Somebody came to see me during the week for an informal chat about starting guitar lessons. I tend to do this now instead of having conversations on the phone or emails going backwards and forwards about rates and times of lessons etc. I just find it easier for them to meet me and for me to meet them so that I can understand where they are coming from in their playing and if they have played before and what standard have they reached.
This particular person was interested in classical guitar and he had been playing for about four years, he spends some of his time out of the country and he has a guitar teacher while he is away so he was looking for one here. He seemed a very nice guy and he turned up with his guitar and his music; we sat down and had a cup of tea and chatted about what he had done before.
He started to tell me how wonderful the guitar teacher was in America and every lesson was like a masterclass. I found this interesting and when I looked at his music that he had every single note had a pencil mark next to it. The notation was so extensive to include both his right and left-hand fingering and also the dynamics of the piece. I then started to wonder what this guy had actually learnt and what had he discovered about himself musically or was he just following instructions.
He played a little bit to me and it could certainly get all the notes down but there was something lacking. As we discussed things further I gave him some ideas about developing the musicality of what he was playing but I could feel some sort of reticence. The thing really got me was when he produced the music for the Recuerdos de la Alhambra which he said he wanted to play as his autumn project.
I suggested that he should start looking at the piece before I see him next and mentioned some ways of approaching it, he gave me a slightly puzzled look. At that moment it was clear all the lessons had been a firm form of spoon feeding when in reality we need to find the musicality in ourselves and this can be done by teachers showing the way. However the pupil needs to learn self- sufficiency if a teacher goes into great detail on every piece when will the pupil learn that. There is only so many fish that you can give someone it is much easier for them to learn to fish and feed themselves.
We need to nurture what is inside of us and to some extent we do need to be initiated in this by someone else but the constant journey that you make as a musician is yours and not the teachers and although it does mean that you get return business if you teach like this because of the dependence of the pupil that is not the role of the teacher. The aim should be to make the pupil your master.
www.bluescampuk.co.uk three days of playing in a band and learning how to perform and to write songs like a rockstar.