Have you ever noticed that there are some extremely talented people around you that for some reason aren’t successful?  People who should be doing well in life but for some reason don’t?  This is especially true in the arts, and especially with musicians.  Art has through the ages been propagated by the suffering artist image. Often times the artist never realizes their greatness and are only recognized for their talent after their passing.  There are many factors in the life of each artist that contributes to their suffering.  These include socioeconomic, health, political and circumstances relevant to their day and age. The stuff we study about in music history and music appreciation classes. Luckily, we are now living in a period of untold freedoms and privilege, but not a time without its struggles.

One may argue that the golden age of art has passed, no longer are the gallery, opera, ballet and orchestra a cornerstone of society, replaced by cinema, radio, internet and TV, instant entertainment. However, at no other time has there been more resources available to the artist, both for research, material and communications.   It can be argued that the true artist will always suffer for their art, and this is what gives them the insight to create works of greatness. For the rest, the business of art should not be overlooked, and needs to be understood so as to create an environment of success for the artist.  This is ever so important for the aspects of teaching!

How can a teacher who is passionate about their art, committed to teaching, reach their students needs if they are desperate and having difficulties financially and personally.  Teaching music is an especially difficult job compared to regular 9 to 5 work.  First, the hours of a teacher are odd, not conforming easily to the needs of family.  Often, the most desired time to spend with one’s family is also the capital time required for teaching.  Students will look for the most opportune time that fits into their weekly schedules.  Also times for leisure are also the best time for teaching.  This includes weekends day and night, weekday evenings and especially after school.  A teacher with a full schedule of students is usually one who has very little social life!  Likewise, it makes planning family events more difficult, a trip to the movies, an outing or even planning a meal together is usually offset by their teaching duties.  Even with this all said, it does not include personal practice or study time.  So it is ever more important for a music teacher to establish themselves with a strong business model, clear goals and realistic time management expectations and still have room to meet life’s challenges and opportunities and family needs.  I’ve often been surprised by my teachers in the past who seemed to be unable to manage certain simplicities in life that I had taken for granted.  Such as taking in a show, catching a sale or concert or attending a social event, or finding time to eat supper.  I now understand and appreciate these challenges much more clearly now.  Every employer and corporate HR councilor speaks of maintaining a balance between work and home.  With music, these lines are often blurred, but there still must be a balance that is clear to family and friends, as well as to the students.

Students of the arts also face similar problems. The demands of studying are contrasted with the requirements of earning a living and their career. When time demands are high for both career and financial advancement and practicing your music, ultimately the effort is usually spent for survival.

With all the time and social demands on a teacher, the pressures of the current economy and challenges with competition in today’s fast paced markets, in order to not only survive but to be able to get ahead financially and in your craft, it is ever more important to have clear vision and a model for your business.  After all, in times of financial crises, and fiscal cliffs, we need the arts more than ever!

 

Submitted here are a couple of interesting videos, I would make the exception of using the wording of successful for wealthy, although I’d never complain about having my share of wealth! The arts, after all, don’t make you rich, but instead enrich you. Everything else that comes with it is a bonus!

17 ways Rich People and Poor People Think Differently

I was once told not too long ago, that as a sufferer of seriously debilitating Crohn’s disease and undergoing surgery for the same, that I wasn’t dedicated and committed enough for guitar and was denied access to education with classical guitar. Yes, I missed classes due to either infections or inflammations which limited my mobility and activity. My lessons were paid up to date, and at no time did I expect a refund or a makeup class. I took each lesson I was able and worked through to the next. Likewise, the time between classes, I worked and studied as hard as I could. So being told that I wasn’t dedicated enough, to the point that the instructor didn’t have the decency to even return my calls or emails after my recovery from surgery, was astounding! I was even shocked when I finally did get through and was told why, that I was wasting the instructors time. This was just simply amazing! I could have argued, fought and begged to continue my studies with that teacher, but there would be no respect or dignity left after that.

With 8va Classical Guitar Studio, and my work with the Regina Classical Guitar Society, I am totally committed to see that all such barriers are removed for the access to classical guitar training. Further to that, I will work ever so diligently to ensure that the dignity of each student is preserved and their confidence is encouraged every step of the way. With community and school projects, partnerships with organizations such as CNIB and the City of Regina, we will be able to reach out to those who desire and deserve to fulfill their wishes to explore music to the fullest of their abilities! As long as there is respect, desire and a need, there will be guitar for all who seek it!

