COACHING - Music and More






Privately or for Groups (Ask for details on group workshops)


Live in Person or Live Online (Live Online has Limitations)



I've taught both privately and in the classroom (in schools from Pre-K to College, in classes and through workshops). I have been a working musician, recording artist, entrepreneur, and teacher for more than 25 years. I have a degree in music from Columbia College Chicago (Summa Cum Laude). My students have included everyone from absolute beginners to working professionals like myself. Many of my past intermediate and beginning students have gone on to careers in music. Many have come to me after establishing themselves professionally.

My approach in private instruction involves tailoring the lessons to the specific needs of each student, while making sure that he/she has the knowledge and technique that's most useful to succeed in their creative endeavors. Whether you approach music as a hobby, a potential career, or are already working in the field, I seek to leave nothing out.

To this day, I continue to work at building the most effective approach to music education. It's a never ending process and I delight in the prospect of continued growth in this field.





House Call Lessons•    $95 per hour



I come to your residence or place of work and provide instruction in guitar or voice. I make house calls primarily on Saturdays and cover an area spanning Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood into the South Loop. 




Songwriting Coaching (Private Workshop)   •    $150 for 90 minutes



This is an intensive session that will follow my having listened to some material you’re working on for the sake of reference. It’s recommended that you have some songs at least started.


Songwriting is tricky, there’s no question. There are certainly many approaches and several include the standard formulaic approach. The real questions hinge on whether your’e tapping into your unique creative voice and telling your story with 100% honesty. After leading from the right brain with some level of comfort, we begin to look at ways to build structure around your initial ideas. We’ll deal with writer’s block, repetitiveness, melodic structures, to bridge or not to bridge, actually finishing that song, and can even talk about collaboration. 




Audition Prep   •    $75 per hour



Auditions can be frightening. We place everything in the hands of a perceived gatekeeper. We don’t need to. Change your mindset. Learn how to control the space you’re in, how to use nerves to your advantage, and how to get into that performance mindset from the first note. You’re truly the gatekeeper when you open the doors with your authenticity and mind-blowing performance. When others bring you in, you owe it to them and yourself to give it your all. Every time. Without question. Don’t wing it. Be prepared.




Music Performance Coaching   •    $75 per hour



Your performance is just that: YOUR performance. There’s no better way to ramp up your stage presence than to make the space and the music your own in that moment. Are there gimmicks and showy, flashy things you can do to add a little something? Certainly. If it’s appropriate to who you are. But if you overdo it or phone it in, you’ll lose your audience every time. What if you’re an introvert? That can actually give you an advantage. Whoever you are off stage, we’ll make your natural personality traits part of who you are on stage. Authenticity and expertise will work every time. We’ll find your true stage persona.




Guitar Lessons   •    $65 per hour



I’ve worked with everyone from absolute beginners to working professionals like myself. If you’re experienced, I work with you to make sure there are no holes in your existing knowledge. Then we tailor the lessons to filling in any gaps and getting you to a point of knowing the entire fretboard with confidence and comfort. If you’re a beginner, the same goal applies, but we’ll start with some basic exercises and chord progressions (songs) designed to develop strength and control. And yes, we work on theory. All of my students learn to read music for the guitar through a fairly easy to handle and applicable approach. We also work at length on improvisation with a foundation in blues. This will apply to any style, as will everything we approach. Take the mystery out of the fretboard and find your style. 




Voice Lessons   •    $65 per hour



I provide coaching in contemporary voice. I’ve worked with everyone from absolute beginners to working professionals like myself. My specialty lies in helping you develop the unique qualities of your voice. Coupled with standard vocal exercises, this will help you find a wider range of pitch and interpretation. Let’s find your true voice.




Artist Business Coaching   •    $150 for 90 minutes



This intensive session will typically follow my having looked over your activity online and listened to your work to gain a sense of what you may or may not have a handle on where the business of music is concerned. I can also help artists outside of the music world. I will dig deeply into mindset training to get you comfortable with being an entrepreneur and finding the ability to step back and objectively determine what the best business moves may be for your long term goals. We will look at creative and business goals. We’ll check in with each other for about six weeks after this session.


Creative people are far more suited to self-employment and thinking without a box (as opposed to outside one). We need to embrace this and run with it for the sake of getting our art out to more people. Isn’t this why we create it?


