Guitar Instructor – AJ Hanson

AJ Hanson is our resident “Stringed Instrument Specialist.”

003-098He teaches guitar, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, classical, jazz guitar and electric bass guitar. He has been teaching for over 12 years and has studied music at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI and Berklee College of Music in Boston. AJ is a member of the Guitar Foundation of America and the National Association for Music Education.

He has performed on television on WGN’s Channel 9 news program “Around Town” with Ana Belaval.

He teaches students from the age of 6 to adult, beginners to advanced players and all styles of music.


Why Choose Me As Your Guitar Instructor?

      • In addition to being a guitar instructor, another interest of mine lies within other related stringed instruments such as the bass guitar, mandolin, banjo, and ukulele. So if you are curious about exploring a new instrument similar to the guitar, I am more than able to help introduce you to something that might be your next passion!
    • I have been studying the guitar for 19 years and teaching for 14 years. I am always learning myself and I constantly look for new ways to improve my playing and my ways of teaching. I always have the mindset of a student myself, that way I can always guarantee my students the best quality lessons they can find.
    • I will teach you any style you want! Anything from Classical to music of today and anything in between! Although everyone has their favorite style, most people today enjoy a little bit of music from every genre. In my lessons I like to find a fun and simple way to inform my students of all genres and how closely related they all are!
    • I have taught students of many ages ranging from 6 all the way into their 80’s! It’s never too late to start learning a new instrument and receive the benefits from it! Playing an instrument can be very fun and exciting, especially when it is music you enjoy and connect with. Plus, just imagine all the applause you’ll get when you give a great performance to an audience!
    • I teach beginners to advanced players with each lesson tailored specially to each student, and will teach you what you want to learn. If your interest is sparked by learning simple songs, or being able to express yourself by learning how to improvise better or writing your own original music, I can help you get to where you want to go!
    • My lesson studio is fully equipped to meet your 21st century needs. I can look up any song within minutes and print it out for you to take home, saving you time in your lesson and money from having to purchase a book just for one song. By using this technology in my lessons I can teach what would normally take an hour lesson in just 30 minutes!
    • I also use a program to slow down your mp3’s so you can practice the song you are working on at your own pace and gradually speed it up until you can play it at full speed. In addition, I can save the slowed down versions and send it straight to your e-mail address. This is a very convenient way to practice and all of my students continue to have great success with learning new songs.

About Me

I received my first guitar in kindergarten but l didn’t stick with practicing, so I set the guitar aside. However, I always had this connection to the instrument and when I turned 12, I saw Eric Clapton, got a Fender Strat the next week, and immediately started taking lessons. From the beginning of my musical career I had taken lessons from degree holding guitarists. After two years of blues and rock lessons I made the switch to classical lessons.

As I approached the end of high school there was no doubt in my mind that I would study music. I auditioned at Carthage College in Kenosha, and received the top music scholarship to study Classical Guitar Performance and Jazz Studies with David Ness. From there my musical tastes and understanding broadened exponentially.

Only 3 months after graduation I felt the need to get in touch with my electric guitar roots and decided to take a week of Masters classes from Berklee College of Music. I received a scholarship for my audition and was placed in advanced contemporary rock and jazz harmony classes under the tutelage of Jon Finn and John Stowell respectively.

Following my short but incredibly exciting and inspiring time at Berklee, I came out with a new focus and a better idea of my own voice in music. With all the knowledge I had gained and styles I incorporated in my playing I wanted to start a Progressive Rock band. We are currently in the studio recording our first release.

My musical influences that I both play and teach include styles ranging from Rock, Blues, Jazz, Classical, Fusion, Progressive Rock, Metal, Flamenco, Folk, Country, and Pop.

