With Sebastian Jorgensen, Montsalvat, 1977

                                                                                                       With Sebastian Jorgensen, Montsalvat, 1977

John Williams:

“I highly recommend Phillip Houghton who is one of the very few guitar teachers anywhere who understands and can explain the all important connection between body posture, hand positions and technique for making music on the guitar; combined with his understanding of music and his gentle and perceptive manner, this makes him a great teacher for all levels of students and professionals.”
Benjamin Verdery: Professor of Guitar, Yale School of Music

“He or she who has the good fortune of studying the guitar with Phillip Houghton will gain a kind of insight and knowledge about the instrument and themselves that is ineffable. As a composer Phil will guide the student to learn the given piece from the inside out.
In addition, Phil is very sensitive to the fact that as individuals what may
work for one technically may not necessarily work for the other. His knowledge of the instrument and how we relate to it physically is on the highest level. It is a unique opportunity to be able to study with such a towering artist. I only wish he lived closer
so that I could study with him!!!!”
Slava Grigoryan:

“ Phillip Houghton is one of the most inspiring figures in the guitar world. His extra-ordinary understanding of the instrument and utterly unique sense of colour, tone and phrasing place him in the rarest category of guitar luminaries. I recommend Phil as a teacher for all guitarists- from beginners to concert performers, he inspires and brings
out the best in everyone.”
Karin Schaupp:

“Phil Houghton is truly a musical treasure for guitarists. He is not only a wonderful composer, but also a deeply insightful teacher and an innovative philosophical thinker
on music and the artistic process.”
Tim Kain: OAM, Associate Professor, Head of Guitar,
Australian National University School of Music (1982-2012):

“Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working at the tertiary level with three of Phillip Houghton’s previous students and they have all been exceptional in their technical ease and freedom on the instrument. Phillip’s innovative teaching approach had allowed one
of these students to be entirely cured of physical injury caused by bad playing habits.

I highly recommend Phillip Houghton’s teaching to anyone wanting to learn guitar or improve their skills at whatever level, from beginning child to aspiring virtuoso.

More than learning guitar, lessons with Phillip Houghton means spending time with one
of the most insightful, creative and supportive musicians in the guitar world anywhere.
As a guitar composer he has created his own unique sound and emotional world which is as distinctive, idiomatic and beautiful as that of a Brouwer, Villa-Lobos or Barrios.
Gosh, I think I might get some lessons myself!”

Stephen Goss ,composer & performer; Professor of Composition, Director of the International Guitar Research Centre, University of Surrey; Professor of Guitar,
Royal Academy of Music, London:

“Phil Houghton is an extraordinary composer, musician, and teacher. He is really imaginative and inspiring when he teaches. Ideas come in from the outside influences of his wide knowledge of music, the arts, philosophy, and many other disciplines. He is a complete musician and something of a Renaissance man. He is great at motivating students and firing their enthusiasm. I would wholeheartedly recommend Phil as a teacher. I wish I’d studied with him.”

                                          Phil drawing at a river 1991.

                                          Phil drawing at a river 1991.

Dr Zane Banks, Guitarist, Educator:

“Studying classical guitar with Phillip Houghton was a professionally enriching experience that opened my eyes to the crucial importance of technique to musical performance and interpretation. My playing greatly improved under Phillip’s tutorage; from the beginning he gave me a nail shape, posture and a set of right/left-hand exercises tailored to focus on the areas on which I need to address. With this new set of physical actions shown to me by Phillip, my tone, articulation and speed were transformed enabling me to execute any of the repertoire in the classical guitar oeuvre.

Phillip’s attention to detail and his ability to solve problems with students’ techniques is inspiring. In my time learning with Phillip I witnessed him working with several students who were struggling with technique and muscular problems. Each and every one made a full recovery due to Phillip’s use of leverage, minimal muscular effort from body
preparation to finger actions.

I draw on the information regarding leverage and technique that I learned from Phillip between 2003-2011 in all of my musical endeavors, be it in classical guitar, electric guitar,
acoustic steel-string guitar or bluegrass banjo.”
James Holland, Lute, Music Educator, Paris:

“When I went to Phil for lessons in 2004-2005 I had some serious problems with tension in both my hands, but particularly the right. I couldn’t even hold my hand up without it shaking. Phil took me back to the basic principles behind plucking a note, using the natural reflex of the finger, letting it come back after a pluck and rebuilt my technique slowly from there. I will never forget the day I came to Phil’s place a few months later and proudly showed him my shake-free hand.

