Unprofessional bashing on the competition

Whew, something has just brought my blood to boil!

It’s one thing to have a cocky website that proclaims that you are the best on the market and that because you have practiced a cool onstage stance (legs position) for years that makes you a better music teacher than others.

It’s quite another to go badmouthing all competition and spreading myths.

Guitar is an easier instrument than violin.  FACT.

“We cater for pupils from 8 to 80. You can even teach an old dog a few new tricks. Any company or teacher saying they can teach younger than that on guitar is only after your money.”

Excuse me.  The Suzuki Violin Method teaches children from two or three years of age violin, not guitar. You want to tell me that children who can get their minds around the violin at such an early age, will fail on the guitar?

I have taught several children age 5 and even one age 4, to play and to read music notes before they could even read words.  Sure, here in South Africa people don’t usually start thinking of a musical instrument until their children are in school; but I’ve found various times over that a talented child learns more easily at age 5 and in Grade 0 than in the next year when they are sort-of loaded with school and trying to absorb all the new stuff.

However the next sentence gives away how “professional” that lot is in the first place:

The question:  “How long until I can play guitar?”

“There is no specific guideline but from our experience if the pupil applies themselves it will not take longer than two months.”

Well, dears, that’s a rip-off because I can show you in one single session how to play guitar.  In fact you don’t even need me!  Just get a good self-teaching manual like the Noad Guitar Method.  As I said, guitar is a simple instrument at a basic level, any child can get its brain round the thing.

The fact is, people looking for a guitar teacher are already past that point and want some real guidance because they don’t only want to plinkle a bit, they want to play. And that is the reason they catch a teacher who can teach them what they can’t get from the books.

One of the best guitarists I ever came across, was technically a “student” of mine, inasmuch as I got him started:  I made him a chart of chords, explained how they worked, and all that took me a total of 20 minutes.  (He was 17.  I was 16.) After that the guy was A for Away.  He did go for some amazing classical tuition after he got to a spot where he felt he wanted more.  But rock guitar?  Who needs a teacher?

It’s a bit different with violin:  I’d recommend strongly that you go for a teacher in the beginning until your posture is good.  This is imperative because a poor posture can cause back and neck problems and even an asymmetric back.  Also, a cramped right hand can be the end of your bowing before you had a chance to begin, and ditto for the left hand; you need a teacher to set your standard for intonation (the purity of the pitch) and also for tone production.  Violin is not as simple an instrument as guitar.  However many people teach themselves violin, too.  Conversely, many kids start violin at age 5 or 6, it’s a preferred age as the child still has a chance to reach really high that way.  Most “greats” on the violin started younger – at age 4 or 3.  Mozart started violin age 4.  So did David Garret.  I believe both Sarah Chang and Vanessa Mae started age 3.

Where it comes to guitar, children need a teacher for the following:

  • To correct their posture
  • To set the standard (how fast, how fluent etc)
  • To set the pace
  • To provide feedback (also to parents, coaching them how to help)
  • To teach the reading of music notation (!) – something a lot of “rock guitarists” seem to neglect

Adults need a teacher for the following:

  • To correct their posture if necessary
  • to keep you on your toes
  • to motivate you
  • to help you across those difficulties that would have caused you, who are already a full-time expert in something else, to throw in the towel and just leave it
  • for friendship and to improve your general musicianship and to help you create ensembles.

Ya.  Don’t fall for charlatans!!




7 thoughts on “Unprofessional bashing on the competition

  1. Having said that: Funny, all the great violinists – yes, ALL – that became world-famous, all had famous and excellent teachers. Isn’t that a strange coincidence?

  2. I think you are underselling the role of the teacher in guitar. Even using the best book in the world, the teacher and arbitrator of performance is still yourself, and that ‘yourself’ is usually an idiot at first. Mistakes corrected at the outset can save one from wasting enormous time in developing and then having to undevelop bad habits.
    As for the violin, good teaching at the outset is simply essential. I SO wish I had started at the age of 3 instead of so many decades later!

    • Col… I’m definitely underselling the role of teacher to make a point. It doesn’t take weeks or months to master an instrument; it takes many years. To demonstrate I’ll be posting 2 links… I’m self-taught on the guitar, and though I can “fake” enough to support my violin students in their performances, everyone can tell that I’m not a guitarist.

      Please don’t short-sell yourself though. I haven’t yet heard you play piano or violin, but I have heard your compositions. I’m still struggling to “tame a pianist” but really want to perform the “Birdcall” Sonata, if possible still this year or early next. Depending on the various capabilities. It’s such a tempting piece! And the Dargle Waltz – can’t you write an arrangement thereof for violin & guitar pls? Then “Zoltan & Kalinka” can add it into their repertoire.

    • I have never got further than being able to pick a tune on individual guitar strings – not having got to grips with the chords.
      It would be a challenge to write for guitar! What key would best suit the two instruments?

    • 🙂 Which key is the original of the sonata? I’d have to go check. Usually the original key is best because of the character of the piece.

      D and G are generally very comfy keys for the violin, but any key is good. On the guitar – well Iain’s a pro, if something’s written in C# major he uses bar chords. 😉

    • Og Pussycat, 🙂 LOL I just don’t play well enough for fame (despite having had 3 really excellent teachers, see the actual talent of the student also weighs something). If I do get famous I hope it will be for my novels ;).

      My advice, learn piano now. Maybe you won’t be a concert performer but you’ll be able to play to please yourself and friends. ALso, never say never. I know of a lady who took up cello at age 60 and 6 years later joined an orchestra.

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