Education, education, education.

•September 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This morning on the bbc news there was a chap being interviewed about music education in schools. I,of course, took an interest. What was he going to say about one of my pet peeves?
I’m not a fan of how music is taught in schools. Short instrumental lessons to a rigid format for those that take instrumental lessons, and an hour plus of shaking maracas and learning about where violinists sit for those that don’t. So for starters the times are completely squiffy. Anyone who has lessons in the school peripatetic environment and has then gone on to play in adult life, I take my hat off too, as you have triumphed over adversity. I have taught in this environment and how anyone gets anything done is a miracle. My own experience, was to be given a list of children ,quite often in pairs of very mixed ability, A cupboard to work in, and expected to help them through their musical education on 20 mins a week. This may sound familiar to fellow teachers and students alike. This is no way to teach anyone.
I teach privately, I have done for nearly 25 years. Without being big headed, I know what I’m doing,I get results. The government introduced an idea that all kids should learn an instrument, I partially agree. I think more should, I don’t think it is for all, some are maybe of a different bent and they is fine, I don’t particularly want to learn other languages, so I don’t. It’s my choice.
What learning an instrument does is as the chap on the bbc said, it instills confidence, perseverance. You cannot down load an app and master it instantly. You have to practice, there is no quick fix to playing the guitar. I am of course dismissing guitar hero and such completely put of hand as they are not playing a guitar to my mind.

The chap is running an initiative that if you have an used acoustic instrument at home you can donate at an oxfam shop and they will get it into the schools for kids to use. I think it is great, a little short sighted as I think a lot of kids would like to play electric guitars and keyboards as they are deemed cooler, but he was of the classical persuasion and I’m sure disapproves of electricity. The opportunity to try instruments is great though, I totally support it. If you get a chance is the place to find out more.

From my own perspective can I just say I receive a good number of thank you’s from parents for teaching their children, getting them grades that allow them to get better uni places. Helping ghe he child have more confidence in themselves, which spreads in to other areas of their lives, and mostly importantly the ability to play an instrument that brings them and others joy. This is very rewarding and is why I have stuck at teaching privately as that is the environment that actually gets it done.

So anyway come and book lessons with me now …. Just kidding, although you can if you want.


Buyer beware, It’s free for a reason.

•February 11, 2014 • 1 Comment

Recently someone I was teaching announced to me that they would no longer be having lessons as their friend played guitar and they were going to give them some lessons cheaper. Fair enough, market forces and all that.
I just thought I’d clarify what it is you get with a professional guitar teacher as opposed to a friend.
Well So far it’s 25 years of professional teaching experience which to my dubious maths equates to about 44,000 + hours of teaching people. In that time I have taught complete beginners, advanced players and all those in between. People with special needs from Autism to hearing issues.
I wouldn’t like to guess how many songs I have played or scales. Suffice to say it’s a huge number and that kind of experience is hard to buy.
So that aside what else is there?
Well I went to music college and studied. That wasn’t free, but I bring the experience and knowledge to the lessons.
I have a shed load of qualifications in both guitar playing and teaching, not just music. They didn’t come for free.
I provide a custom room to teach in, with all the coolest guitar and music software, that wasn’t free either. I have over 60,000 transcriptions stored on my hard drives and 33,000+ mp3’s. They weren’t free.
I have 1000’s of guitar backing tracks for playing over that are utilised in lessons. …Nope not free either.
I have all the grade books and resource materials. Now I don’t know if you know this, but each grade book is £12-15 each and there are 8 grades, Electric, Rock and Acoustic, Classical. You can imagine that this isn’t free either.
I have public liability insurance in case anyone hurts themselves. Well I am pretty sure you know insurance isn’t free.
I have memberships of teaching bodies and unions too. These have resources available to myself and students. Yup, not free either.
I print off sheet music in lessons, neck diagrams, articles etc, Paper and ink, not sure if you’ve bought any ink cartridges lately? I get through loads.
I provide things to sit on. lights, a parking space.
I often during the lessons make setup adjustments and restring guitars for students. I’m not sure if you know how much a restring costs in a shop but it isn’t free. Go check you might be surprised.
I also have thousands of live gig experience including Wembley Arena and much more. Can you even buy that?

I could go on.

So what I’m saying is no I’m not free, but have you really thought what you actually get access to in a lesson? Go off and try and get that for free from your friend. All in all I would say being under the Musicians Union suggested rate, I am pretty damn good value all things considered. Good luck getting all that for nothing.

Goodbye to my Hero.

•February 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

3 years, still a massive loss.

