How to Get the Most out of a Masterclass

If you’re in a major city, or happen to be located near a guitar society or university, you’ve no doubt had guitarists come through. Most of them do masterclasses as well. Maybe you’ve always avoid the masterclass–thinking it more for younger students. Let me tell you: stop it. Masterclasses are a great opportunities to pick up a few valuable tips, and you don’t have to play for the artists to get the most out of it.

What’s a Masterclass Anyway?

A masterclass is like a public lesson. A student and the artist are up on stage. After the student plays a piece, the professional guitarist gives them a lesson on it. Most of the time each student will get about a half hour. There might be four to six students (or more, depending on the situation).

People generally play in masterclasses both to get the advice a performer may give and to have something to put on their resume.

The best part about a masterclasses is that they’re usually free to audit. Anyone can walk in, watch, listen, and take notes. The audience is the best place to be anyway.

Why It’s Better to Observe Than Play

The stress of a performance situation combined with getting a lesson makes masterclasses relatively intense experiences for the folks on stage. It’s hard to take notes and remember everything while you’re on stage. The end result is you may get a few things, but you may also miss a lot of things just because of memory limitations. If you’re a college student or want to a professional guitarist, however, you should still seek out as many masterclass opportunities as possible.

I’ve played for and audited a lot of masterclasses, and every time I’ve been to a masterclass I’ve gotten more out of my time in the audience than my time on stage.

Make the Most of an Audience Seat

First off, take notes. Be sure to indicate what piece and composer each person plays.

Try to take notes in two categories: (1) piece-specific notes on fingerings, technical issues, and interpretive thoughts, and (2) general, big-picture advice. Most performers will give both.

After the class, try to take a look at some of music at home. Try to extract more big picture stuff from the piece-specific notes, and do some serious thinking how to apply the advice you’ve received. Almost every bit of interpretive or technical advice given can be distilled into a big-picture sort of thing. It’s just a matter of finding it.

Posted on in Classical Guitar Tips


  • Tony

    Thank you kindly for the advice.

    I have a master class next Monday and I would be dishonest to say that I am not worried. I have already started getting the butterflies, and memory

    But, regardless of how I play (a Brazilian lullaby) I feel fortunate as a late starter with the classical guitar to have such an opportunity. Just such a great chance to learn from the ‘best’ and hopefully improve.

    I just need a pre-nerv exercise!

    Thank again.