Tim Lerch is like a mash-up of Bob Ross and Jeff Bridges… if they could play guitar like Ted Greene.
Here’s the quick backstory before I dive into why you should be following and learning from Tim Lerch:
I discovered Lerch as many of us discover so many things these days – on YouTube.
Lerch’s YouTube channel is a deep, dense dive into improvisational jazz/blues, fingerstyle chord-melodies, Telecaster advice, and archtop demos.
Most importantly, though, watching Tim Lerch re-inspired my love for fingerstyle arrangements of jazz standards.
And, fortunately, he has such a wealth of teaching material that converting that inspiration into some meaningful learning was immediate.
Just for a context, here’s a few things about Tim:
He plays a Telecaster (among many other guitars).
There’s a whole school of Telecaster jazz out there. We normally picture jazz and old school blues players with archtops. But there is, in fact, a school of jazz players that favor the Telecaster. The high priest of this lineage is Ted Greene.
Greene was an incredibly influential jazz guitar player and teacher who operated out of the Los Angeles area through the 70s, 80s, and 90s. This article is about Tim, so I don’t want to go too far off track, but it’s worth mentioning that Ted Greene was eccentric, reclusive, and a complete genius at guitar. And he managed to influence entire generations of jazz players ever since.
One student he particularly influenced was Tim Lerch. Lerch was an actual student of Ted’s, and carries on the tradition of rich jazz harmony played on a Telecaster.
If you’re just getting into this style of guitar, Tim’s recommendation (which he elaborates on in this video) is a Fender “Road Word” 50’s Telecaster. They list new for about $1,200, but you can also find them used on Reverb.com for less.
He teaches concepts rather than ‘licks’.
In his teaching and YouTube presence, Lerch stays away from the clickbait titles (e.g “100 guitar riffs that’ll get you the gig!”) and instead shares his deep and thoughtful insights about guitar.
The result is that it shapes how you think about guitar and music in general, as much as it teaches any specific technique or tune.
Also, I find his presentation so relaxing, it’s like watching Bob Ross give painting lessons. Even if you’re not a painter, it’s still great to watch Bob Ross, right? Somehow it’s nice to just listen to him weave together peaceful vibes and random observations on the nature of life.
Same for Tim Lerch.
He’s a great player. Full stop.
Tim Lerch is a widely respected player, with a long history of studio and ‘live’ work. You can see his full credits here. Lerch’s style centers on the jazz/blues genre, though he’s also a key member of the group, “Pearl Django”, which focuses on the gypsy jazz pioneered by Django Reinhardt.
Here are some specific aspects of Tim’s playing that have amazed me personally (so far):
a) His blues playing is inventive.
He’s melodic, tasteful, soulful, and could go on forever without sounding boring. I find that incredible.
It reminds me of listening to Wes Montgomery’s “Gone With The Wind” the first time.
I remember listening and hunching forward in amazement that Wes could keep soloing, chorus after chorus after chorus. And instead of getting repetitive, it got better!
That’s how I felt watching this take of Tim’s.
b) His jazz standards use complex technique, but are completely accessible.
Confession: I struggled to like Joe Pass. The problem is that my first listening experience with him was his solo albums. And his versions were so absracted from the basic tune, that I had hard time accessing them as a new listener.
Tim Lerch is the antithesis. Listening to Tim play Green Dolphin Street is so warm and melodic. It’s enjoyable to listen to even if you’re not a guitar player.
(Note: I should also say I subsequently fell in love with Joe Pass’s playing specifically because of the “Intercontinental” album!)
c) Tim Lerch sings!
His rendition of Sweet Lorraine (performed while doing this instructional video) is great.
Lerch is low key and unassuming in presenting the tune, so it’s easy to miss it. But in fact, it’s really, really good. Especially considering there’s no edits or fixes, it’s just a a start-to-finish ‘live’ take. His tone, pitch, timing, and overall feel – they’re great.
I don’t hear a lot of solo jazz guitar players who can sing the standards as well as play and solo on them. This guy is next level.
So, the big question: How do you listen and learn from Tim Lerch?
Fortunately, there are lots of ways : )
Tim has a number of albums out under his own name, but they aren’t available on streaming services. You have to buy the mp3’s from his website (see link below). You can also listen to his work as part of the group, Pearl Django. He joined in 2015, so check out albums from that year forward.
His YouTube channel is an excellent starting point. Jump in anywhere that looks interesting: lessons, archtop demos, Telecaster advice…it’s all good and of unusually high quality information compared to the norm on YouTube.
Tim has a number of video course available. So, for more structured and long form content, check these out – they all have stellar reviews.
One-on-One Skype lessons
Tim also offers one-on-one Skype lessons by signing up through the guitar.study website run by fellow guitarist, Julian Lage. He has all the prices and details there.
How about you? Got some favorite tunes, gear, or lessons from Tim Lerch? Add ’em to the comments below!