Archive for guitar

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.

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.

playing together

Posted in teaching with tags , on 9 June, 2014 by flaviomatani

Interesting how very stimulating the playing together has been for the handful of my pupils who now meet once a month to play at the local Literary Café.  It has also revealed some gaps in some of my pupils’ understanding, technique or knowledge of certain things so it has been useful in filling those gaps. It has also improved their sight-reading and their music reading in general. I recommend ensemble playing to players of all levels, it is fun and a bonding experience as well as a nourishing one.

steps

Posted in teaching with tags , , on 2 October, 2013 by flaviomatani

In the course of teaching guitar you keep going back to the same few bits of advice -which all seem to be quite difficult to take in and make part of the way you practise or tackle new pieces. Practise slowly, practise in small bits (small enough that you can quickly analyse and then repeat many times until they become automatic).

We all want to get there but most of us don’t want to put in what (at least at first) feels like a long slug, the drudge work of developing finger dexterity, finger strength, finger control. The interesting and difficult thing is to make the acquiring of that discipline less of a chore and more something you can enjoy in itself. Some of us eventually learn to do this, many don’t. It is one of the bigger challenges for an instrumental music teacher to get your pupils to develop this, to get to like their practice.

I reckon there may be many answers to this, all with different advantages and shortcomings. I will try and elaborate on these topics later on.

The main goals, though, remain the same:

– getting the pupil to take in the information available to them. We tend to take in bits and ignore large chunks of what is in front of us.

– getting the pupil to learn to break the task into manageable chunks

– to practise slowly

– and to repeat what they have learnt so it becomes ‘automatic’ , where each of the many steps involved in the task no longer have to be explicitly stated.

position, position

Posted in teaching with tags , on 19 October, 2010 by flaviomatani

A curious thing about learning to play an instrument like the guitar is that at first you really don’t want to know about sitting position, how you hold the instrument, how you present your hands. And yet in the longer run this will make all the difference: your position can make things much more difficult than necessary. This is, however, so difficult to get to see in the beginning.. as you just want to play the pieces or songs, it seems an unnecessary encumbrance. And yet it is fundamental…

One has to strike that balance, like so many others, when teaching the guitar.