You never need to compromise your art, no matter what any business person may tell you about “show biz this” and “fiscal responsibility that.” To us, money and the business surrounding the arts are simply tools to give us more means to create freely. In today’s world, you absolutely never have to change your art for “the masses” and can trust deeply in their ability to understand your work. You just have to find your way to them. The equivalent of a stadium full of people just like yourself could make you flush with income and free to express more. And think of how great the world will be with more folks like yourself being widely heard and empowered to create change. Let’s get started at creating the change you want to be.




6 Week Intensive Music Entrepreneur Coaching   •    $600



This is a follow up and more detailed approach to the Artist Business Coaching session. 


You’ll be given daily assignments related to building a solid foundation for your music career. Every day you’ll report your progress to me. Every day you’ll come closer to developing the habits necessary to make this work feel much less tedious and daunting. 

My lifetime as an entrepreneur and accidental mentor to so many students has become a real source of enjoyment for me. I’ve come to savor every challenge, solving problems and creating more freely as I age. I’m 100% certain that this comes from keeping the child alive in myself. It’s an inherent human characteristic to want to solve problems and create things. Let’s reawaken this in you. 



Demonstrating Use of The Pentatonic Scales

In this clip from a live show, recorded by a fan and sent to me, I'm soloing exclusively with the A Minor Pentatonic Scale. By utilizing the five pentatonic forms that exist side by side across the length of the fretboard, I can solo in any key and know where every note at my disposal is located, even if I don't know their names. (I do, but for the sake of understanding what's at your disposal) Naming the notes is next. By gradually expanding on some basic music theory and learning to read simple passages of written (notated) music, it isn't long before a guitarist can fully understand the fretboard. This is what I call "applied theory." That is, the added theory is only brought up once it becomes immediately necessary. As a result, it's more easily retained due to application.

The song I'm soloing over is "Crossroads" by Robert Johnson, in the style of Eric Clapton and Cream.





Remove the Mystery From Your Instrument


One of the first things I tell my students is that the guitar is one of the toughest instruments to master, but not to be discouraged by this. They always look aghast. I almost always chuckle and continue. Now that I have their attention, I continue and give the following explanation.


First off, to master any instrument, you need to develop a habit of picking it up on a daily basis. Creating this consistency is key. Once you've done so, adding time is easier. Here are some tips. Do you have five minutes to kill? Pick up your instrument and jam a little on whatever you like. Keep your guitar out in the open on a stand so it's staring at you and constantly saying "Play me" and "You know you have nothing important to do this second." Think you've covered everything in your practice session? Look at the time and ask yourself if you can spare five more minutes. Most likely you can. Then do so. On many occasions, you'll find yourself still playing 30 minutes later. This is often when break-throughs happen. Most of us have an innate ability to stop doing something when our natural attention span wears thin. By challenging this, we develop a greater discipline. Very few people come by discipline naturally. Watch a small child in action if you don't believe me. Discipline is like a muscle. If we exercise it, it becomes stronger. Believe me, I did not come by it naturally early on, and I still occasionally have to remind myself of obligations I've made... to myself and others... in order to complete various tasks.


Another reason I bring up the difficulty of mastering the guitar is to allow students to cut themselves some slack. I've literally taught surgeons and scientists, lawyers and litigators the guitar. Their book knowledge didn't make it easier on them. Sure, they were all over the theoretical aspects, but the technical challenges were the same as for anyone else. By reminding my students that nobody just picks up a guitar and starts playing, that everyone needs to learn a whole new kind of muscle memory and align it with tonal memory, they're also taught to accept the shortcomings of their digits. I don't care how easily things in general may come to you, guitar is going to remain a challenge. I still work for it after nearly 40 years.


Now to the question of shortcuts... there aren't any.


Now to the mysterious fretboard... it shouldn't be. Maybe you've heard the joke? How do you get a guitarist to stop playing? Put music in front of him. This is sadly true of the majority of guitar players. Because you can take a scale pattern (In the box) or movable chord form (Barre and jazz chords) and slide it up and down the neck, thus easily changing keys, doesn't mean that you should learn nothing about the neck. Theory on guitar certainly can get a little confusing. That's no mystery. For instance, a piano has only one note of each pitch per octave. A guitar can have as many as five or six positions for a single note of identical hertz (Sound wave or octave). But if you can tune a guitar without a tuner, you can locate the same note on adjacent strings by counting the frets. For instance, "A 440" on the 3rd string's 2nd fret, can also be found five frets further up on the 4th string's 7th fret. Add 5 frets again and it's found at the 5th string's 12th fret. You just add the number of frets required based on your knowledge of relative (Tuner-less) tuning. Another trick is to play a standard F Major 7 Chord. The first 4 strings spell out F-A-C-E, the spaces on the Treble Clef from which we read. From this very basic beginning, you can pick up a method book (I encourage the classical method) and start reading simple exercises that will teach you note placement through performance. Before you know it, you'll be sight reading standard music notation on your guitar. Now bring in some chord and scale theory--the equivalent of a second semester college music class--and you'll not only have a solid understanding of guitar theory, but you'll be able to communicate with other musicians. Imagine that!


