Denver Guitar Orchestra Certification

Certification Program

Print this! Here is a PDF with a printable version of the certification expectations and testing procedures.

You should contact us as soon as possible so we know you’re working toward playing with the group.

If you’re just starting (or getting back into) guitar, we teach “fingerstyle” or “chord-melody” guitar and it starts with Level 1 and 2 classes. The easiest place to jump in if you live in the Denver area is to take the ridiculously cheap classes at Lakewood Cultural Center. If that isn’t convenient, or if you’d rather start with private lessons, call us at 303-984-0777.

Why we encourage certification by levels: We don’t want to waste your time or our time. For newer players, we want to make sure you have a good ability with chord playing and we need you to be able to read tablature and certain aspects of standard notation. When you have completed Level 2 (or maybe Level 3), you will have the skills necessary to play for the rest of your life quite happily and you’ll have the ability to join the orchestra and not feel lost.

There is a small fee to cover the cost of printing and binding for instruction books. You’ll almost certainly need to own a copy of each book prior to your certification appointments. If cost is a concern, we have a scholarship program. Please contact us at info@denverguitarorchestra.com to make an appointment to get your books and discuss certification. The arrangements posted on this site are the same ones as in the certification books, but they do not include all of the instructional materials you’ll need to be successful in your exam.

Certification appointments for Levels 1 through 3 will generally last less than an hour.

All our sheet music contains standard notation and tablature, chords and lyrics (if applicable), and staves for straight melody playing, guitar ensemble work, and “fingerstyle” chord-melody performance. Arpeggios are added in later levels. You may request copies of the sheet music without tablature displayed if you prefer reading standard notation only.

If you need help getting up to speed on reading music, we’re happy to help you with introductory classes or private lessons. We are also motivated to work with your guitar teachers to make sure they can help prepare you for entrance into the Denver Guitar Orchestra.

Guitar Teachers

How You Can Help Us: We need your students to help fill out our sound. We are ready to work with you to help prepare your students to play with the Denver Guitar Orchestra as a way to augment the skills you are teaching them now. We will support your students with our weekly ensemble, give them crazy amounts of great music, and help them through our structured program for ensemble guitar. Please email us and we’ll give you the big picture.

How We Can Help You: Please drop us an email telling us how you teach, what types of students you specialize in helping, and any other info about your style or your program. We maintain a database of instructors. Often we meet guitarists who want more formal training, and if you meet their needs we’d love to send ’em along to you. And, we write a LOT of music. If you need a guitar arrangement of a song we may already have it, just ask. And, our ensemble program allows you to create an instant orchestra from day one in your classrooms.

Guitar Foundation of America Standards

  1. DGO is built on a “classical” guitar foundation and includes varied musical styles within our curriculum.
  2. DGO recommends nylon string guitars when playing classical repertoire, and encourages the use of most acoustic guitars. (And we don’t mind rocking a Strat with a fuzz peddle when one comes our way.)
  3. DGO recommends sitting in an ergonomic position that promotes good posture and easy access to the guitar for both left and right hands.
  4. DGO encourages the use both hands in a manner that prevents injury in part by avoiding extreme extension and/or flexion of the wrist.
  5. DGO teaches playing with attention to minimal tension.
  6. All DGO sheet music is prepared with traditional staff notation, along with tablature and chord charts.
  7. DGO is working (slowly) to have our well-sequenced curriculum aligned to the standards published by the Colorado Department of Education to ensure it fulfills national standards.
  8. DGO uses repertoire from various musical periods and genres.
  9. DGO members seek opportunities to participate in local, state, regional, and national music festivals and competitions.
  10. DGO has a library of solo and ensemble guitar music.
  11. DGO has access to high quality instruments, replacement strings and tools for necessary repairs. Seriously, our studio is awesome.
  12. DGO is seeking opportunities to participate in outreach performances.
  13. DGO uses a variety of right-hand techniques.

Denver School of the Arts Audition List

  1. Students will perform one piece of music in the style of their choice
  2. Students will play a variety of jazz chords and related scales of their choice (see audition preparation page)
  3. Students will sight read one piece of music
  4. Students will complete a brief music reading test that will include major and minor key signatures, intervals, and triads
  5. Students should submit at least one letter of recommendation
  6. Students must be able to read music in order to be considered for the guitar major program at Denver School of the Arts.

CU Denver’s Audition Info

All audition-based guitar applicants must prepare a video audition for pre-screening.

The video must include the following:

Perform two musical selections:

  • A jazz, “Chord and Melody” type of arrangement for solo guitar.
  • A single melodic line guitar solo based on a transcription of a jazz – fusion – pop or classical piece.
  • A solo classical piece including any repertoire from Bach, Sor, Carcassi, Brouwer or any other comparable selection.
  • A fingerstyle piece using alternate tuning or standard tuning like Michael Hedges or Leo Kottke compositions.


Demonstrate the following chord types in root-6 and root-5 positions: Maj7, 7, min7, min7(b5) and dim7, min6, 13, 9 and min9

Scales and arpeggios:

  • Two octave major scales in three different positions – pick any key
  • Seven Greek modes (one position per mode) – pick any key
  • Two octave, seventh chord arpeggios including: ­Major seventh, seventh, minor seventh, minor seventh flat five and diminished seventh – pick any root note

Metro State Audition Info

Classical Guitar
  1. At least two prepared pieces:
  2. A study of Sor, Guiliani, Carcassi, Aguado, Sagreras, or Brouwer
  3. A piece from the Renaissance, Baroque, Romantic, or Modern periods
  4. One major scale OR melodic minor scale with classical fingering, using i,m alternation from Segovia scales, 3 octaves
  5. Sight reading in positions I-V
Please note:
  • Jazz/rock fingerings are NOT acceptable.
  • You MUST audition with a classical guitar
  • Original compositions and improvising are NOT allowed.
  • You must use a guitar support, such as a footstool
  • You may NOT use tablature and must read music, not “by ear
  • You must have a discussion/email exchange with Alex Komodore (komodore@msudenver.edu) prior to auditioning.
  • In most cases, you will need to have studied privately with a CLASSICAL GUITAR teacher known to the MSU Denver Guitar faculty
  • If you cannot read classical music or play with proper technique/position, and wish to get better at it so that you can audition correctly, at the minimum you should take MSU Denver’s two Class Guitar classes and THEN study privately to get more competitive.
Jazz Guitar
  1. Your sight reading ability must be the equivalent level of Studies 1-3 from Melodic Rhythms by William Leavitt.
  3. You must know basic chord voicings for maj7, 7, min7, min7b5 and dim; with the root of the chord on strings 4,5, and 6, in all keys
  4. You must be able to comp the above chords in a jazz style (i.e. Freddie Green, Charleston, etc.)
  5. Prepare a 12-barblues: you must be able to play the melody, comp the chord changes, and improvise over the chords.
The song should be from this list:
  • C Jam Blues –Duke Ellington
  • Blue Monk –Thelonius Monk
  • Straight, No Chaser– Thelonius Monk
  • Sonnymoon For Two –Sonny Rollins
  • Tenor Madness –Sonny Rollins
  • Billie’s Bounce– Charlie Parker
  • Now’s The Time –Charlie Parker
  • Looking up the tune on YouTube does not constitute research. Find/buy a recording of the song by the original artist, or by an
  • important jazz guitarist: Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel, Jim Hall, Joe Pass, Tal Farlow, Grant Green, Pat Martino, et al.

Let’s get started–>


Certified Members page is here.