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In the early days...

Cliff Smith Guitar Lessons, Cliff in the early days

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University and after...


In the early days

Cliff in the early days

Born in London, I began playing the guitar at around age eight. My older brother played in a punk band, and there were several guitars knocking around the house. Inspired by this, I enrolled for guitar lessons at school. I studied classical guitar for a couple of years, but the music didn’t excite me and I eventually lost interest.

I did, however, enjoy thrashing around on my brother’s electric guitar at home, and after a while he got so sick of the racket I was making that he decided to teach me some chords. I remember learning ‘Let It Be’ and playing it to death for about a year.

We had The Beatles Complete songbook at home, a Bob Dylan songbook and an electric organ. I used to fiddle around on the organ and guitar and managed to get a few songs together. Years later, I discovered that many of the chords in my songbooks were incorrect. But, like most beginners, at the time I assumed that I was just doing something wrong.

I toughened my fingers up a bit on my brothers electric guitar before moving on to his acoustic, twelve string and bass. I got my fair share of blisters and spilled some blood in the process.

On starting secondary school in London I was provided with electric guitar lessons. These lessons (and the great teacher I had) combined with my newly discovered passion for sixties & seventies rock (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Beatles etc.) set me firmly on the path to a career in music – I loved it too much to spend the rest of my life doing anything else. In my second year I started my first band, playing my own compositions. I continued playing throughout my schooldays and found it a great release for my substantial teen angst…

Lessons, more lessons and some Rock 'n Roll!

On leaving school I studied piano, electric guitar, classical guitar, folk guitar, percussion, music theory and songwriting at Morley College, London (where I was later to become the tutor for both the classical and folk guitar courses).

I also started another band, The Glass Tears, a psychedelic rock outfit playing our own original songs. During my time with the Tears, I was also making a living from busking on the London Underground and in London’s Leicester Square. It was during this time that I began my guitar teaching career, as people would stop me and ask for lessons.

I then joined rock band Hog as lead Guitarist, playing many gigs on the London scene. Resolving to study music in more depth, I enrolled on an intensive music course at Merton College, Greater London.

During my studies I joined the Pandemonium steel-pan jazz-rock orchestra as lead guitarist, playing some fun gigs, including the Radio One Roadshow. I was also playing in a jazz duo with a pianist, and teaching guitar voluntarily in London primary and secondary schools to gain some experience in teaching children.

University and after

I went on to complete a classical music degree at Kingston University, specialising in performance and composition. I sang tenor in the choir, learned how to write for orchestra, and I had a great guitar teacher: Grahame Klippel. I now proudly put BMus(Hons) after my name – I worked hard for it!

I spent many years performing with rock bands, mainly The Forgers Cover Band and Ultimate Beatles. I sang lead and backing vocals in addition to playing lead, rhythm, bass and synthesizer guitar. I performed extensively with these bands and others across the UK and Europe, Lebanon and Australia.

Performing in Beirut in the summer of 2012, just as the Syrian conflict was erupting, was a very moving experience for me.


I retired from all of my bands a few years back, to focus on teaching full-time. I teach adults and children online via Zoom, and I have pupils in many different countries. I enjoy the challenge of igniting a spark in my pupils and inspiring them to reach their full potential.

When I’m not teaching, I create YouTube videos (lessons, reviews, performances) and backing tracks (available on Bandcamp).

One day, I look forward to having enough time to start practicing the piano again, and take up the mandolin…

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