Derek

 

 

I have just received a newsletter from Bradford Werner from Classical Guitar Canada, that he will soon be completing a free classical guitar technique book, with corresponding support videos online at thisisclassicalguitar.com. Add this to other free and next to free online classical guitar resources such as Rob Reid’s headstartclassicalguitar.com and TheSixStringAcademy.com, Artistworks Online Classical Guitar Academy with Jason Vieaux, and also Classical Guitar Complete with Scott Morris through Midshelf Music.

Some of these online courses do involve fees of some sort. With Scott Morris, you purchase his method books, and the corresponding support videos are free online through YouTube, which is where I found him. If you like, you could access his videos for free without the purchase of his books, but that would only get you a glimpse of what he has to offer. Rob Reid offers a low, onetime fee to access their whole library and expertise. Artistworks maintains a monthly subscription fee, that is reduced with a longer subscription, to as low as roughly $20 per month for a one year subscription.

One thing a new or experienced guitarist must realize is that these lessons and courses are delivered either by top elite performer master educators, or high level experienced instructor and performers with University backgrounds, generally working towards a masters degree. So this isn’t some fly by night market or make money scheme. These are people who are truly passionate about their craft and working to make accessible their knowledge and experience. The information given will be of top level professional detail and address the latest technical aspects of guitar playing. There is also opportunity to correspond with the instructors in one form or another which gives you further personalized depth to your study.

What does this mean to the private classical guitar teacher? If a private teacher can be threatened by free lessons from a school system or community project, then how about lessons being offered globally through the internet? Is this a threat that they should be worried about? Short answer YES!

The private teacher of classical guitar should be worried and justifiably threatened by such resources. That is, if they wish to sit back in the standard fashion and teaching at status quo. This isn’t to knock private teachers, but it reflects a change in the times and technology. The format of showing up for a class, a bit of talking as student unpacks their things. Teacher noodles around some while student settles in. Some more talking as the student noodles a bit to warm up. Then you go through some excuses why the student didn’t practice, and then settle on reviewing last week’s lesson, or introduce a new page from some technique book or from some new song. This is the minimum standard for the average student. Students also don’t always have time to practice and show up unprepared for class, making the lesson very difficult. Some days, the class is brilliant with eye opening ah-ha moments, other times they are not so inspiring, bogged down with difficulties of one form or another.

In this situation, the free online classes can seem to be a threat as it gives the student the opportunity to bypass the private teacher, and work on their own, at their own rate without the time pressure of monthly fees, and the hustle to make it to their weekly class on time. Why would the student go through all that effort when they can get the information for free online? In some cases for a casual student, online classes are perfect and an ideal alternative to a private teacher.

That would be a superficial impression of the situation. In reality, these free or next to free classes are a great asset to teachers of guitar, so long as the private teacher is willing to embrace them, recommend them and work with them along with their student. The drawback to online classes is that there isn’t the immediate correction and real time dialogue with online classes that you get with private classes. This is the major advantage for private classes. Likewise, the online classes will reinforce the lessons and technique taught in the private classes. A private teacher can use this as an educational resource to direct the student to the online classes, and review what the student has learned and clarify issues in the weekly private class time. In this way, it makes more efficient use of the private class time. The student can also use the online classes to review ideas that were covered in their private class. Sometimes it just takes a different angle in explanation to reach the student on a given topic.

Perhaps it’s time to abandon the status quo that has been established for private classes. A modern teacher of classical guitar has to look at ways of increasing their value as a teacher, it’s not sufficient anymore just being a monster player with lots of chops and technique. New ways have to be found to enhance their value for their students, and to look to new ways to connect with their existing students and to reach new students to classical guitar. Online classical guitar classes also add potential for student studies in remote areas where there are no teachers or educational programs for a student to access. In these cases, free online classes offer critical support where there may be a classical guitar enthusiast with limited experience helping other beginner guitarists. It can also facilitate including classical guitar into an educational program at a school where musical expertise is present but not specifically on guitar.

Many guitar students don’t perform. Partially, because they aren’t accustomed to it, nor do they have an opportunity for performance and they are not taught to perform. Often times, their teachers do not perform classical guitar either. The online guitar courses are taught by seasoned and expert performers of classical guitarists. Working with these courses, a private teacher can build up themselves, and their students to bridge a performing regiment into their class structure. Often times there are excellent resources specifically on performing with the online classes. As a guitar teacher, especially a classical guitar teacher, recitals can be arranged so that their students can showcase their work for family and friends. Students will also gain valuable experience that will carry them through examinations or for future performance opportunities for family, friends, weddings or other community functions. It also builds a community for the students to network in. To see performances by their peers and connect with other enthusiasts in a constructive manner. Too often classical guitar is sheltered in solo, private study. These recitals can help break down those walls and develop a further sense of value in classical guitar study.

