Archive for the teaching Category

Robert Fripp’s take on practice (on which I agree)

Posted in teaching on 18 May, 2022 by flaviomatani

RF: There are five primary areas of practice: 

calisthenics – left and right hand functioning, co-ordination between fingers and both hands;

fingerboard knowledge;


the ear and listening;


A minimum of twenty-to-thirty minutes practising a day keeps us in the amateur game; an hour a day for semi-pros.


A day in the life

Posted in teaching with tags , , , on 2 July, 2021 by flaviomatani

Today is looking a relatively busy day ahead. Have a guitar lesson at 11 in Bristol, one at 3 in Singapore, one at 5 in Indiana USA, then one at 6… here in my living room. Well, I s’pose all of them are in my living room, in a way…
#guitarlessons #lifeofflav #zoom

Guitar Grade Exams?

Posted in teaching with tags , , , on 22 March, 2021 by flaviomatani

Are guitar Grade exams good for you? Are they something you should be pursuing? The answer varies, I find. For some people they are very useful -they give concrete goals, a timeline with a deadline with clear material to practise and at the end of it an assessment of level and the sense of satisfaction, of achievement of having completed a goal. This is not true for everybody, though. For some people the study of the instrument done that way becomes ‘another school subject’, a chore that they feel limits them, circumscribes them. On the other hand, studying for an exam means you have to, in addition to the pieces, prepare the technical material (like scales, arpeggios, aural comprehension tests, etc) that you might not be so inclined to do work on if you didn’t have to for an exam.

I teach guitar in two secondary schools. At least in one of them I am expected to prepare people for exams -I’ve never been told I should achieve a quota of pupils doing them or of grades achieved but I know it is expected of me to put a certain percentage of people through them. What I normally do is, I prepare them until they are at a point where they could reasonably well pass a Grade 1 exam and ask them whether that is something they might be interested in doing. I do try to put across the possible pros and cons in them. Let them decide.

There are some practical benefits for pupils that age: UCAS (the UK entity that grants and allocates University entry) ‘likes’ to see you having done a Grade 6 instrument. Of course they are not interested in whether you play music but in whether you can develop a discipline and method that enables you to achieve a goal like this. Also for pupils that age there is the fact that parents like to see that there is a level of achievement stated in a diploma, again a statement of level reached.

It is a bit different with adult learners and the answer is more often (but not always!) that exams would not be a good idea. It is however a good idea, again, to discuss the issue when it looks like it would help keep the interest and the regular practice, etc.

It is always a good idea to discuss the topic and put forward why it might be a good idea or otherwise.

Waking up to a new post-Covid world of music teaching practices

Posted in teaching with tags , , on 15 February, 2021 by flaviomatani

A friend was writing in his blog about the changes that large companies are considering in their practices as a consequence of this year of predominantly ‘work at home’ ways of doing things brought about by the pandemic. WFH and different mixes of WFH and work on site will probably become the norm for many people.. Away from the corporate field, me as a private music teacher have found (or confirmed, at any rate) that I can do what I do anywhere in the world where there is good internet (this does put into question, why then live in one of the more expensive cities in the world). With some limitations but one can get around those and my pupils can learn and get to where they want to be, without all the travelling (mine or theirs) etc. There even are some small advantages. For instance, I record (with their consent, of course) small sections of the lesson when I need to make a particular point clear and mail the resulting video to them -and this has turned out to be very useful We cannot play together, clearly, because of the latency in those systems but I can record second guitar parts for them to play along with. All in all, a little more preparation on my part but the results have been satisfactory. There is one big fly in the ointment: I teach in two secondary schools as well as private lessons. Online lessons there have been a different thing and had, say, mixed success. And the schools want face-to-face lessons to resume as soon as, probably in three weeks’ time as I write this (15 Feb 2021). I’m finding I don’t like that idea very much, from practical points of view (sharing air and mingling with a thousand-plus kids in the middle of a pandemic, etc), having to deal with the thousand little annoyances (the bathrooms..) and little things like, again, getting up at ungodly hours and commuting after I’ve found that it is not really necessary to do things in this way. We’ll see how this all pans out.

Zooming in

Posted in teaching, thoughts on teaching with tags , , , , , on 21 January, 2021 by flaviomatani

So, what can you _not_ do in a Zoom guitar lesson?

The most important one, probably, is being able to play together. There are many occasions in which being able to do this would save many words and get the pupil to understand what you’re trying to convey or what you’re trying to get them to do or change, much more easily.

There are some possible work-arounds. One that I find myself using increasingly more is the recording of short snippets of video during the lesson, illustrating a point of technique or interpretation. People have done similar things before, I know of several guitar teachers who would make audio recordings of the entire lesson -but who is going to wade through an entire hour of guitar lesson? I have found much more effective to make a very short video about one single point or a very short bit of music, often just a few notes or changes. Something that doesn’t take a lot of time and effort for the pupil to understand and follow and incorporate in their practice.

This idea of the very short and to the point video snippet is something that I will be keeping even when we are able to go back to face-to-face lessons. I’ve found them very useful for the pupil and for myself.

Teaching guitar on the year of the plague

Posted in teaching on 31 December, 2020 by flaviomatani

Last day of 2020. And what a year this has been. I’ve learnt a few things about what I do.

