Day In The Life Of A Guitar Teacher

Here is a typical day in my life as a guitar/bass guitar teacher in Melbourne. After getting up at the crack of noon (not really it’s about 9am!) I go cycling to keep fit and healthy. Otherwise I just spend all day with my butt on a chair practicing, teaching or working on the computer.

After my morning ride and breakfast I spend my free time until my first afternoon student arrives doing admin, lesson preparation, housework, walking the dog and of course practicing.

IMG_5396Currently I am practicing 20 songs for an upcoming acoustic duo gig with Deuawd. I use a Boss RC-20XL looper pedal to create rhythm guitar parts when I solo in certain songs and it’s also a great practice tool to help work on guitar solos and timing in general. For this gig I am working on:

– Travis Picking in Don’t Think Twice by Bob Dylan
– An extended solo in She Came In Through The Bathroom Window by The Beatles
– In What I Am by Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians muted arpeggios I created for the bridge plus the solo using my Digitech Bass Synth Wah pedal as an auto-wah.

On top of this with another gig with my jazz quartet Red Line 4 coming up next week I am also working on my jazz soloing and walking lines on bass guitar. With jazz I am constantly working on my solo phrasing and ii-V-I licks over various jazz standards. I am also refining my bass lines and ideas for our original tunes. I often use backing tracks from the Jamey Aebersold Play Along series or there are also plenty of great jazz backing tracks available on YouTube too.

There are several other bands/projects I am involved in but this week they’re not a priority. If a band has a break from gigs for a few weeks or more I don’t generally look at that material until required for a gig or rehearsal (usually a week or 2 before hand). At last count I was technically in 8 bands though only 4-5 of them are currently gigging regularly. It’s all about managing your time and learning the required material. To be a professional musician you must do your practice homework and know the tunes before a rehearsal and especially before a gig.

Buy Progressive Guitar Method Book 1 at AmazonMy first guitar student of the day arrives at 4pm. Will is 8 years old and has been learning for a few months. Today we look at some reading material out of the Progressive Guitar Method Book 1 playing Will The Circle Be Unbroken with long tied notes over the bars. Here he is learning to count beats and keep in time. We work on this by him playing the melody while I count the beat and strum the chords.

Being a rock fan and knowing that his Dad just bought him tickets to see Guns n Roses (coming to Melbourne early 2017) we have a look at a simplified version of Knocking On Heavens Door that I arranged. Will learns to play the power chords in the chorus and simple arpeggios with the open string G D Am and C chords in the verses. I find that he needs to work on his D to C chord change to get the 3rd finger to move first when going from D to C so we drill this change with the drum machine increasing the tempo each time until it is correct and smooth. This makes a big improvement when we return to practicing the arpeggios.

beatles_-_abbey_roadNext up is John. He’s one of my many adult students and what I would call an intermediate player. Today we’re working on 2 songs – Come Together by The Beatles and Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival. We’re focusing on these songs as John will be joining in at the duo gig playing guitar solos in both tunes to get some performing experience.

For Bad Moon Rising I’ve written an 8 bar solo using the D major pentatonic scale and for Come Together we’re mixing the end solo with middle solo that George Harrison plays on the Abbey Road recording. John is working on the phrasing and timing of the notes to ensure they are in time especially under pressure when performing in front of an audience.

CPM_Guitar_Adv_S1_HR_PantoneStudent #3 is Liam who is 13 and preparing for his Step 2 AMEB CPM guitar exam. Tonight we looked at the arpeggios from the technical section ensuring correct fingering so they can be played smoothly. We also revise the key signatures that need to be known (what sharps & flats are in each key signature).

We also play through the parts and structure of Come As You Are by Nirvana playing along with a backing track. The final topic we squeeze into the lesson is the guitar solo from You Shook Me All Night Long by AC DC which Liam almost has down at a slow tempo. We play along to a slowed down loop of the solo created using Transcribe! Software. He just needs to watch the phrasing and timing on the last few bars of the solo. Otherwise it’s sounding pretty good.

Next up we have Anna who is an adult beginner student. We start off reading through a duet arrangement of Minuet by Bach again from the Progressive Guitar Method Book 1. She used to play Bassoon at school which makes it relatively easy for her to pick up the notes on the guitar. With Minuet we’re not quite at a performable duet level yet but next week we should be able to play it together.

The other big focus of this lesson is open string chords and mastering the finger changes. Using the common combination of G C D chords we look at To Her Door by Paul Kelly playing along with a drum machine to see how clean the changes and strumming are. Finally we go through the Johnny Cash version of Hurt. The arpeggios here help to check that all strings are ringing clearly with enough finger pressure and that the fingers are placed in the correct positions on the fretboard so not to block the neighbouring strings.

After Anna my bass student for the day Nethumlee arrives. She is also preparing for an AMEB CPM exam except is it the Step 2 bass exam. Even though she is only 9 she is a quick learner and also plays piano which helps with her musical development on the bass. Tonight we check her key signature knowledge and go through the creative (improvisation) pieces. For the creative pieces there are 2 options one being a 12/8 blues and the other a jazz walking bass line over jazz/blues changes. At this stage she is reading the given examples and then we will use them as ideas to create her own similar but different bass lines.

The big achievement of the night is finalising a version of Four by Miles Davis which includes a walking bass line and the melody. The walking bass line is created by using the arpeggios of the chords and alternatively walking up and down them for each chord.

IMG_5398Finally the teaching session ends with Ian (another adult student) who is the proud owner of a new Fender Stratocaster. He’s been having lessons with me for a while but so far it’s all been on the acoustic so tonight we will rock out a bit harder. Students with electric guitars just bring their guitar and I plug them into my Vox Pathfinder 15R which has a great tone for a cheap little solid state practice amp.

First off we go through Don’t Be Denied by Neil Young which I transcribed for Ian at his request. I usually transcribe several songs for students as part of my lesson preparation during the week. This rock song is done in the loose style that Neil Young has so I wrote out the main ideas and chord variations that he plays and then also show Ian some of the other common ways he varies them through the song. Now the he has an electric guitar I give him a blues solo from a great blues guitar book Blues You Can Use by John Ganapes. The simple but effective solo True Blue uses the A minor pentatonic scale over a 12 bar blues in A and introduces the technique of string bending.

After the last student leaves have a late dinner then do further admin, banking and email any tracks or files to students that they may need from the lessons. Then I will do some more practice and finally knock off and go to bed. Some days I may have more students or less if I have a gig or event to attend but most of days are similar to this one.  I hope you found it interesting to see how I spend my time and that it gives you an insight on what it’s like to be a guitar/bass guitar teacher.

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