Technology is changing, and it is strongly affecting classical guitar. We have seen the development of tab notation for other forms of guitar entering into the classical guitar realm. In some ways enabling those who can’t read standard music an opportunity to experience some aspects of classical guitar. So prevalent is tab form that many classical guitar collections and works include both standard notation and tab. This may also be a detriment as some may believe there is no need to learn to read music as they can always reference the tab. Free internet lessons are just another technical development for classical guitar, and I believe it is a very advantageous and desirable addition that will enhance the field of classical guitar education both for the private teacher and especially for the student.

 

Derek

 

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I heard it. Possibly from Jason Vieaux in one of his lessons in regards to warm ups. It was mentioned that classical guitarists are athletes from the arms down and as such require a good warm up before working out. With all the books and reports out on physiology, ergonomics and biomechanics, there is more emphasis being placed on guitarists physical and mental well being.

Watching a master players performance leads me to believe that we are more athletic than just that of the arms, and in learning about tensions and relaxed playing I find that we need a more extensive warm up. Tension can settle in to your body like an old friend. It can rest there for so long that it will seem natural to you, more unnatural should it not be there. These tensions will work like chains on your body when you play guitar, especially when you start to get to some seriously tough bits, or start to get nervous. That little twinge in your foot, a touch of muscle in your jaw, or that firmness in your calves will link to other major muscle groups here and there and prevent free relaxed dynamic musical movement for the rest of the body.

I have found that through my tension awareness exercises, I’ve noticed tensions in other areas of my life, especially where I’m doing bulk time tasks. Such as sitting at computers at work, waiting in a reception room etc. Work is the worst place for tension as you have the pressure of the job on you, and tasks that need to be efficiently completed. I’ve noticed that those little tension areas that I’m fighting with in guitar are very present in my work situations. So learning to relax for guitar means adopting a whole lifestyle of relaxation. Now who couldn’t use a good dose of relaxation in their life?

Things I’m learning to watch for are long durations of sitting. I have to make sure that when I’m sitting that I am able to stretch and move to keep things from tightening up too much. When I get up, I have to stretch and work my arms and legs about some. Windmill arm exercises, leg stretches, and I have found stairs are the greatest! Luckily, I work night shifts with no one really around to watch my erratic movements, but I still try to pick my time and place for the odd spurt of jumping jacks or sprinters stretches.

Other things I have found out are tensions induced by incorrect ergonomics. It seems that employers are throwing computers everywhere and expect their employees to be able to work freely on them when needed. I have found though that these conveniently place computers are anything but convenient, being situated on odd angles on corner runs of desks with crowded foot areas to be able to sit properly when you do work. I have found doing a task for even 10 to 15 minutes on such a work station creates a tremendous amount of stress in my legs and midsections, which in turn creates stress when doing those given tasks along with the mental aggravation that goes with it. Knowing this now, I can make efforts to remove those stresses when I can. Re-align computers that are under foot, straighten out the angles when I can while working on odd work stations and by simply breathing and making specific relaxing efforts prior and during a workout in those awkward situations.

Clutter and crowded work areas at home and at work are another tension builder. It may take work, but having a nice clean organized work place with lots of free work space on my desk really helps with my relaxation efforts.

Exercise, stretching and relaxation are so critically important to productive musical performance. Especially since all the time you spend sitting at desks, watching TV, waiting in reception rooms and waiting for kids and family, tension will build and get the better of you. Don’t forget that sitting in a classical position with foot raised on a foot stool isolates major muscle groups in one position for some time. So take a break, stretch and learn to build a relaxed lifestyle to support that musical athlete we are cultivating!

Derek

 

 

So many times I hear comments from people who say that they quit because they have no time to practice.  Others will say that they can’t learn an instrument because it takes too much time.  Let’s stop and look at this a moment to find out how much time they are really talking about.

The Canadian Encyclopedia online lists that Canadians watch on average over 20 hours of TV in a week.  If we take just the 20 hours per week of television watching and break it down a bit further, we see that an average hour long television program being about 45 minutes long, leaves us with approximately 15 minutes of commercials per hour, which gives us 5 hours in one week devoted to advertising and commercials.

