The Ed Sheeran Effect

The Ed Sheeran Effect

How one man with an acoustic guitar changed guitar lessons forever...

From each generation there emerges a small group of bands and artists who define the music young people listen to. The music the inspires these young people to pick up a guitar, start writing lyrics and sing them. The music, dare I say, that encourages them to take music lessons with professional music teachers - driven by a passion for playing along with the music that they love.

Almost every guitar students who walked through the door when I started teaching the guitar wanted to know how to play power chords, fast-picked guitar riffs and how to use an overdrive pedal. Nirvana, Green Day and Blink-182’s music shape these interests by students to understand and play the guitar in this way. This continued during the 2000s, with bands like Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines and Foo Fighters being popular choices for songs from students.

Fast forward to the present day - how times have changed! With the “Ed Sheeran Effect” completely re-focusing the skill sets that young guitarists wish to build up. Rhythmic acoustic playing, percussive guitar techniques and gaining an understanding of how to use a loop pedal have superseded young guitarists interest in an overdrive, grungy guitar sound. While this is no bad thing to does signify a change in student interests.

A good friend of mine and fellow guitar teacher Andrew Oxley was the first to notice and inform me of the “Ed Sheeran Effect”. Andrew, who set up Guitar Lessons Sheffield in 2014 and coined the phrase, explained to me how important it has been in recent years to recognise this shift and prepare as a guitar teacher for it. This shift is more than students simply wanting to play the popular songs of the day from a range of bands. Instead, it is that students wish to approach playing the guitar from a very different style. Their learning requirements and interests have changed, with overdrive power chord riffs being less of interest than learning percussive guitar sounds.

While we as music teachers often take a holistic approach to teaching, giving students a wide range of different playing techniques for the “toolbox”, it is interesting to see how the balance of the techniques called upon has changed in complexion. Indeed, in some cases, it might require a music teacher to retrain themselves on these stylistic approaches and techniques.

While there is little doubt that the “Ed Sheeran Effect” is here to stay, at least for another few years, as professional music teachers noticing and understanding these subtle shifts in students requirements and interests is really important for us to stay relevant. After all, when the “Ed Sheeran Effect” is on the wane perhaps we will see the rise of a different complexion of skills a student wants to learn. If I am lucky, it might even mean I can my overdrive guitar pedals back out again!

Author - Matthew Rusk

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