Chicks with Picks: Sara Landeau on Lessonface, music theory & The Julie Ruin

By Shelly Simon
Photo from Lessonface

Sara Landeau is the guitarist and co-songwriter in pop-punk-dance feminist band The Julie Ruin and has been a full time guitar instructor in NYC since 2003. Her courses in the past have been primarily one-on-one oriented until recently. Sara has created “Chicks with Picks,” a group guitar class at Lessonface that also focuses on band dynamics; creating a safe space for individuals to feel comfortable playing in a group setting.

“I find learning music theory fun, but won’t force it on you (well, just a bit). I believe learning the fundamentals and ideas behind WHY songs work will help you to teach yourself and grow a foundation to build upon.”

It’s essential to understand why learning from different angles – songs, patterns, a little theory, creative accidents – in the beginning is so fundamental to your success. they all add up to you becoming a guitarist and musician.

I got the pleasure of interviewing Sara to get inside her head about being a teacher, badass and what life would look like without music!

TT: You’ve got a really impressive resume; what’s your more cherished accomplishment?

Wow, thanks. As far as teaching, I love seeing girls or women I teach start projects or write cathartic songs, and continue to play music with others. Its exciting to see someone years later, accomplished, or just plain having fun. Especially the adults – its so easy to think you’re too old to start or compare yourself to other people. My most cherished personal activity is working with my bandmates in The Julie Ruin.

TT: What does persistence look like for you in teaching? How do you engage new learners to understand the importance of music theory?

Persistence is chipping away, something I learned to get better at later in life. Sometimes it feels like I’m digging with a spoon from a cell, but when you look back and see that its’ added up to something, it’s pretty incredible; and it’s actually something. Music theory is fun because it breaks down the “why” of how music works and that allows you to build on a solid foundation and teach yourself. Being able to whip out more tools at your disposal is empowering.

TT: What’s the most beneficial music tip someone has given you?

People told me to give up more times than I can count. My rebellion against this attitude gave me the drive, in an odd reversed way. Ha! That sounds kind of rough, but it’s actually positive. I also think about Yoko Ono’s quote “Every drop in the ocean counts.”

TT: What’s a funny Julie Ruin tour story?

There’s plenty, but I think of the time we got off the plane to play at Mona Foma in Tasmania. With no sleep and the time change, we were completely delirious, like being on acid, which we weren’t. I remember seeing the mountains from the stage and having a laughing attack that wouldn’t stop and I looked at my drummer who stared blankly, seemingly out of his mind. We barely remember playing that show.

TT: In some alternate universe, if you weren’t playing guitar, teaching people and producing music: what would you envision yourself doing?

Animal Wildlife Protection is something dear to me. I’d also try to be an illustrator in this parallel universe. Maybe in some way I can blend all these things together in this life.

On Lessonface: If you have gaps in your knowledge, we can fill them. I have a large library of educational resources and cross reference from several books and study materials. We will aim towards any style(s) you are most interested in. Students of all ages are welcome. Specialization includes adults learning an instrument for the first time.

Psstttt, have you visited our web store? Check it out here for all your Tom Tom merch needs!


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