Playing Skills

News!

This week I would like to congratulate Mal on the near birth of his first child.  Mal has been having guitar lessons with me for 3 years.  We have covered some great songs and playing techniques, mostly electric guitar – based and rock style.  The most recent being the guitar solo and riffs from Whiskey in the Jar by Thin Lizzy.   Great solo!   Lots of fun.    Mal will be having a couple months break to become a new dad.

Here is his recent testimonial regards our lessons.

To anyone thinking of taking guitar lessons I’d strongly recommend Jo. I have found her one-to-one instruction and advice about my own guitar playing invaluable – much easier than trying to learn from a book or You-Tube video. 

Before taking lessons, I muddled on and off for years by myself without making any real progress beyond a few basic chords. I got into a bad habit of settling for easy to play songs and abandoning anything I found difficult.

 Learning songs I really want to play with Jo has made a huge difference to my playing. It has given me the confidence to attempt more challenging pieces which I previously thought were beyond my reach. When I’ve been struggling Jo has managed to work her magic with different suggestions and approaches. I wouldn’t describe myself as a natural guitar player, but Jo has the patience of a saint and has really helped me to steadily improve over the last three years. 

 

Another recent event and acheivement is the success of one of my other students Jamie in attaining a Merit of 78% for his Rockschool Electric Guitar Grade 2 exam.   I’m happy and proud and looking forward to starting his Grade 3 journey after the Summer. In the meantime we are spending some fun time polishing up Sweet Child of Mine and Enter Sandman!

 

Jo

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Categories: children's lessons, Goals, Grades, Jamming, Lessons, Playing Skills, rockschool, students, Testimonials | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

New Grade Success!

I’m very happy to belatedly congratulate my student Jamie on achieving an 80% Merit in his Rockschool Grade 1 guitar exam in December!

Jamie started having lessons with me 2 years ago after deciding the life of a rock star was calling.. now aged 10 with a nice list of benchmark riffs under his fingers (Sunshine of Your Love and Sweet Child of Mine firm favourites…) he’s on the quest of Rockschool Grades.

It’s really amazing for me to see this progress and smiles when young students are talking and getting excited about guitar. Even better when they put the work in and see themselves playing riffs they didn’t think they would be able to a few months ago.

The stage is calling! Turn up the amp….

Jo x

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Categories: children's lessons, Goals, Grades, Learning, Lessons, Playing Skills, rockschool, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Year, Achievements & Guitar Goals

Hi All,

Happy New Year from me!

2016 was a fantastic year in terms of teaching and creativity. I had students I’m very proud of head off to University and achieve successful Guitar Grades.  I also had an influx of new students to get to know and work with.

I love the freshness of the New Year to take stock and decide what’s important and to get some new goals in place..

With learning to play guitar one of my big lessons came after I had been playing for quite a few years and that was to just pick something, practice, get good at it and learn how to use it.

For me one of those choices was when I started learning to play slide guitar.  I had always been overwhelmed with the amount of routes you can take in guitar playing and often  that would slow me down as I dabbled and didn’t really feel like I was progressing.  I struggled to know my identity and direction as a player.

I learned to make decisions through writing songs. When you write songs you have to make a decision on where to go otherwise the song never gets finished.  This is how I learned slide.  I picked a slide, a few artists and a song and began to learn.

I then began to experiment with the slide once I had some techniques and understandings down.  Then I decided to write songs using my slide.That’s how I came to play slide guitar.

One step at a time. Always.

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So my point is this when you’re on your journey of learning…  Pick something, however small and do it. This will get you somewhere.  Oh, and enjoy…(required!).

So. HAPPY NEW YEAR.  Choose a couple of goals and get stuck in.  Don’t be put off by the fact that if you set a time limit you may not be ready,   this is often the case.  You will definitely be closer than you were when you began and that should be enough motivation to keep going.   It’s also allowed for you to change your goal if it no longer fits, but, keep moving….

And

Periodically take a moment to look back at what you now can do.  This can be really inspiring!

Best of Luck

Jo x

 

 

 

 

Categories: Goals, Learning, Lessons, Playing Skills, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A proud and accomplished muse on: Playing with others

We’ve already hit the lighter nights and we’re quickly heading towards summer.  Festivals, holidays and nature (…and rain most likely).  One of the perfect times of year to be either getting more stuck into that guitar playing of yours (campfires/BBQs/festivals/parks or your back garden) or maybe picking up a guitar for the first time!  Spring and summer are such inspirational times of year to be indulging in creative pursuits.

For some of my students at the moments it’s exam time in schools.  Not only is it a busy and focussed learning time for them it’s also quite exciting for me (…and them!).

I was asked a few months ago to accompany one of my students in his A-Level Music exam.   I was also asked to pick the pieces.  The student in question is one of my more technically accomplished players..  He already had 2 solo pieces chosen (1 quite Rocky and fast and the other more Classical style) so we had to find something contrasting and for 2 guitars..I knew it was going to be fun. We bounced around a few ideas and looked at how we could push his playing standard, technique and styles and after I indulged in a LOT of listening to music came up with 2 pieces.

Beaumont Rag – Doc Watson

Tears – Chet Atkins & Mark Knopfler

2 things this brought me..