My guitar influences include Jimmy Page, John Petrucci, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Steve Morse, Alex Lifeson, Al Di Meola, Steve Howe, Steve Hackett, Tosin Abasi, Guthrie Govan, MUSE, The Moody Blues, The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, The Beatles, Opeth, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Freddie Green, George Benson, John Scofield, Django Reinhardt, Paco De Lucia, Julian Bream, Christopher Parkening, John Williams, Fransisco Tarrega, and Andres Segovia.

I am also influenced by other musicians and composers as well, such as, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Freddie Mercury, Frank Zappa, Peter Gabriel, Franz Schubert, Claude DeBussy, and of course Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.


Does any of this sound familiar?

  • “I moved away from the Music Gallery and I can’t find a teacher I connect with.”
  • “It’s a whiteout blizzard outside and I can’t make it out of my driveway, but I still want my lesson.”
  • “I’m still a little sick and would hate to share my germs, but I’m excited to continue our lesson from last week.”
  • “Honestly, it’s one of those days that I just don’t want to get out of my pajamas. Could I just get my lesson at home today?”

If so, you’re in luck.

Hi, AJ here.

For years, I had battles in my head on the legitimacy of Skype lessons. I knew people that did them with some success. Heck, I even taught my best friend from middle school on Skype that I made an exception for. His lessons went well, however, I was never satisfied that I couldn’t match that last little bit of quality and natural feel that I got so efficient with in my lesson that I taught in person.

Since then I’ve accumulated several programs that make my materials completely digitized which help make my face-to-face lessons flow very well. As a result, those materials are now easy to share through an email. So there’s the first problem of online lessons solved.

The next hurdle is making it seem like you’re next to me. Okay… So how can I pull that off?

Think about what happens in a normal video call? You get ONE camera angle. On top of that, it’s usually a rather sad looking, medium-distance view that feels as if you’re on the opposite side of the dinner table. That’s not going to cut it.

Turns out, like much of life nowadays, there’s an app for that. I now use multiple camera angles during my Skype calls! The magic bullet. Now, not only can you see the normal everyday view. I can cut straight to both my left and right hands so you can see as clear as day what I’m doing in each hand. I would argue that you can see what I’m doing even better than in person due to the close-up angles. Confusion and lack of clarity are a thing of the past.


– Getting high quality guitar lessons from the comfort of your home from a full-time professional guitar instructor through a well established guitar store and music school.

– Having the added flexibility and peace of mind that if life gets in the way you can still get your lesson with your teacher.

– All of your materials, (both lessons and songs for fun) delivered to you by email. No more messy hand-written manuscript that’s difficult to read.

Are you ready to make it happen?

Here’s what to do next: Call 847.432.6350 or email and ask for AJ’s Skype lessons.


“Our 11 year old daughter has been taking lessons with A.J. for nearly three years and we recommend him to everyone we know who wants to study guitar.  He’s incredibly focused and patient.  His calm demeanor makes his lessons enjoyable for our child, and of course she’s completely in awe of his musical talents.  We couldn’t be happier with A.J.!” – Cory S.


“I have the unique perspective of seeing AJ both as my son’s guitar teacher and as a student of his myself. My son at the time was mainly interested in shredding which is one of the many styles that AJ is proficient. But AJ did more than just focus on that he was able to exposed my son to many other players and styles in the process. Suddenly my son wasn’t just playing Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. He was now mastering everything from Al Dimeola to fingerpicking Jerry Reed songs, making him a much more rounded player and increasing his enjoyment of the guitar.

For me, AJ has had to contend with someone who played by ear and was self taught, picking up a boat load of bad habits over the years. He has handled that daunting task with patience, humor and the ability to tailor lessons to a person’s interests, style and temperament. Whether it’s tackling Steely Dan solos, comping jazz chords, learning Mark Knopfler’s travis picking or making music theory relevant, AJ makes it possible to achieve any goal while keeping it fun at the same time. Today, I am a markedly better player thanks to him.