Geoffleaguitar's Blog

Sunday 6th Feb 2011 @ 16:23 my phone goes, a text, “It’s not true is it? ” ” Gary Moore dead?” .  Dave, a student of mine for many years and a fellow Moore worshipper. This was the first I’d heard of it. I hoped it was silly buggers on Twitter choosing the next celeb to trend and cause a fuss about. I hoped on my phone and googled, A website came up, HOTPRESS and they were running that he had indeed died that night in his sleep.  How can he be dead he’s 58. He’s doing a new album, he’s on tour this year, I’ve already checked where and want to see this incarnation with Neil Carter back and rumourings that it is back to the Run for Cover/Wild Frontier feel. He can’t be dead. I went numb my heart sank and a genuine sadness and sense of loss…

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A repeating argument

•November 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Recently I happened across an online argument between some people over the merits of tribute bands.
It was an interesting read. There were some very forthright opinions.
One particular point of view was from a “name ” blues guitarist who plays the uk circuit who seems very anti tribute bands.
When I say anti, I mean ferociously anti to the point of hatred and extremely vitriolic. He suggested that these bands were killing the uk music scene and stifling talent.
Now a long time ago, I was very anti being in a tribute band, mostly because I couldn’t see what kind of tribute I could be in, or do a convincing tribute to.
Then an opportunity arose and I joined one. The musicianship is first rate, you get a good sized crowd and the gigs are really enjoyable, also you get paid, and paid well mostly.
So are tributes the death of the music scene? In short ,No.
Live music in any form should be embraced. The pre recorded pre package cowell junk that requires karaoke with voting, now that is a threat to live music, but tribute bands, no, they are playing what people are asking to hear.
So why are tribute bands ok?
Well let’s be quite honest and frank about it, as with everything there are good and bad. The good tributes, in order to replicate another artist accurately requires skill. A great deal of skill. With cover bands songs are replicated but generally not as accurately as with tributes who go for the best replication of the tunes. Some tributes out there it is very difficult to tell the real band from the tribute. So why not go and see the real band? Well in a number of cases it just isn’t possible as they either don’t tour this country or the band no longer exists for whatever reasons, death, splitting up etc.
There are great deal of extremely talented musicians in this country alone, who have discovered that playing your own stuff to 3 men and a dog is somewhat soul destroying. Whilst people do appreciate original music, generally for a night out they want to know what they are getting, a tribute is the ronseal of bands, they do what they say on the tin. You know exactly what you are getting.
I have recently been in the situation of playing in a tribute, being in a cover band and playing with two original material bands. Here’s the breakdown;
Cover band : turn up, play a variety of songs, fairly accurately to a good number of people, pretty near to home, paid and home at a reasonable time. Set list of well known tunes that just require learning.
Original bands : write the material, learn other members material, lots of practice, travel large distances to venues far away, to play to smaller crowds who are ambivalent at best. Expenses aren’t covered and generally out off key by the time the gig is done.
Tribute band : material already written, bit more practice required, plus costumes. Much much larger crowds, better pay, treated better by venues/promoters, overall much more satisfaction from gig as feel appreciated.

Now it might come as a massive surprise which gigs I get most from. Is playing with tributes creatively satisfying? Well you aren’t writing the songs but you do understand the discipline of reproducing a song exactly. However people are generally very appreciative of your playing skills. From that point of view it is fun and a good way to go if you can do it properly, please note I am not suggesting that you form a tribute. There are a huge number out there and some of them aren’t all that. They play the songs rather shambolicly, make little attempt to reproduce the performance/ appearance of the band in question. These are essentially cover bands who are getting greedy and think that rebranding is a way to extract more money from venues. I fully understand that, but they are not “proper” tributes.

I did find it interesting that a musician was having a massive attack at musicians who are getting out there and playing. They are at least playing, demonstrating the talents equipped to play real instruments. The most interesting thing was the musician involved was a heavy duty blues musician. I love blues, but it can be very “samey”. So for someone who plays essentially other peoples progressions and ideas with just word changes to have a pop at people who play in tributes and at least are honest as to what they are playing, is a bit rich.
On reflection I think that there was a degree of jealousy at the gigs and treatment that tributes get. It isn’t selling out, it is merely providing what the market is asking for. If it wasn’t then the bands would soon disappear.

What do you think?

Guitar Lessons : An Expectation

•October 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

So you are thinking of getting guitar lessons, you may be a complete beginner or an established player looking to brush up or learn something new. Let’s look at the situation from both perspectives, that of the student and that of the teacher. 

As a student you may feel apprehensive about this new unknown step. Good teachers are aware of this and will do their best to make you feel at ease. The more experienced they are the more they have seen this scenario over and over. In my two decades of teaching guitar I have encountered this so many times. Rest assured that the teacher is hoping to make as good an impression on you as you are on them. They want to assist you in your learning, for numerous reasons, including job satisfaction and it is their livelihood. It is natural to have some apprehension with any new and unknown experience, just embrace it and you will more than likely be pleasantly surprised with the outcome. 