It is commonly recommended for kids to practice at least 15 minutes a day to make a reasonable musical progress.  This equates to just the commercial time in one hours of TV watching.  If you were to PVR 2 hours of TV each night, cutting out the commercials, you would have an extra half hour of leisure time that you could spend playing an instrument!

This is just a start.  I have seriously worked on other methods to make room for music practice in my life, and in turn increase the quality of life in our home.  For instance, I have incorporated a bedtime routine into my guitar playing.  I have a half hours worth of material that I play for my kids when we tuck them in at night.  This brings some intimate together time for my family and it establishes a wonderful bed time routine.  We alternate this from time to time with bedtime reading, or another favorite of theirs is an improvised musical story.  This is where I make up a story for them and improvise the music as part of the story telling.  They absolutely love this!  This is usually followed up with our bedtime music as they tend to get excited about the stories.

Telephone calls are another time waster.  Many calls from friends can easily last up to an hour if allowed.  I’ve made an effort to limit these types of phone calls.  I try to maintain a regular phone routine to keep in touch with family members that aren’t connected strongly by social media.  I’ve also learned to watch out for drama phone calls.  Those calls where someone has something annoying going on in their lives and wish to share them with you.  Yes, it’s good to be there for support.  Too much drama without any sign of resolution is just wasting time.  Likewise how many times has it occurred that you call a friend and they can’t talk as they are in the middle of watching a TV program, or watching a game.  If it is ok for your friends to be busy for such things, then why can’t I make myself unavailable because I’m busy practicing music?

Video games are another horrible time waster!  One post I read listed the original Starcraft game as having a total of 60 missions, each taking about an hour or more per mission to complete.  Then you have custom missions, head to head play.  The answer is many hours can be wasted on each game.  This doesn’t take into account games like World of Warcraft online where there is no limit to how long you can play.  Luckily, I had stopped playing computer games long before this phenomenon came to bear.

So really, the only excuse for not learning a musical instrument is not the lack of time.  It is rather, lack of motivation, and possibly the financial costs.  Regular music lessons may be expensive, but with internet technology now, DVD resources and connections with the right teachers, learning to play classical guitar has never been easier, or cheaper.

Learning music is by far more beneficial than the above mentioned activies.  There is nothing better for family bonding than a romantic supper with wine, candle light and a musical serenade.  How about a hot bubble bath with flowers and candles with guitar music.  After supper with friends nothing beats a couple songs while your guests are relaxing, waiting for desert.  I’d rather score my points that way than with an hour long computer game!

Derek

We have now received our kids report cards and evaluations, and soon we will have the 3 way conferences. I’m glad as a child that they were only parent teacher interviews. I don’t think I could have handled sitting there with my Mom listening to all the mistakes and issues I had as a child in school. Today, I’m glad I can share in them with my wife and kids together. Fortunately, my kids don’t have the problems that I had growing up with school. Being on both sides of the parent / child position, I have come to an understanding. The report cards and interview are more than just a review of a child’s scholastic progress. They are rather an overall litmus test for the child and family’s well being. They report on highlights of the students achievements, and the areas where they need to do more work. But children can’t do the work alone, so it is also a guide to where the parents need to direct attention. The report cards then become a review as to how effective the efforts are for both the students and parents. If things still aren’t measuring up to where they should be, if goals aren’t being met, then it’s time to ask for help.

These days now with so much ADHD, behavior, learning, and social issues, there is more support than ever. These are programmed responses to a text book condition. Children however are not static models from some clinical lab, but dynamic beings subjected to the stresses and influences around them. These elements must be taken into account when dealing with other issues. Children must be taught how to deal with these outside forces, self discipline is one such tool they need.  Discipline is not just a matter for the student having problems, but it’s ever so important for the parents supporting them. Discipline for the parent is needed to be able to sit down and work with the children toward common goals, providing a positive framework with accountability and rewards for achievement. Not treats or prizes for getting work done or learning new material, but rather the reward of self satisfaction and pride of hard work. In this regards, my experience growing up and homework was more of a labourer being driven by the task master. It didn’t matter how the work was done, just that it got done. There was no requirement of quality, just quantity and task completion.  It was me against the homework, get it done in the least amount of time. This is even more exasperated by the demands of a single parent family and the given workloads needed to get by. This is where we need help.

