The History of The Smith Method

Early in Doug Smith’s teaching career he began working with adults, teens and children interested in playing all styles of popular and classical guitar. From 1974–1985, Smith chaired the Guitar Department at MacPhail Center for the Arts, which was then part of the University of Minnesota. During this time, Smith did extensive work with children. Through his innovative teaching methods, Smith made several discoveries and he was able to create a methodology that allowed children to develop excellent skill and musicianship. Over time, Smith and fellow guitar teachers Jack McNally, John Schubert , Cliff Suchy and others built the Young Peoples Guitar Program at MacPhail, which served  as a model for the rest of the country.

From 1979–1989 Smith gave workshops and seminars throughout the country and abroad that inspired other guitar teachers to consider the potential of starting guitar programs for children. Presentations on The Smith Method were given to The Music Educators National Conference, The American String Teachers Association, The Guitar Foundation of America, The European Guitar Teachers Association and at various educational institutions throughout the United States.

Classical Guitar for Young Children, A Rote Learning Approach by Doug Smith was published by Cavata Music Publishing and became a best selling guitar publication for the Theodore Presser Company (the book eventually went out of circulation when Cavata ceased publishing). In the meantime, Smith and Jack McNally founded McNally Smith College of Music, which over the last 24 years has grown into a leading institution for teaching contemporary popular music. McNally Smith offers Bachelors Degrees in music performance, music business, music production, music composition, as well as associate degrees in recording engineering.  The Smith Method is studied as part of the Guitar Pedagogy class.

McNally Smith College is now pleased to be able to share with the general public the extensive creative work and educational research of one of its founders. Indeed the college itself is an example of the philosophy of the Smith Method brought to fruition in the creative culture and musical activities of its students. In a very real sense, the college is an outgrowth of what originally began as an excellent program for teaching children to play guitar. Now the complete scope of original music and methods developed in Doug Smith’s teaching practice are made available for other teachers and guitarists to explore. It is hoped that this legacy in music and education will eventually find a place of acceptance in the greater world of guitar study.