There aren’t many people, I can unequivocally recommend, but as a teacher, AJ is one of them.” – Jeff A.
“I have been taking weekly lessons with AJ for almost 2 years. He is a really good teacher because he is patient and knows how to teach in a way that I can understand it.  I look forward to seeing him every week because he is fun and I learn something new in each lesson. He can play a variety of different types of music which is really cool, from jazz, to rock, to classical and I now I can play all kinds of styles too.” – Alex S. 14 years old


“AJ is engaging, instructive and patient, transcending fundamentals of learning to guiding his student to appreciate learning and self-development. Flexibility with his schedule is a compliment to any parent with school-age children and the related balancing act for competing demands on time.” – Bill L.


“I’ve been one of AJ’s students now for almost three years and he has been one of the most patient teachers that I’ve been with and he works with you until you understand and are able to play what ever song that you may be working on. I wish I could take lessons with him more often as I think he has brought me a long way, not only does he know his music very well but he makes the lessons fun to go to and is willing to teach you any song. He not only knows the guitar very well but also the bass and other string instruments as I am one of his bass students. I’m very happy with lessons as I started playing in High School but I stopped, I wish I never did. Also, a shout out to all the other guys at the Music Gallery all a bunch of great and all very knowledgeable guys.” –  Marco T.


“In July of 2011 I started taking lessons from AJ. Despite the fact that I was practicing for 2-3 hours per day, I had absolutely no understanding of the guitar aside from how to read tabs. I struggled with simple riffs and had all but given up on the idea of playing full songs for years to come. I played the saxophone in high school so I knew how to read music but I had NO knowledge of even the simplest key things that need to be understood in order to do anything original with music, i.e. intervals, what makes a chord, what makes a scale etc.

I told AJ that my biggest desire was to be able to play the blues. Within one month (4 lessons with AJ) I was doing what I thought was a decent job of improvising blues over a backing track…with other instruments and everything…and I DIDN’T sound like I had no idea what key we were in!! In that same month, I started practicing a few exercises that AJ suggested I devote a few minutes to every day. Soon after I started practicing them, I thought what felt like a ton of riffs that had been kicking my butt for so long and moved on to more difficult ones. Finally, I felt like I wasn’t just spinning my wheels without results in hours of practice. I was actually improving and at a really fast pace!

It is now June of 2012 and in less than a year I have gone from a nearly conquered guitarist that couldn’t learn simple riffs, such as the opening riff to “Stranglehold”, to a guitarist that has the ability to play entire Stevie Ray Vaughan scores. I now have the confidence to push my limits with more difficult tunes every day. AJ has given me an understanding of chords, the fretboard, proper technique, improvisation, sight reading and many other things including music in general that no book was able to teach me in the years prior. I was at a wall a year ago and almost ready to give up on the guitar. Today I come home from work every day and head straight it my guitars. I loved playing today more than any day before it and will love playing tomorrow even more because of the knowledge AJ has given me and ability that he unlocked in me. Because of this awesome instruction, I will be applying for the Berklee College of Music in Boston next summer and I’m more confident every day that I will be accepted, thanks AJ!!” – Michael M.


“AJ is a gifted guitar instructor. Fluent in many different styles of guitar playing, but I especially like how he teaches me classical techniques. He is always open to figuring out new options for any problems I encounter, and doesn’t forget that musicality is part of playing well. He’s always encouraging, even when my playing isn’t quite up to snuff, and always makes me want to get home and practice some more! All in all, an awesome teacher!” – Jerry H.


“AJ makes learning so much fun. He knows all genres of music. He can go from classical to hard rock in the blink of an eye. If you’re looking for the best teachers the Music Gallery Academy is the place for you.” – Chad H


“AJ’s knowledge of the guitar is unbelievable. He is able to spot potential problems instantly and give you several different options to fix the problem. He is very dedicated in teaching the proper ways to play the guitar which will make the student a better guitar player. AJ was able to take complicated lessons and break them down into smaller, easier to learn components, and then teach them to me one at a time.” – Kyle S



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