I’m ever so impressed with the reports and studies I hear about how music fits into this role. Private music education opens a whole new facet to the equation. The student gets dedicated one on one attention. Goals are set involving expectations and tasks to be accomplished, and rewards are achieved with the students growing ability to create music and express themselves. Parents working with a structured music teacher are able to create an added level of structure in their daily routine with musical practice. This is different than the regular scholastic homework routines, as music provides a definite tactile feedback, physical interaction with the instrument, and auditory feedback with sound creation. Most importantly, they develop confidence and self worth as they learn to master their instrument. They can connect with their musical self that is as big and strong as their imagination.

This is a vital aspect in these days of social media where it is so easy for a person to lose their identity to their cyber peer pressure and image, and where a few viral insults can crush their spirit and confidence.  It’s not just enough for a student to practice an instrument. Private practice is just that, private. This builds and feeds that dark shell for those that are introverted and isolated to begin with, that have difficulties in building social connections. This is where musical performance comes in. When a student is able to take what they have learned, and bring it into a controlled environment and perform, where people are there to see them, mistakes and all, and applaud their hard work. This gives reinforcement and confidence that is needed to help find their place. Then after their success, to celebrate their achievement, reap the rewards, reinforce their hard work and set new goals for their next stage in learning.

I’m thankful for the confidences I have gained through music, and for the teachers that have inspired me and given me the confidence to achieve.  I can also see how learning disabilities can be so devastating to a child’s progress, and how music has helped me in those regards.  I am also very thankful for family and friends for their support in my musical performance.  I also wish to thank my children’s music teacher for their insight and efforts in providing not only a challenging structured learning program for my kids, but also for the recital programs she and her peers offer for their students.  A chance for each student to shine and show off their hard work and reap the applause they ever so deserve!

Derek

 

 

We have all heard the statement “There are no stupid questions.”  This is said to encourage students to explore and grow.  So there may be no stupid questions, but what about the answer? 

I’ve always been impressed with teachers who take the time to entertain even the silliest of questions, with respect and a level of deeper consideration.  Especially if they can further explore aspects to the question the student didn’t think about and inspiring the student.  But at the very least, the teacher should at least answer the question, and explain why it is.  If the teacher cannot answer why, then they must be able, and willing to admit that they do not know why. This is fundamentally critical whether in sports, education or sales.  If a sales person can’t explain why one item is a better buy, he risks losing a sale.  If the coach can’t explain why a play action is important, there is risk of losing a point, and education, one sacrifices learning. 

It’s even more important to gain respect and trust to admit when you don’t know the reason or can’t give an answer instead of trying to give round about fast talk to brush off the question.  So many times I’ve seen this has happen with sales for electronics and computers.  Sales people making things up to make it look like they understand the product and to finalize the sale.  I’ve had great fun asking technically stupid questions to sales people and received even more outrageous answers.  A reason why I refuse to shop in a certain electronics store.  Customer and sale lost.

I’ve always been fortunate to have had excellent teachers, particularly with music.  Often times, a question to one of my teachers would trigger a learning tangent.  This would lead to extra reading and exercises or handouts for me to work on.  Lately, I’ve noticed a worrisome trend in music where there seems to be a reluctance to explain anything, especially if it involves theory.  One family member asked their teacher about scales and chords, the answer, “You don’t need to know that until grade 3″.  Worse still, one of my teachers would often say, “Don’t worry about that!” as if the answer were bothersome.  In other ways it seems that these teachers don’t want to scare off their students.

I’m very happy now that my kids have a very solid piano teacher.  She answers their questions and is not afraid to challenge them with work.  I can say the same for my guitar teacher, Jason Vieaux.  One of my latest questions was in regards to a specific situation of formalities in music theory.  His answer, I’m not sure, but I will check with another instructor who would better know about that.  Then I was given the follow up, to which I’m comfortable with and even more confident in my learning.

When looking for a teacher, look for one that will not only be open to you asking questions, but one that answers them clearly, be able to explain the technique or theory to support their explanation, or else admit that they do not know.

Derek

My weekend is done, and I return to my other life.  The job that pays me my livelyhood!  I hope you enjoy this site.  This is just one aspect of my work with classical guitar as I work to establish 8va Classical Guitar Studio into a functioning entity.  I will continue to update and expand the resources presented here for the benifit of both my students, the community and for classical guitar as a whole. Feel free to comment, make suggestions and to recommed links and references to any resource you may have for classical guitar.  I am looking to support other guitarists, and especially for other teachers.  I will be starting a Teachers page in the very near future to list those in the community who teach classical guitar, along with a link and description.  I would like to incorporate a section for NON-classical guitar guitarists as well, as I find I often have inquiries for those from the public.

Thanks and have a good weekend everyone!!

Derek