  • I had a great excuse to go off and listen to genres of music I may not have so quickly.  I discovered/rediscovered 2 of the finest guitarists around in Doc Watson and Chet Atkins!   These two guitarists who have gone on to inspire so many modern players including Mark Knopfler and Slash.   I have a new found love of Ragtime after this experience and I listened to so much of it, it really contributed to a whole new chapter of awareness in my own personal guitar playing.

And…

  • I had the joy of working directly with my student as his Accompanist.  We worked through the songs together and although I was the teacher we became a team.  This is a student I have taught since the age of 14 and is now nearly 18.  That transition in itself was really interesting and great to be involved in.

I came through the experience feeling so happy after enjoying our performing successfully together,  like a good team who had found the songs and pushed the boundaries of his playing.  I was also proud of how well he had done and how his playing has developed.   I was proud and happy to know that there is another musician out there in the world that I would recommend and rate.

My student went from thinking he’d never be able to do it to absolutely mastering it….and making his Mum happy too, she was telling me stories of how she requests performances when visitors go to their house 🙂

 

Passion, learning and inspiration…..(and coffee)

Once I had arrived home after the exam and by 11am was drinking my coffee and pondering over a cinnamon bun, it led me onto want to write this blog post.

If you love doing something, you never stop being inspired or growing.   You don’t have to be technically of a high standard to experience this either.  After all of the gigs I’ve done, songs I’ve written and guitar lessons I’ve given, I’m constantly inspired by my students and this was another one of those times.

People don’t have to be ‘better’ than you to inspire you,  just different.

 

Accompanying/playing with others

This so far is a very personal account of a professional experience.  As a musician and guitar teacher I have to say, it led me onto thinking about the importance and benefits of accompanying as a musician.    Or being accompanied, or just jamming (playing) with other people if you can.

I always try to push my students in lessons and where possible and relevant I will play chords along to their melodies, riffs or improvisations and I will coax them into swapping roles so they get a chance to see the other side.  These different perspectives are invaluable to see as a musician and to anyone learning an instrument.  At its basic level, to play chords underneath someone’s melody really highlights how important it is to change chords quickly, and why it’s important to be able to count and feel what you are doing.  These things aren’t always as obvious as a beginner when you do it alone.  To learn to keep time and to be sensitive to another players timing in order for it to work together.  To learn to play with other people, especially people more experience than you will enhance your playing ability/speed/technique.  The benefits are of high value.  And there’s nothing better to explain/embed something quite like actually doing it.

 

5 benefits and enhancers of playing with other musicians..

 

  1. Learning to be aware of someone else’s timing other than your own.   When practising disciplines like chord changes or progressions alone it is easy to overlook the extended gap inserted between your D and G chord for example (we’ve all done it! :)).  This will become more obvious once you have someone to play along with because it just won’t fit.  Learn how to catch up and readjust your playing to make it synchronise with theirs (and vice versa).   The beat waits for no one (as is the phrase that I remember being told in college!).  It also won’t catch up with you if you’re speeding along without  concern!  So pay attention.  You may be surprised at first how ‘out of time’ you are but with a little bit of focus and work you will be jamming along smoothly.  If you find this really tough then learn to practise with a metronome to ease you in., they have fantastic quality free metronome apps these days (so, no excuse to not when it’s in your pocket).

 

  1.  Learning to keep focussed and concentrate when somebody else is playing along with you.  It is much easier to play alone.   One common thing I notice amongst my learning guitarists is that once another performer is brought into the mix it disturbs their concentration.  For a little while they forget what they’re doing, loose time, forget things that they thought they had nailed.  Any chances you get to practice maintaining your focus is a blessing and great practice.  It will embed what you have learnt deeper and also heighten your ability to focus.

 

  1. Learning from other peoples skills/techniques and expertise in order to develop your own playing.  How are they holding the instrument?  What do they do to get certain effects and clarities?  Be observant.  Ask them questions.  Good teachers are experienced, accomplished and passionate about what they teach and they will be happy to talk about their playing style any day.  As a student I urge people to get as much as they can out of this as possible.   Playing with other people (of all levels) will often teach you things about your own playing you never even thought  of.

 

  1. Team building.   Playing with your teacher or another musician is a shared experience and you have to be in it together.  Two separate people of varied/the same abilities playing to perform the same piece of music and make it sound good.  And remember to enjoy it!  Even if you don’t feel comfortable at the time I can guarantee you will take a lesson of some sort away from it.  When it works it feels great.  It can also tell you a lot about yourself and the other person.

 

  1. Fun!   Enjoy the process of playing along with someone.  It may not come to you straight away but once you get into the flow of it there’s nothing quite like playing music with another person.  It takes a bit of work to get things to run smoothly but it will bring a different level of enjoyment than what you get alone.  Who knows, you may even start a band!

 

 

Enjoy heading towards the summer and don’t forget to take your guitar into the garden for a strum.   If you don’t have one or you can’t play yet….?!  You know where to come for lessons…. Just send me a message or call me for more information or if you have any questions.

 

Happy riffing!

Jo

 

 

Categories: Accompanying, Jamming, Playing Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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