Over the next year, Phil taught me guitar and also lute and theorbo, and how to use leverage in my body to create more gentle movement. I have since moved to the dark side
(now a lute player), but I have had no injury since and regularly use techniques Phil showed me in my own teaching.”
Joe Littlefield, Musician and Educator:

“Phillip Houghton has been my teacher for 7 years and his teaching has greatly improved my playing. Phil’s application of leverage has helped my technique immeasurably, allowing me to achieve good positioning, well controlled notes and a sense of flow between positions with optimal ease. This is essential for good music making and put my imagination into practice. We have applied these principles to a large variety of repertoire
from Bach, Rodrigo and Britten to my transcriptions of Gyorgy Ligeti and Henry Purcell.”
Jesse Flowers, Akademie fur Tonkunst Darmstadt; performer:

“I studied classical guitar with Phillip Houghton in 2012-2013. Phil teaches his students to leverage their bodies so that they use less unnecessary muscular force while playing. By also patiently working in detail on the fundamental movements of the right and left hands, as well as a balanced sitting position, Phil helped me build the foundations of technique that allowed me to play without tension and pain.

Once the foundation had been laid, I found that I was able to play with more musical freedom and a new range of tone colours. I highly recommend Phil as a teacher, and still have sessions with him whenever I’m back in Australia.”
Andrey Lebedev, Royal Academy of Music, London; performer:

“My experiences working with Phillip Houghton have always been brilliant! He has a unique understanding of the physical elements involved in guitar technique which I’ve found hugely beneficial to my own playing.

His insight ranges from addressing my using leverage, movement, resistant force, and
balance, - to specific issues in pieces such as fingerings, finger-sequences, pivots, rhythmic lifting, smoother shifts and sound quality. Although we don’t get to work together as often as I would like, each lesson is gold and my playing has never felt more fluent. On top of his fantastic understanding, he is also a very patient, empathetic and inspiring teacher.”

                                                                                                 1989, Bayswater, photo taken by Tony Lawrence

                                                                                                 1989, Bayswater, photo taken by Tony Lawrence

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Regarding the above recommendations not all are ‘full endorsements’. Each player and teacher has their own view on guitar technique and music-making, as do I. I am very grateful for their kind remarks. Thank you everyone!

Phillip Houghton 2015

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Having grown up on lots of rock music, in the 1970s I came up with this little saying to help me simplify the ‘new world’ of classical music that I fell into:

Rhythm is king, Sound is queen and Music is their baby.

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I have taught the classical guitar since 1977, teaching privately and in schools and conservatoriums, helping players to prepare for exams and recitals from the early grades up to PhD and professional level and also coaching ensemble and chamber groups (amateur and professional).

I currently live in Melbourne where I teach privately, placing a lot of importance on the imagination and physical comfort of the player, the exploration of all styles of music (classical, world, folk, jazz, ancient), phrasing, interpretation and good articulation in rhythm, sound, dynamics, colour, voicing and line.

However my prime focus is on the basis of technique (mechanical skill) and how it relates to making music : how we are built and what forces we use, posture, breathing, balance, positioning and movement, reflexes, stamina, fluency and the prevention of injury. Injury can occur if we ’fight’ the guitar but we are really only fighting ourselves/our inbuilt nature.

To help players avoid or overcome injury, I teach a technique that is based on leverage which is a natural way of moving that uses the lowest muscle-force as is necessary. This allows us to adjust and position our weight lightly and easily, to use resistant-force effectively and achieve good balance throughout the body from feet to hands.

 With a smooth and more efficient technique, music-making becomes more enjoyable and players can explore the poetry of colour, rhythm and sound with a new found freedom and sense of discovery.

“Observe nature and learn. Watch a bird as it lands on a slender branch. See how it gently adjusts its weight to the nature of its perch. This is how you should approach the guitar": Len Williams (John Williams’ father and teacher) advising a ‘gloriously unmusical’ student how to play, in London 1950s. This quote is from the book Strings Attached, the Life and Music of  John Williams, pages 79 & 80, author William Starling, publisher The Robson Press.  Copyright William Starling 2012. Used with kind permission.

I have also helped lute, jazz, rock and metal players with technique and their injuries: all different techniques but all can look into leverage for beneficial results.

Beginners to advanced players are welcome to enquire about lessons. Please see the form at the end of this page.

                                                                                                      London 2015. Photo taken by Stephen Goss

                                                                                                      London 2015. Photo taken by Stephen Goss

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                 During Light on the Edge recording sessions 1995

                 During Light on the Edge recording sessions 1995

 

 

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