Music educator maintains light touch when teaching

Guitarist Greg Koch is serious about music, although you wouldn't know it by listening to him.


A musician, clinician and music educator, Mr. Koch has parlayed his expertise and an irreverent personality into a cottage industry. He wrote an instructional manual for the Hal Leonard company, serves as the primary pick-wielding pitch man for Fender guitars, and tours with his band Nation Sack. Unlike many guitar gurus, Mr. Koch believes in approaching music through humor.

He will appear downtown at Rock Bottom Music at 7 tonight.

His workshops, videos and performances showcase his ability to improvise verbally and musically. He said the humor isn't a device or affectation, but rather the lack of one.

"It's just the way I am," he said in a recent telephone interview. "For me, it would be an act to play it straight. A lot of guitar players take themselves way too seriously. But if I was that uptight, I would end up institutionalized."

Mr. Koch's early inspiration came from Jimi Hendrix. In Hendrix he recognized the pure potential of the electric guitar. Mr. Koch said that although there are still moments of Hendrix-style playing in his music, songs such as Purple Haze are the foundation from which he has been able to build an appreciation of varied guitar styles and forms.

During his demonstrations, Mr. Koch often follows fast-picked country with deep blues or segues raucous rock into tasteful jazz riffing. He said part of his mission is not just demonstrating technique but also turning young players on to the history and diversity of guitar music.

He said it is important for people to understand that most music is the amalgamation of earlier ideas.

"I'm really hyper-sensitive to that," he said. "A lot of people talk about Stevie Ray Vaughan as this great innovator. That's not true. He was a great culminator. When he was playing a slow blues, for instance, he was playing Albert King. It's important that people realize where that stuff was coming from."

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WHAT: Greg Koch

WHEN: 7 tonight

WHERE: Rock Bottom Music, 758 Broad St.

COST: Free