Spotlight On: Chris Brenne

May 5, 2023

Chris b guitar back cover image

What inspires you to play guitar?

In a word; it makes me feel better. It’s partly a meditative state which calms the mind, a tactile sense of moving air and muscle that stems from impulses of one’s own mind which probably releases endorphins, the satisfaction of having worked on some music, technique, or song, and it comes out in a good way. There is also another dimension when you combine with others; it’s a shot of joy playing with people and hearing the connection between the musicians in real-time that results in a satisfying soundscape. I love playing melodies and I love backing up a singer with chords or fills. It’s something else altogether; hearing other musicians playing and having fun, expressing emotions, and creating makes me want to as well – always did.

Who are your favorite guitar players and why?

There is an ever-changing lineup. I like most kinds of music styles so I gravitate towards players that command different styles. Currently I listen mostly to Guthrie Govan. He, to me, feels so far ahead of everyone else. His ability, both technically and mentally, is gobsmacking. He seems to pick all the right notes at the right times, create excitement, and he blows you away with sheer technical ability. I also really like Lari Basilio, for much the same reasons. Both have a great sense of tone and melody but can rip a phrase quite smartly. There’s Beck, so sad of his passing, who takes old songs and makes them new. Another king of tone! Others are Pat Metheny. His early works inspired a lifetime of passion for playing. He, probably more than anyone, inspired me to move to Boston for music school. There’s Pierre Bensusan with his unmatched acoustic solo compositions. I could go on and on!

What is the most important lesson you tell your students about playing guitar?

Enjoy! If you’re not having fun, it’s pointless. It’s hard in the early stages as everything is a struggle. Learning the first few chords and songs takes effort but there is so much music that can be played and enjoyed by knowing only a few basic chords and strums.

What have you learned from your students about the art of teaching guitar in the decades that you taught at CCAE?

Lots. I feel like I learn something every time. I’ve learned to walk them through all the things I ask them to do. In that respect my classes are as much an exercise routine as information. Come back to things and repeat. Go slower. Ask what they need. Make them part of the classroom by encouraging participation. Allow them to express needs or simply help explain something they only grasped themselves a minute earlier. In the end, I’m probably a totally different teacher than what I was when I started at CCAE. Hopefully better!