By the time you've learned basic theory through playing low level classical guitar pieces, you'll have also developed your technique and added finger picking to your skill sets. Just keep applying your new found knowledge and skills and you'll remove the mystery from the fretboard. Then you can focus more on discovering the mystery of the human condition and creating your own performance or compositional style. The mystery is not that box of wood with strings stretched across it. The mystery is within the individual and their unique creative view of the world. Allow yourself the opportunity to discover this in yourself.



Reviews of Phil's Work

By Ella on 11/16/2017 

Vocal Training, In studio 

I started voice lessons which turned into combined voice and guitar lessons with Phil almost two months ago, and I've had an awesome experience! I came in nervous with crippling stage fright, but Phil has taught me to own it and realize that it's normal. He's a super cool dude with great stories and crazy amounts of music knowledge and experience. He is helping me find my true personal voice, which no vocal coach has ever helped me with. Although we get down to business and work, there's also sure to be laughs (and tears... but good tears, don't get me wrong here!) during every lesson. Would highly recommend!!!! Phil roxxxxx!!! 8)

From Sunny H. on 7/6/2017
Ukulele Group Class
Phil was an amazing teacher for a group of friends and me when we decided to pick up ukulele! He has a gift of creating an atmosphere that fosters learning in a collaborative and fun environment. Highly recommend!
From Ingrid B. on 6/9/2017 

Music Performance In studio

Preparing for a performance at my friend's wedding. His experience has been vital in prepping me to anticipate variables and how to play through mistakes etc.



From Michael S. on 5/1/2017


Excellent method of teaching! You will be jamming and soloing in no time. It was awesome to learn how to read music instead of doing tablature.

Phil is the best guitar teacher you'll find.
Extremely knowledgeable and attentive to your individual goals, with years of professional experience to back it up. Want to be a true musician? Learn from one!


By Greg on 1/10/2017 

Blues Guitar, In Studio

Phil is a phenomenal teacher - right from the start, he will get you on track with exercises and practice routines that keep you focused on learning to play the guitar. He will cover the areas that you must know to become proficient on the guitar, including forms, modes, chords and progressing toward learning to read music. 

After struggling to teach myself to play the guitar, I realized that I had hit a wall in my self-instructed learning and I needed to find a guitar teacher. I found Phil through word of mouth - and I have made great progress under his tutelage.

If you want to learn to play the guitar, Phil is the teacher you want - if you just want to learn to play songs, well, there’s YouTube.



From Mark on 1/6/2017 


Guitar, In Studio


Took vocal and guitar lessons from Phil and both helped me tremendously and gave me the skills needed to be a professional musician. Highly recommended!



From John on 1/4/2017 


Vocal Training, In Studio


Are you kidding me??

Who is still trying to figure out how great Phil Circle is at what he does?
He's well known for a reason: he's the best.

His approach to voice (with me, at least) is to address the entire body as part of your instrument. By making me aware of everything from my posture to keeping my jaw loose, he has drastically improved my range and control!!

He's an amazing guitar player & songwriter too and I often run into fellow musicians that have studied with him for those things also, but I (for now) only have experience with him for voice lessons. He has me sing through exercises with guitar that are hugely helpful- singing octaves, matching note and timbre, etc.
It's a vocal workout! But it gets results and he really makes it a ton of fun!!



By Ed on 11/3/2016 


Vocal Training, In Studio


Phil is great. I took vocal training lessons from him years ago and still use training materials we created. My voice improved a lot, it's clearer and stronger now, thanks to Phil. Add to it that I sing in different language and Phil was able to customize his lessons to accommodate it and you have a best teacher your money can buy. Speaking of money - the rates were very reasonable! You can't go wrong with Phil as a teacher!



By Helena on 9/16/2010


Singing, In Studio, Collaborator


Once in a blue moon you run across a teacher that is so deeply knowledgeable and so passionate about that knowledge, that just being in their presence instantly improves your abilities. (Perhaps he knows; his record label is named Guilt by Association...) 

