Kenny Smith has been a favorite among flatpickers since he popped up with Claire Lynch in the early-1990s, through his memorable stint with Lonesome River Band, his more recent career with his wife in the Kenny & Amanda Smith Band, and as a founding member of the Band Of Ruhks. Recordings with those groups, and his own solo projects, have established him as a technical master of the steel stringed acoustic guitar, and as a highly musical artist on an instrument often given over to repetitive patterns and stock licks.
Smith is also noted for his skills as an accompanist, in a full band setting and in smaller duo or trio formats, with his thoughtful rhythm guitar drawing attention both in and outside of bluegrass.
As he has gotten older and gained more experience, passing on the knowledge he has accumulated has become more and more important. Kenny enjoys teaching at camps and workshops all over the country, and takes private students at his studio near Nashville. But his latest venture is designed to make it easier for people anywhere in the world to study with this two-time IBMA Guitarist of the Year at their leisure.
The just-launched KennySmithGuitar.com will feature instructional videos from Kenny, along with his reviews of products he uses, interviews with other pickers he admires, and stories about some of the classic vintage guitars he has come across. All the content other than the video instruction is available at no cost, with the lessons priced based on length. This is also the place to order Kenny’s solo projects, and his Flatpicker Inside T-shirts.
When we spoke to him yesterday, Kenny said that he had envisioned a site like this for some time, but didn’t really grasp its full value until something his wife mentioned to him one day.
“I’ve been working on this for a while. It seems like the way everything is going, teaching wise, but it really didn’t click for me right away. I had been doing Skype lessons for a while, when Amanda said that she’d heard a lot of people mention that they get embarrassed sitting across from me. That I intimidated them.
That’s what really made this stick with me, people who are uncomfortable playing in person, or don’t have time for Skype or regular lessons, still want a way to learn from their favorite pickers.”
So he went out and got himself a decent video camera, and started shooting himself playing and teaching. Using iMovie on his Mac, he figured out how to edit them into short instructional pieces that each present specific concepts Kenny thinks will be valuable.
“I’m filming pretty much every week, doing it all myself. Nick DiSebastian is helping with transcriptions. I’m doing all the editing on my computer, but had to learn about lighting and backgrounds when I started. It was a steep learning curve, but I’m getting better at it. Now I’m adding a second camera for the next ones.”
Current plans are for him to add one new video each week. Once you purchase a lesson, you will be able to stream the content from his site anytime, with a downloadable PDF for any transcriptions associated with that lesson. Smith says that he anticipates keeping them in the 20-30 minute range.
The first lesson posted is one he calls 4 Favorite Lines where he teaches four passages he uses to construct and spice up solos. There are two in G, and one each in C and D. It’s priced at $20, less than you would typically pay for a private lesson. Another video is scheduled to go up later this week.
Kenny is also planning a series of videos on rhythm playing, starting at the very beginning, and proceeding along to cover the most common sorts of accompaniment that a bluegrass guitarist or flatpicker will encounter. There will also be lessons where he teaches specific tunes, and encourages site visitors to share their suggestions on his contact page for topics or tunes they would like to see included.
He says he decided against a subscription model for the site, preferring to allow students to simply choose and purchase the content that most appeals to them as they go.
Smith is very interested to flesh out the Flatpicker Inside portion of the site, where product review and interview videos will be posted, and where he will write about his passion for vintage guitars. Look for that to take shape over the next few months.
For now, everyone is invited to stop by at KennySmithGuitar.com, and to return as often as they wish to see what’s been added since the last visit.
You can’t go wrong studying guitar with Kenny Smith.