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Playing Strangers


Northern Emerging



What instrument?

When it comes to music and kids, I used to stick to teaching guitar mainly. In the last year, I realised that some children (or their parents) don't always choose the instrument that suits them best, so I started to explore other avenues.

Sometimes, the choice becomes obvious like this guitar student of mine I asked: would you like to play in a band one day? He replies: yes but not guitar. Okay.... what then? Drums! he says. Humm I'm glad I asked ;) Since he had been struggling to do basic things on guitar, I proposed we split the lesson into doing guitar and drums. You should see the smile on his face when we do drums (without a drumkit I should mention). Unlike other instruments, you don't need a kit to learn beats and stick holding.

Other times, it's less obvious, especially when the child is naturally musically inclined and could tackle any instruments. In this case, I like to introduce a few more possibilities (bass, keys, drums, singing) so they become aware of a larger spectrum. If they have a preference for one of them, we'll do more of that one.

Note: I am not a drummer or a key board player but with years of experience in song writing, recording and playing in a band
Playing Strangers, I have plenty of interesting things to teach before referring them to a tutor specialised in the instrument they chose. Also note that Grant is a drummer and teaches on Friday after school.

Can theory kill creativity?

It's an interesting topic I often discuss with musicians. Some players play by ear, some require a sheet of music to play. Both have immense value but in my experience it's a question of balance and timing. Too much of one often means not enough of the other.

I think that too much theory too soon is boring for most students and may contribute to loosing interest. A small percentage will perservere but if they don't strike a balance between spontaneity and music theory, they may find themselves depending on a sheet of music forever.

So I'd rather develop their ear and creativity first and I only explain a little theory when I feel it's going to help through a hurdle. Once they reach the point of wanting to know more, they will be completely open and receptive to it because it will make sense and they will have more chance to retain the spontaneity and ear awareness they developed in the early stages. Formal tutors may disagree but you the parent reading this will know which teaching style your child is most likely to strive with.

Playing with others

Should you wait to be of a good level to play with other players? I believe you shouldn't. Playing with others will speed up your ability to play your instrument and increase your awareness by listening to what else is going on at the same time. First it will be between me and the student, getting them to play something in time with me. Later on, I try matching children together and give them a goal to achieve together.

A word about musicianship

If you wonder what kind of musician you would like to become, ponder on this for a minute. Compare using a computer to playing an instrument. Are you happy with using the internet, writting emails and using a word processing or do you want to retouch pictures, edit videos, managing database, designing websites or would you like to troubleshoot software problems, installing operating systems, or won't you be satisfied until you can build a computer hardware from scratch.

You can see where I'm getting at. You can play an instrument at any of these comparable levels. It takes time and dedication to get to the higher levels but everyone has to start from knowing nothing and slowly build up. It doesn't mean they can't do loads of interesting and meaningful playing along the way.






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