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A Letter from the Founder: Pass Down Sound

David Butler ArtistWorks Pass Down Sound

David Butler, ArtistWorks cofounder, talks about his own experience passing down sound to his sons.

Parents around the world #passdownsound when they share their musical passions with their children. Share your own story on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using the hashtag #passdownsound for the chance to win free ArtistWorks music lessons.

We asked David: how did you pass down sound in your family? Did sharing music with others inspire you to found ArtistWorks, the company that makes music lessons accessible throughout the world?

Here is what David had to say: 

My earliest and most vivid memories involve music.  

My parents had a reasonably good-sounding “hi-fi” system that played vinyl albums and 45’s, and we had a small collection of records that played over and over. The music was constantly washing over me.  

The music was constantly washing over me.

The time was the late-50’s, into the early 60’s, and we had such albums as the New York Symphony’s "Rhapsody In Blue", the “Oklahoma” musical’s soundtrack, a Marty Robbins country western album, calypso phenom Harry Belafonte, plus a few others.  A little bit later we would listen to the folk records of Peter Paul & Mary and early Bob Dylan. In the mid-sixties my neighborhood exploded with young boys banging out “Gloria” and “House of the Rising Sun” on their new Sears' Silvertone guitars.

Man Lounging in Sound Recording Studio

Around that time my mother bought herself a used upright piano and had it sat at the end of our dining room, and she would play for her own amusement almost every day. She was self-taught but naturally musical, she learned by decoding the lovely harmonies she found in a “borrowed” church hymnal. She loved to play those familiar melodies and harmonies she remembered for the country churches of her own youth.

She tried to share her love of piano with me and my sister, taking us to private lessons at a local piano teacher’s mothball-smelling house. Though I now really wish the piano had won some of my musical affection, at that time I was more intent on riding that mile-high guitar wave first started by Elvis and then turbo-charged by the Beatles.  The wave washed me right into the guitar-centric singer songwriter era. I found my guitar niche in the fingerstyle playing of Donovan and James Taylor.

I’ve played guitar pretty regularly all of my life, and when I had sons of my own it was only natural that I show them how to play.  

I've played guitar pretty regularly all of my life, and when I had sons of my own it was only natural that I show them how to play. They had heard me play guitar and sing to them since they were pre-verbal — so all I really had to do was hand them their guitars and show them a few chords.  Neither had be shown anything twice. Every generation has its own music, and it wasn’t long before they wanted to play the latest Nirvana or Green Day songs, with a little Dave Matthews Band on the side. I would try to take the time to learn their favorites (playing by ear off their records, which has always been easy for me).  These were the songs that motivated them to learn. It wasn’t long before they were showing ME how to play new tunes.

Music remains important to my sons.  My older son is a competent guitar player and songwriter, playing the acoustic style of his dad but also his own generation's electric guitar music. My younger son continues to play guitar but is drawn to hip-hop, turntablism and deep sound engineering, taking frequent deep dives into history's archive of musical sound. Playing music remains one of life’s central pleasures, and I continue to play guitar myself, still learning, always trying to get better.


At its core, ArtistWorks is a family company founded in Napa, California by Patricia and David Butler. ArtistWorks is passionate about passing down sound to the world, and democratizing access to high-quality music lessons. To learn more about our purpose and offerings, explore music lessons.