Many students arrive as beginners and announce to the teacher that ” I don’t think I’ll be very good”. Well no probably not. We aren’t expecting you to be. If you were you possibly not have any need for lessons. We do not expect you know anything, but a desire to learn is extremely helpful. If you didn’t have that you need to address why you are taking a guitar lesson. Every single person who has taken up the guitar has started from scratch. No matter how good we are now, we all started has ham fisted clumsy tuneless dunces. We improved through the magic ingredients, practice and desire. I have reiterated so many times to my students that if they saw me as a beginner they would take great heart from just how bad I was. How did I improve ? I just kept at it, and still do. 
A teacher is not a magician. As much as we’d like to think we are, we aren’t. We can provide you with the information, the materials, the shortcuts, the ideas, but none of these will turn you into a guitar player. You do that bit. As teachers we can see things that you might be doing that are hindrances and can help you make adjustments to technique for example. We can suggest pieces you may wish to learn that would benefit your progression, they could introduce all kinds of ideas. 
I have found over the years that sometimes just listening and introducing different artists to students can be just as educational as being sat there going up and down scales for 5 mins. In fact I have been informed by numerous ex students that introduction to genres/ bands they didn’t know of paved the way to their musical world now. So if a teacher is playing tunes to you or showing you YouTube videos, chances are it is for a reason. Just be wary if that is all they do. 
As a beginner you will probably have no idea of what it is you need to learn. Make sure your teacher explains to you what it is you are being taught and why. Together try to map out where you want to be, explain your goals. No matter how far fetched they maybe, remember all the rock stars started as complete beginners.  Try to come to a consensus as to where your journey will be heading, it maybe learning to play various songs, it maybe to take exams, it maybe to address a technique issue. Whatever it is a good teacher will see your end goal and be able to plan the best path to get there.
Remember from both sides that lessons are about teaching students, not showing how good the teacher is as a player. I have acquired a large number of students who have left previous teachers when they have repeatedly spent the lesson either showing off or talking about their bands, gigs etc. There is a fine line between demonstrating something “flash” in order to to answer a question and just fluffing the ego. It’s a guitarist trait, but it has a time and a place and generally that is not at someone else’s expense when learning should be taking place .Being played at will not teach you anything nor will it keep a student very long so it really isn’t beneficial to either party.

The above covers a number of consideration, and with the desire not to bore you to death I will stop now, but there are many things that can be covered, but for now take those on board and go get yourself a good teacher and get learning.
For good teachers visit registry of guitar tutors
Make sure the teacher has some musical qualifications and experience of teaching. There are too many guitar teachers who are guitarist who fancy teaching a bit of guitar for some extra income. These are not career guitar teachers with all the understanding and expertise as professional guitar teachers.






How do I solo? A simple beginning guide

•September 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This, as a question, could have nearly an infinite amount of answers, as a solo, can, and should be, an expression of yourself. Let’s start from the beginning. What is it you are soloing over? As with everything in life you should start simply and then get more adventurous as you become more proficient. So let’s start really simply. 1 chord. For simplicities sake I’m choosing A minor as the chord.
Do you know which notes constitute an A minor?
If not then that is your first problem, how can you know what to play over an A minor if you don’t know which notes will work?
Luckily for you I’m nice and I’m going to tell you. A minor consists of 3 notes, A C E. That’s ace, no really it’s is ace!

A minor is being played, now you could play an A, C or ,E over it, or combinations of all three. 3 notes that are safe and you could play some really cool things with just those. It’s all about the phrasing and timing of those notes.
You know those wise old sages from the Far East who hardly ever speak, and when the do it is minimal and insightful. Well you can do that with soloing. You don’t need a million notes, easy for me to say I know, but sometimes the best solo is just very simple and heartfelt. Always bear that in mind.

So we have 3 excellent notes, we could of course play these in a variety of octaves. Just shifting octaves can give a nice sense of movement. Do you know what an octave is? Please say yes.  NO? OK an Octave is where the notes have the same name but have moved up where they now sound the same but higher. Example 5th fret low E string and 7th Fret D. Both are A notes but are an octave apart. Listen to the difference. Just for good measure, try the 10th fret of the B string.  That is also an A, but 2 Octaves higher than the original A we started with. Can you hear it?

3 Notes, all strong all correct, what do we do with them?  Well you can play them in a variety of orders, repeat a note numerous times, play 2 together.  All of these require the magic ingredient. Phrasing.  You need to phrase the notes.

So how do you do that? Well that is going to be another lesson, but for now just try playing the notes over the A minor chord and hearing how they sound against it.  What we are doing is taking your first couple of steps into the big bad world of guitar solos, lets not run before you can even stand up.

Report back shortly for the next instalment.


So.. what Key am I in?

•September 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Geoffleaguitar's Blog

The Anatomy of a progression

Let’s take a chord progression and look at what information we need in order to be able to maximise our ability with it.

For the purposes of this I shall pick a progression consisting of the following chords

A ¦ f#m9 ¦ Bmin7¦ Dmaj7¦C#min7¦Bmin7¦C#min7¦D6¦¦

The first thing to ascertain is the key that the progression is in.
Do you know how to work out the key of something? If not the next section is just for you.

Firstly we need to work out which key the chords are from. I am going to take the long and thorough method of working this out. This is just to make sure you understand why we are in the key we are in.

Taking each of the above chords we first need to identify the notes that constitute the chord in question.

A = A C# E

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