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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Jim Schoenbachler, left, practices chords under Jeff Ebnother at Tom’s Guitars in downtown Medford.
Tom’s Guitars instructor Jeff Ebnother says musical instruments can be an enjoyable pastime
After teaching music locally for nearly 30 years, Jeff Ebnother knows that music can come across as “a foreign language” to many people who are learning an instrument for the first time.
And although studying music may be “slow” at first, he hopes his students can appreciate the value of learning a musical instrument.
âWhen you think of music, you can’t eat it, drink it, breathe it,â Ebnother said. âThere is something about music that appeals to humans. It’s been like that since the dawn of time.
He teaches children and adults a range of instruments – electric guitar, bass, banjo and ukulele – at Tom’s Guitars, 1103 N. Riverside Ave., Medford.
Teaching her students in the local store is a full-time job, and Ebnother does it all from within the confines of her own space – with guitar scale posters and former Beatle John Lennon.
Outside of Tom’s, Ebnother oversees a studio in Ashland. Before that he was involved in one in Medford called Musichead.
For Ebnother, who studied music and geography at Southern Oregon University, teaching never got old. This is because it allows him to play and have positive interactions with people.
âCompared to other things, it’s about feeding people, helping people learn something new to them,â Ebnother said.
Where does the desire to play a musical instrument come from? Many of Ebnother’s students had a family member or friend who already knew this.
âMaybe their uncle was playing guitar and he would come over and play, and (they) would experience it and say, ‘Wow! It’s like magic. How do they do that with their fingers? ‘ âEbnother said.
Ebnother noted that even for music students who don’t perform live – like he did – doing it as a hobby requires dedication.
âLike a lot of things, you get out of it what you put in it,â he said. “If you stick with it (and) put in the time, the better you get, the more fun you have.” “
Ebnother recommends that students spend time alone with their instrument – rather than on the couch with a group of friends – to hone the craft.
âTo become a good musician or even study music, it usually happens on your own; you need to have a calm workout time to do it without distraction to maintain your focus, âEbnother said.
When a musician approaches this musical perfection, “it is difficult to express in words” the feeling of accomplishment.
“You say to yourself, ‘Wow! I did it myself, âEbnother said. âI tell people that playing music is like cheap therapy – your problems aren’t going to go away, but they seem to be gone. “
If a player wants to venture out and play, even casually with others, the longtime music teacher recommends some dedication to the technical aspects of music, like learning to read it.
âIt just helps their communication skills when working with other people who play music,â Ebnother said. âIf somebody says, ‘hey, play a B flat chord’â¦ everyone’s on the same page, they’re playing, they’re having fun. That’s why a very basic musicality, I think, is important.
Playing with a group can be a structured activity, much like music lessons. But when it comes to Ebnother, there is nothing wrong with “knotting” – a popular term for musical improvisation.
âYou can start with structures like scales and arpeggios, but from there you have to put a little bit of yourself into it,â Ebnother said. âNoodle with those scales and arpeggios and come up with something that sounds good to your ear. I’m really big on it. You have to let go.
Above all, Ebnother tells his students, “You should always have fun playing music”.
Contact reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.