I’ve managed to keep a modicum of private teaching going, all of it via Zoom & al. I’ve done perhaps three or four face-to-face lessons since March when this whole thing started. It’s been very complicated at the two schools I teach, one of them in particular where the situation seemed to be getting out of control and I felt decidedly not safe.

OTOH, I’ve come to realise that I could do this guitar teaching thing anywhere in the world, provided there is good internet. I’m currently preparing several pupils for ABRSM and Trinity grade exams, teaching a six year old (I don’t usually take them so young but he’s making good progress and enormously enthusiastic) and have a couple of pupils in remote parts of the world. The only complication with the latter is the having to sort out convenient times when you are eight hours’ away. I can do this work purely online, it doesn’t have to be from a tiny flat in one of the most expensive cities in the world, the attractions of which are all denied us in a time like this.

This is perhaps a little digression in what was meant to be a blog about the more technical sides of guitar teaching -and about details of guitar technique, but is a necessary reflection on these strange times. Contrary to what I might have anticipated when this whole situation started, I haven’t floundered and I’m still here, teaching people, trying to help people reach their potential in this small area of human endeavour, the making music on the guitar.


Posted in teaching on 10 June, 2020 by flaviomatani

Given the pandemic and the measures taken to prevent its spread (lockdown, social distancing, etc.) all my teaching is now taking place online. Mostly using Zoom at the moment, which has a very slight advantage in that you can configure the sound settings. There are things you cannot do, like playing together with the pupil, as the latency in these systems prevents that -you cannot really play together when each party hears the other one half a second late. But you can carry out the lesson, hear the pupil, give advice. It works. Not perfect, but usable. It also has the advantage that there is no geographical constrain, you could take lessons from anywhere in the world.

If you might be interested in taking lessons online, do send me a line to


Posted in teaching on 13 May, 2020 by flaviomatani

This is a tricky one, one which I haven’t got to the bottom of. I’ve seen this happen in a majority of people taking up the guitar in, say, late middle age. A combination of unsteady hand which bounces off the strings, rough tone, missed or muffled notes, uncertain timing. Some of these things are easier to sort out than others but the whole effect is often quite difficult to ‘treat’. And the pupil is of course most often aware of the situation and finds it mortifying or at least annoying and cannot get around it.

Some of the issues (as it is a combination of various things) can be dealt with with the old formula -analysis before playing, breaking pieces down to small chunks that are more easily ‘digestible’, practise very slowly at first so as to retain control, repeat those small bits many many times once you’ve got them right. All this seems to be much more easily said than done for many people but it is the system that works best. Alas, it works to an extent.

In some cases you have to manage expectations -no, it might not be a good idea to play Bach’s Chaconne just now. Maybe ‘Adelita’ would be a better choice at this point.  Even so, I find in some cases you have to go further back and, whatever they are playing, break it down to very small bits or simple elements and work on those -even down to get a three or four note scale to come out clearly and even in tone might require attention. Try to find simpler alternative pieces that are still satisfying to play. It is a complicated balance to keep and the main thing is to keep the motivation high, the wanting to do something through that medium of the guitar.

exams, again

Posted in teaching on 30 May, 2017 by flaviomatani

I have touched on the issue of exams before. It pops up regularly, particularly this time of year (end of May and nearly end of the school year as I write this).  Grade exams are good for many but not for all. Some people thrive on the extra pressure, some don’t take well to it. There are additional issues: inevitably, the syllabi for the exam are a narrow sample of what is possible to do on the instrument -not just in terms of the syllabus being centred on ‘classical’ Western music from the  XIX and XVIII centuries, to the exclusion of non-Western musics and also the many strands of popular music of the Western world in which the guitar is prominent.  There are, of course, positive sides: clear deadlines, the having to cover material (like scales and aural training, etc) which are beneficial for people’s formation but are often seen as boring or pointless.

At this point (summer of 2017) I have two pupils about to take Grade 7 and several others taking lower grade exams and a couple of people doing theory of music. From my own point of view, this is all a good thing as it keeps me on my toes and makes me have to refresh stuff that I had learnt long, long ago.

Like so many things in music learning, the process of having to learn all that stuff is as good (or better) for the pupil as the end result.

of advertising, domains and this music teaching thing

Posted in teaching with tags , on 17 October, 2016 by flaviomatani

Considering whether to set up my guitar teaching page on I’ve set up a basic site at It works but their basic templates are so ugly!

There is a clash of names between my previous site ( and a local music shop with an almost identical url, which has resulted in people finding them instead of me when they search for guitar lessons in this area (even if you type my address in a search box Google will still ask you ‘did you mean… x’ x being the guitar shop’s url. So I have a small problem right there; thinking of several possible solutions but don’t want to ditch the domain just yet, I’ve had it for over twelve years and put it on lots of stationery and advertising.

In the meantime, I’m still here. Three of my pupils have recently successfully done  their ABRSM Grade 8. I have a very interesting set of existing pupils, including a very capable electric guitarist wanting to explore and expand his skills and a fledgling composer with enormous passion and drive and vast erudition on matters of theory of music and composition, even though his practical skills need some polishing  on harmony, counterpoint and other matters-but that’s why he’s coming for lessons. I’m not getting bored! But I do need to get a bit busier.