clean, very livable house complete with three bedrooms. It turned out to be a great, comfortable place to administer a lesson when we weren’t on stage in the evening.

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