Add some masterful, specific and active instruction and miracles are possible. Mine being the acquisition of the courage and confidence to sing competently with my current band, after years hiding behind the bass. (Thanks, Phil.) 

Phil also is a gifted singer and songwriter and I've seen him play live several times. His music is eminently relatable without being predictable; audiences leave sated, having heard reflections of many of their own life stories conveyed via creative lyrics and complex musical arrangements. 

You should listen, then book him to play your venue or event - today.



What's Your Best Choice for Guitar Lessons?





Educating the Guitarist



The title of this article alone is a bit of an oxymoron: educated guitarist. The joke in the music community goes like this: How do you get a guitarist to stop playing? Put music in front of him. As a kid I was trained in music from an early age, mostly on piano and voice. Then, after begging my Mom to buy me a guitar, I got into lessons at about the age of 12. By the time I got to college, I could barely read music anymore because the various guitar instructors I had never taught any theory. In fact, I was largely dependant on them for any knowledge of the instrument and had begun to forsake lessons in favor of teaching myself. The problem with that is you don’t really have much of a clue as to what information is valuable without the guidance of a teacher. You see the spot one ends up in with the standard approach to guitar lessons and how the problem of the uneducated guitarist perpetuates itself.


Once I got to college and started my degree in music, I began lessons in classical guitar. Now, most people equate classical guitar with classical music and immediately write off this method since they don’t really desire to play classical music. This is a mistake. First of all, classical guitar refers more to the hundreds of years of tradition behind playing the lute and guitar. For instance, tablature was thrown out by traditional guitarists a hundred years ago as being a less practical way of reading music for the guitar than standard notation. Then back in the sixties, “modern” guitarists got lazy and started using tab again.


Second, classical guitar music includes four hundred years of songs from the Renaissance to modern day, spanning the folk styles (popular styles from long ago) of many countries, especially Spain, the generally agreed upon birthplace of the guitar. Understanding an instrument means not working with it based on musical styles—a uniquely American approach to music—but understanding all the workings of technique and theory as developed by centuries of trial and error undertaken by countless virtuosos. Why anyone would throw out so much of the work of the past masters in favor of reinventing the wheel, a faulty one at that, is beyond me.


I find without fail that when I take on a new guitar student, whether child or adult, beginner or advanced, they move forward in their understanding of the guitar’s complex fretboard theory and difficult-to-master technique through the classical approach. I found this to be true for myself, too. For several months a year, I throw myself headlong into furthering my classical playing. This is always when I see the most improvement at all levels. Countless students of mine have shown the same. I am not a classical guitarist per se, and most of my students are into contemporary styles as well, although a few have gone on to study in Spain with my old teacher. But, it remains the best approach to any instrument to take the lead of the masters who have come before you to understand the your instrument completely, thus taking all the mystery out of it, so that you can explore the true mystery of music—the creativity and expressive power of the musician himself.


For an easy to follow classical method book that will insure you are site reading before the end of it and enjoying the learning process through many performable pieces, try The Christopher Parkening Classical Method, Volume One. If you have a good time with this book and want to really grow, follow it up with a book of Spanish classical pieces or the works of Bach.


Guitar is a difficult instrument to master, one of the toughest if approached with real mastery in mind. Leaving this mastery to perceived shortcuts and ignoring basic understanding dooms you to many dead ends. No violinist walks into a lesson and says, “I’d like to learn bluegrass,” and has the teacher just go along with it. They take the initial education that has evolved over generations as a given, building a foundation from there. After mastering some basic skills and the application of knowledge, they are then able to tackle any style they like with confidence. Ruby Harris, one of the most outstanding blues and jazz violinists, who also masters Irish, Klezmer and Bluegrass, is a classically trained player. Nothing is foreign to him. Guitarists could learn a lot from this.
Good luck and remember, no "Stairway To Heaven."



Where I'm Located

Summa Cum Laude



Guitar Lessons Chicago



Continuing Reviews


Bob Smith on 11/23/2017, Acoustic Guitar, In Studio


Great understanding of music. Phil looks for the places one lacks in and funnels his experience to enhance the learning experience. I’ve learned more in two lessons than I’ve been able to learn on my own over many years.



By Jennifer on 11/16/2017 

Acoustic Guitar, In home 

Phil is a fantastic guitar teacher. My teenage daughter has had a few teachers over the years, but he’s the first to help her learn to read actual music, teach her to restring her guitar, and provide a true musician’s perspective that keeps her interested and excited to learn. His focus on classical as a springboard for all other music genres is refreshing. We are thrilled to have found this gem of an instructor, his love for music and guitar is infectious and inspiring.

