Ryan Burns

Ryan B.

Chicago, IL
Available Locations:
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Studio Studio
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Ryan is a musician from Jefferson Park who plays a plethora of different instruments. He specializes in guitar, banjo, mandolin and ukulele, but also dabbles in accordion, piano, drums, harmonica and several others. Learning to play instruments is one of the true pleasures in his life and he hopes he can make it one of yours, too.

As a teacher Ryan's goals are fairly simple. First and foremost he wants to make his lessons comfortable, interesting and fun. A close second is to build a strong foundation on the basics, so as we learn more advanced techniques we have a solid base of technique to build upon. And third, an understanding of the theory and history behind the music is a great way to engage in the music beyond just the rote learning of technique.

After a brief foray in physics, Ryan settle into a degree in music at the University of Illinois, specializing in Ethnomusicology (the study of music of different cultures). This education gave him a strong background in music theory and history in the Western tradition, but also opened him up to a vast experience of a diverse cross section of music from around the world. His insatiable love for learning new instruments started here, where he studied music from West Africa to Bali.

Currently Ryan is a co-lead singer, songwriter and stringed instrument player for the local band Distant Brothers, a folk rock band based out of Chicago. They play venues throughout the Midwest, with some of the notable venues being House of Blues, Metro and Cubby Bear in Chicago. Another highlight of his time with the band has been a collaboration with Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra, where he not only was able to play in collaboration with the orchestra, but joined in the arranging and conceptualization of some of the pieces played.

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  • Background Checked
  • Teaches students 5 and up
  • BA in Ethnomusicology from University of Illinois

Reviews (57)

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Nadia Oct 15, 2019
Ukulele · Online

Frank Oct 9, 2019
Banjo · Online

very patient

Corie Sep 25, 2019
Banjo · Online

Michael Y. Aug 30, 2019
Banjo · Online

Nancy Aug 7, 2019
Ukulele · Online

Ryan was very accommodating to my needs as a beginner+. He covered just enough detail and adjusted to my specifics. I have good take aways and will practice. Looking forward to my next lesson.

Morgan K. Jul 2, 2019
Ukulele · In home

Very patient, made my granddaughter feel comfortable. She learned a lot at the first session. Looking forward to more.

Tim Jun 24, 2019
Banjo · Online

The instruction is both helpful and patient.

Lorraine D. Jun 12, 2019
· Online

teacher is way to sensitive for me. other then that was okay

Tim Jun 9, 2019
Banjo · Online

Ryan provides professional and patient instruction, Highly recommended.

Tim May 26, 2019
Banjo · Online

Samantha G. May 1, 2019
Banjo · In studio

I have only completed one lesson, but overall I am really impressed and excited for the next lesson. Ryan took the time to talk through the basics, and he is a great teacher.

Barbara Apr 16, 2019
Banjo · Online

Doreen L. Mar 29, 2019
Banjo · Online

If your looking for a patient teacher, you’ve found him. Ryan has been a breeze to work with and you won’t feel like any of your questions are silly. His explanations and talents along with his patience has helped me get further then I ever thought possible.

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Susan S. Mar 10, 2019
Guitar · Online

Ben Sinclair Feb 27, 2019
Banjo · Online

A great banjo instructor, and helped me with some general music and theory!

Fran C. Feb 26, 2019
Ukulele · Online

WONDERFUL instructor! Has taken my ukelele playing to new levels. Patient with great advice....moves at my pace. Highly recommend

Doreen L. Jan 16, 2019
Banjo · Online

My first lesson worked out great! Ryan is a very relaxed knowledgeable musician who takes the time to teach and listen.

Lorraine D. Jan 2, 2019
Banjo · Online

so far very good just started

Bill F. Dec 7, 2018
Ukulele · Online

Ryan adapts to your speed of learning. Very important!

Claudia Dec 6, 2018
Banjo · Online

Bill F. Nov 29, 2018
Ukulele · Online

First lesion... Ryan Doesn't rush, explains in detail, listens and answers questions. Ryan is a very good instructor.

Sigrid Nov 23, 2018
Banjo · Online

Amy J. Nov 17, 2018
Banjo · Online


Kevin Nov 10, 2018
Banjo · Online

Instructor is great. On line has its problems as connectivity can be spotty.

Kevin Nov 3, 2018
Banjo · Online

Ryan was great. I am looking forward to my next lessons.

Chris Oct 22, 2018
Banjo · In studio

Outstanding teacher. Ryan has a gift for teaching music. He made sure that I learned clawhammer banjo the correct way and gently steered me away from bad habits. If you want to play an instrument, all you need to do is take lessons from Ryan and practice. You will succeed. It's that simple.

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Max R. Sep 19, 2018
Banjo · Online

Love that my 11 year old can take the lessons from home. He is in a car a lot of the week, so being able to not loose time over sitting in traffic yet again, is really fantastic.
I don’t stay in the room for his classes, but what I notice with Ryan, is that my son is making steady progress and is taking up the banjo every day to practice, without me having to tell him too. That, to me, is an accomplishment on its own :)
Love these lessons, love Ryan who is friendly, relaxed and practical. Two thumbs up.

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Stuart Aug 27, 2018
Banjo · Online

4 weeks into banjo lessons has been great. He does a great job explaining and answering your questions. Im just a beginner but its going well. Thanks Ryan.

Jane J. Aug 23, 2018
Banjo · Online

Ryan is very flexible and accommodating. I took a banjo lesson and a mandolin lesson from him. He helped me transition easily between instruments. He also was most willing to indulge my love of Irish music. I found him to be relaxed and yet encouraging.

