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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

7063 reviews in the archive.

Ira Gitlin Teacher Reviews

Submitted by Monster1971 (see all reviews from this person) on 12/29/2015

Overall Comments

This is repetitive as expected as with the other reviews of Ira. If I could describe Ira w/ one word it would be Dynamic.  It has been one year since I first started taking lessons w/ Ira and I feel pretty lucky. He offers two separate locations which is helpful (one in MD and one in VA) and I have been to both. He teaches the Wernick Method and every lesson he has both his Banjo and Guitar. When he pulls out that guitar and starts to sing, we actually jam together........or rather he is very patient and provides guidance and lessons while I am trying to jam with him, following the chords.  I cannot over emphasize how patient Ira is with me and my blank stares have to sometimes cause him concern but he doesn't let on. He walks me through each new lesson while being patient balancing both, allowing me to fail a few times, with providing guidance. He's pulled up songs trying to get me to understand or hear that certain lick that Earl or a Bluegrass Boy was playing. During the lesson he wants you to learn the music by listening rather than tablature. Because of this I feel I lean on tablature much less than at the beginning of my banjo journey. Most lessons build upon another and before I know it I am mixing up licks from songs, attempting to play breaks, and mixing rolls and chords. He sometimes launches into a Bluegrass history lesson to put perspective around a certain sound. I have to assume not many can do that. I walk away from each lesson with that feeling that I almost have it and with a little more  practice I can nail it. I have never felt uncomfortable by the tempo of his lesson. I am assuming, because of his years of experience he can sense how much to push during each lesson. At the end of each lesson he summarizes the lesson w/ a walkthrough that I record and can reference when home practicing. He has responded to my emails for additional understanding.

A little background:

After the teacher search in the MD/DC/VA area I did find Ira's listing but didn't take the leap at first due to the distance from my home. I first started this journey (w/ pretty much no music experience at all) by taking an initial 30 minute class w/ an instructor at Guitar Center, which she so politely told me that I didn't need pics to play Scrugg style. Feeling confused, I moved on to an instructor at a local music store closer to my house and w/ a Groupon took 4 (30 minute) lessons. This instructor was a good guy but something just didn't feel right. I don't know if it was the fact that his lesson consisted of flipping through a Banjo book or it was only a 30 minute lesson. It just felt so stiff and I always had this unsatisfied feeling once the lesson ended. Not knowing anything about teaching Banjo myself, I pretty much thought that it wasn't much different than just following along in a book.....I got the feeling that I could just get by on my own. I told myself I would give it one more try and decided to give in to the one hour drive (one way) and I called Ira and set up that first lesson.

Wow, I am sure glad Ira had openings. I still remember my first lesson. After the initial meet and greet and background basics, he grabs his guitar and asked, show me what you can play. After a blank stare wondering why he is holding a guitar I launch into my rolls and did a hatchet job of Cripple Creek. I don't mind the commute to Ira's lesson b/c I honestly feel that I get my money's worth.

My banjo journey started w/ me wanting to learn 10 songs. After 3 months I could get by w/ playing three songs and learning those other seven have now taken a backseat thanks to Ira. He has helped open my eyes to what it means to play the banjo. One day I will get around to learning to play those seven songs, in the meantime I will be learning to just play the banjo. Thanks Ira.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by coalcracker2 (see all reviews from this person) on 7/26/2014

Overall Comments

At the risk of sounding repetitive I would like to re-acknowledge the lauds/praises given to Ira Gitlin as a "phenomenal" banjo teacher, historian, and picker, (not necessarily in that order). As I mentioned in a previous forum, I'm not sure if there is a patron saint of "patience", but if not,  Ira would definitely qualify as a primary candidate as substantiated by the instruction he endures and provides me. Despite my frequent blundering and often accompanied line of "duh" newbie questions (and blank stares), Ira continues to motivate, inspire, challenge, and provide continuous positive feedback regardless of the circumstances. His instructional sessions additionally incorporate relative historical perspectives, an abundance of helpful techniques/strategies (and musical tricks of the trade), and sharing of interesting personal experiences. As such, I have learned more and advanced further in a relatively short period of time than any of my  previous attempts at learning to play banjo. A truly "bonafide-certified" banjo teacher is someone who is capable of ensuring consistent positive forward progress while maintaining a high level of motivation and interest in their students This stands true for any gifted educator. Ira Gitlin undoubtedly epitomizes the qualities of such a teacher and I very highly recommend his services if you are fortunate to be located in his instructional area.


Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by RTWhite (see all reviews from this person) on 5/23/2014

Overall Comments

I considered starting the banjo in late 2013 (after some research, I decided the five-string bluegrass style is what I was looking for). While my Hatfield was being built I tried to get some exposure to the bluegrass world in the Washington, D.C., area. As the completion date of my banjo neared I realized I needed to find a teacher. A quick google search yielded "Ira Gitlin" but, not trusting everything I find on the internet, I continued to search; I still had some time to make a decision.

Event after event, I would corner banjo players in D.C. and ask them if they had any recommendations for instructors, and each time I was directed to Ira Gitlin.

Having done my due diligence, I contacted Ira and set up my first lesson, a Tuesday following the Friday I picked up my banjo from Arthur Hatfield.

To say I was new to the banjo was an understatement. I had read Bill Evans' "Banjo for Dummies" and Earl Scruggs book. I watched Steve Martin's "Bring Me the Banjo." I had practiced roll patterns on my Jack Hatfield banjo board for months. And, finally, I had frequented the Banjo Hangout. I did my research, but putting pick to string, well, that would be a new sensation.

And that's where Ira came in. I knew I was bad, but Ira, being the great teacher he is, focused on the things I did right.  He would highlight positive instinctive actions I took, without ignoring what I did wrong. He asked me what I wanted out of the banjo. Did I want to play alone or with people? With people!  Well, great, Ira would teach me how to read the actions of other members of a band, and how to fit in, as a banjo player. Oh yeah, and Ira can really play (he's also great on guitar). You can tell he enjoys what he does.

But sometimes playing isn't enough.  Ira's also very smart. He knows a lot about a lot, and not in the annoying "I'm a know it all" way, but the kind of knowledge you want to sit down in pick (pun intended) someone's brain for. I think Ira has a mathematical approach to many things he does (that's just through my observation) so he gets past the magic of the banjo and hits the science of it. Being new to the bluegrass world, I had and still have a lot to learn, but Ira knows so much history and theory behind the music that I learn as much about the culture and past as I do about actually playing. I personally think that understanding is helpful when you really take on the instrument.  Sure it's metal and wood and bone.... but banjos also have a history, and they're part of a story.

So as folks did for me, if you're in the D.C. area and looking for a banjo instructor for any level of experience, I 100% recommend Ira Gitlin. I started my weekly lessons in February and I've gone once a week since.

Overall Rating: 10

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