By Alexandra on 10/28/2017 

Acoustic Guitar, In studio 

A 5 star teacher. My daughter is very happy with this teacher.

By Jeanne S. on 9/12/2017
Vocal Coaching
I started vocal lessons with Phil in 2006, I believe. I was with him for about a year until he moved away...and since moved back. I was already an educated singer, but I wanted to be a better rock 'n roll singer. When I would tell Phil that I was nervous about singing a certain song, we would work on it until I felt comfortable. He assured me that I was a talented singer and that I should always feel confident and assertive when singing in front of people. I very much appreciated that. And if I needed to talk about other stuff, he was always willing to listen. Part vocal coach/part therapist. A day came along when I had 2 gigs in one day and I wanted to make a recording of our warm-up exercises to protect my voice for a full day of singing. Phil obliged and I still use that same tape before every gig I do. That's almost 10 years of gigs and still more to come. Phil's expertise has been a part of my every performance for that long. You can feel confident taking lessons from Phil. He cares about making you sound your best. Thanks again for everything, Phil! Take care!
By Jacqueline P. on 8/23/2017
For Performance Services
Phil was very kind hearted and easygoing. Will definitely book him for a future event/ recommend him!!!! The music is played was perfect for our outdoor event. Wasn't too loud, and had just the right amount of Rhythm to get people listening without it being too much.

By Andi S. on 5/14/2017


I went to Phil because I am looking to improve my singing with the guitar technique. We talked about a lot of things and Phil came up with some very good points. He is easy to talk to and I feel comfortable. We have just begun and I am looking forward to improving my performance technique.


From Steve E. on 5/10/2017
Phil was professional, organized, accredited, and hardworking. He prepared several days in advance for the gig we hired him for, providing diversity and individuality.
He is a rare talent and I look forward to working with him again in the future.
By Lee G. on 4/25/2017

Original and Amazingly Talented


Phil is an outstanding Writer/Singer/Performer!


Highly recommend a live performance.



By Sarah on 1/4/2017 


Singing, In Studio


Phil has been so great to learn from. He is very professional and I appreciate the way he gives meaningful and honest criticism when needed. It took some time, but I'm not shy about my voice anymore! Thank you, Phil!



By Megan on 11/6/2016 


Vocal Training, In Studio


Phil has the techniques and know-how to get the best out of you vocally. He'll also work with you on music theory if asked, which helped me greatly with improving my ear. Outstanding and highly recommended teacher!!

Phil is knowledgeable and intuitive, you will never stop learning and being challenged to be the best musician you can be.



By Dave on 11/4/2016 


Guitar, In Studio


At 39 I decided it was time to learn to play guitar, I had wanted to do it for years but just hadn't. So I bought an electric guitar and played around for a month or so before deciding lessons were in order. 

I shopped around for someone cheap, don't do that, they are cheap for a reason. I eventually came across Phil and we hit it off well. He is very well versed in blues and rock music which I was looking for. He knows music theory and breaks it down well. He's a straight shooter and will call you out when you're lazy, but always gives kudos and encouragement when appropriate. 

It's nice when your teacher has practical real world experience to back up the teaching. Phil can back up his teaching and truly loves entertaining people, he puts on a great live show. 

I would certainly recommend Phil as a teacher as well as a musician. Phil is a "Rock Star"!

Years later I am still playing guitar and now bass with a band several times a week and having a blast. 

Thanks Phil. 



By Jeremy on 11/3/2016


Singing, In Studio


Phil is a great teacher. He really helped give me confidence in my ability to sing. And the lessons I had with him gave me skills that I can always go back to when I need to practice or warm up. I highly recommend him.



By Mike on 9/22/2010


Singing, In Studio


Phil is a highly talented guitarist/songwriter who brings it all together with superb vocals. He blends elements of rock, folk, indie, jazz, and blues which creates a masterful musical performance.



By Matt on 9/22/2010


Collaborator, In Studio, On Stage


Phil Circle is a top notch professional musician. I've experienced playing shows with him, attending one of his many hosted open mic nights and collaborated with him on guitar and music lessons. I would highly recommend working with Phil and any of the services he offers. He will not let you down. Whether your hiring him for a gig, to host an open mic night or taking music lessons, you will be very pleased with his abilities.