Paula Aug 16, 2018
Banjo · Online


Samantha May 30, 2018
Banjo · Online

Fran C. May 24, 2018
Ukulele · Online

So far so good! Instructor very knowledgeable. Felt very comfortable with the online experience. First time for me. Feel quite motivated after first lesson. Look forward to next. Thank you Ryan.

Sigrid May 20, 2018
Banjo · Online

CPO Rob Mar 29, 2018
Banjo · Online

I am a 60+ guy that had gotten a banjo for Christmas. I had one many, many years ago and I wanted to start again with lessons. With Take a Lesson I met up with Ryan. Here is a Kool layed back kinda guy that is a musician and a real good instructor. He has taken me from zero to cords and rolls. He listens well and is flexible enough that you learn at your own speed. Get in line for this Guy. Thanks Ryan!

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Claudia Mar 21, 2018
Banjo · Online

Extremely patient and helpful

Waylon Mar 6, 2018
Banjo · Online

My first lesson with Ryan went very well. I look forward to continuing our lessons. He is very knowledgeable and friendly to work with.

Drew Mar 4, 2018
Banjo · Online

Gerry Mar 3, 2018
Banjo · In studio

When Ryan accepted me as a student almost 2-1/2 years ago, he took on the daunting task of teaching both mandolin and banjo to a complete novice...who also happened to be nearly 70 years old! Ryan is a technically accomplished professional player who patiently encourages and supports his students as they find their own musical voices. He himself is a broadly cultured and serious student of musical theory, who welcomes and is happy to answer questions about why things do - or don’t! - work musically. Studying with Ryan has been a splendid experience, and an excellent investment of time and money.

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Claudia Feb 21, 2018
Banjo · Online

Joyce Feb 21, 2018
Ukulele · In studio

I come to ukelele with a mixed background of other instruments. Ryan did a great job of tailoring my first lesson to my musical skills and interests. I'm really looking forward to my weekly lessons!

dan Feb 20, 2018
Mandolin · In studio


Sydney Feb 1, 2018
Banjo · Online

Eager to break down theory and provides a clear lesson plan.

Sydney Jan 17, 2018
Banjo · Online

CPO Rob Jan 12, 2018
Banjo · Online

This was my first meeting an Banjo lesson. It was just perfect for my abilities. Homework was just great. One problem is my Web Cam is vertical not horizontal.

Sigrid Oct 22, 2017
Banjo · Online

Ana May 12, 2017
Ukulele · Online

Brian Mar 19, 2017
Mandolin · In studio

Extremely knowledgable, nice and overall great teacher. I'm extremely happy with my first mandolin lesson and can't wait to practice what Ryan taught me and return for my next lesson.

Blanche D. Mar 10, 2017
Ukulele · In studio

Great lesson! Ryan is patient, thoughtful, and teaches things step by step so it isn't overwhelming. Can't wait to come home from work and practice!

Alice K. Feb 23, 2017
Ukulele · In home

Learn something new, good experience.

Kathy Jan 8, 2017
Mandolin · In home

Lesson 1 was Great! Ryan assessed my skills first and reviewed the foundation. He zoned in on details that I need to be mindful of when playing. He gave me homework to work on which is good. I took notes because I value his guidance and suggestions. In conclusion, Ryan is a patient and knowledgable teacher and you should take lessons with him because it is fun to learn more and hear the difference after you play it!

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Alina K. Jul 31, 2016
Guitar · In home

Lesson 1 was great, Ryan is a very nice person he worked well with my 8 year old.

Manopriya Feb 27, 2016
Ukulele · In studio

Ryan is a very good teacher. I have been trying to learn how to play for a long time, but his techniques helped me grasp the basics quickly. He provided notes, recordings and homework after every class which helped a lot while practising and getting better at playing the ukelele. He was able to solve my doubts and issues effectively as he would imitate my play and figure out my problem areas and advise accordingly. He's very patient and consistent, it was a great experience learning with him!

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Liz Dec 15, 2015
Guitar · In studio

I really enjoy taking lessons with Ryan! He took time to really listen to and understand what my goals are and is helping me work towards them, which is no small feat for a complete beginner. He explains new concepts in ways I can understand and I feel comfortable asking for clarification if there is something I'm having trouble with. He also gives me a variety of different exercises (chords, scales, picking, strumming, full songs) to keep things interesting and to keep me engaged. I also like that he adds in a little music theory so that I know why I'm doing what I'm doing. In all Ryan is kind, chill, accommodating, talented, and thoughtful, so I would definitely recommend him as a teacher.

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Dan E. Dec 2, 2015
Ukulele · In studio

My daughter gets along with him. He's easy going and she enjoys her lessons. Recommend!

Lynne Roberts Sep 9, 2015
Banjo · In studio

Ryan is extremely patient and helpful!

Jeremy Aug 11, 2015
Banjo · In home

Ryan did a great job getting to know my needs specifically and making sure I had the basics down before proceeding. Learned a lot in 45 minutes!

Kelly E. Jul 2, 2015
Ukulele · In studio

My 13 year old daughter just finished her first lesson with Ryan. She was so excited to show me what she learned and said he is a great teacher and is looking forward to future lessons. She is usually a bit shy, but assured me she was comfortable with him, and my husband confirmed. So glad we found him!

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Guitar Training Staff
Aug 2010 - Sep 2010

Youth Encounter

Trained outgoing team members in performance of pieces and gave instructional presentations as part of the training staff team.


BA in Ethnomusicology
Aug 2005 - May 2009

University of Illinois



Fluent / Native Proficiency

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