LEARNING TO PLAY
Q. What are the main qualities required to master the guitar?
A. I would say keenness and a dogged determination. I don't believe it's hard to learn but it is hard to stick at something and persevere when things seem tough. Also, you have to be prepared to practice as much as you can.
Q. How come you successfully get your students playing so quickly?
A. Well I don't include much theory and my emphasis is on getting pupils to play some tunes they recognise right from the start so that they are hooked on the instrument. It's essential they feel as if they're achieving something from the outset and I aim to build up their basic repertoire as soon as we can. I also like to simplify and break down the techniques and processes so that playing the guitar (even some difficult pieces) is seen as a realistic and attainable goal.
Q. What motivates you to teach beginners?
A. Personal satisfaction I guess, it's great to see people get to grips with their instrument. Also, I'm keen to teach students to play as a soloist and not just strum chords or play as lead guitar.
Q. What structure do you use in your lessons?
A. I use a numbered "Student Study Sheet" which is our record of what's been covered and what has been set as "homework". Firstly, I always ask the students to play back to me what they should have practiced. Then we cover improvements, changes required and that sort of thing and lastly we move onto a new piece or a technique that will form the homework for next time. You'd be amazed just how quickly an hour can pass!
Q. Do you always ask the students to play back to you?
A. Yes I do, for a number of reasons. It was a common gripe I heard from students that some teachers asked them to do something and then never bothered to revisit it to see how they'd got on. Also, it enables me to see how they've progressed and whether we can move on - it's important to ensure that some cement has been laid before you move onto the next stages and it also helps to develop a sense of "performance" in a student.
Q. Aren't they nervous when you ask them to play?
A. Yes, very often they are but I try and make it a fun part of the session and tell them not be worried about mistakes. It's never easy to play to a critical teacher's ear and although they make mistakes I can always notice if they've practised and made progress. We're not learning to pass an exam here and it helps them get used to playing for any interested listener or family member.
Q. You seem to place a great deal of emphasis on practice?
A. Very much so. Strangely, I always say to my students, the REAL progress is made when I'm not there - the time between lessons when the student is able to practice and come to terms with their instrument and gain a fluency and confidence in their abilities.
Q. What if students say they don't have time to practice?
A. I know we all lead busy lives and I understand that, sometimes, their work or home commitments can rob them of the time. However, if they cannot regularly find time to practice how do they think they're going to find time to play when they've learnt? Time spent with your guitar is what it's all about and not just the one hour a week with the teacher. If they're too busy to practice then I'm afraid we won't have many lessons together.
Q. How long does it take to become proficient?
A. There's no complete answer for this one as it varies by individual. It's not my intention to teach students for years but to develop an independence and get them up and running on their own as soon as we can. Certainly, as a guide, having between 12 -18 lessons with me will give you a solid foundation with a varied repertoire to build on - PROVIDING YOU put the work in. Remember, you never stop learning so proficiency is whatever you as an individual want it to be.