Josh had helped me get two theory grades under my belt and a practical in under eight months! I think the reason he is so successful is because he makes it fun, and that is the whole point of playing music!
In my many years teaching, and especially during the last three since I founded Media Luna Guitar Tuition I have had the pleasure of sharing music with people of all ages and from all walks of life. Of course there are an infinite number of reasons people choose to learn an instrument and play music. It is however quite a rare thing that I get to teach and engage with a whole family of guitarists. I’d like to share some insights after having a chat with Rachel, David and Arwen (also known as the Fawkner Guitar Trio) about their unique journey learning the guitar as a family. There are many points that I’m sure many of us (myself included) can relate to. Their story is an inspiring one for both adults and children interested in learning music. And more importantly highlights the pleasure of sharing the gift of music with friends, family and loved ones.
What are your aspirations in learning music?
Rachel: Recently I have wanted my playing to actually improve to the point where I have the ability and knowledge to be able to have a crack at playing most of the pieces I love to hear being played by proper guitarists! I also like the idea of being good enough to study the guitar at a high-level (i.e. University) if I want to, for interest later in life.
David: Pretty much the same as Rachel. I want to be good enough at playing the guitar to be able to confidently attempt to play most pieces. Also by extension I would like to be confident enough to be able to perhaps perform in front of others aside from family. Not playing guitar/music seriously at a younger age has always been a regret of mine, which I’m now able to make up for.
Does having a good teacher help? And how?
Rachel: Josh has been fantastic in listening to our individual needs. I approached him and asked him to help me prepare for the AMEB practical exams, starting at the bottom (Preliminary), as my previous teachers hadn’t done very well at helping my playing progress over many years. Also, my theory knowledge was remarkably non-existent! Josh had helped me get two theory grades under my belt and a practical in under eight months! I think the reason he is so successful is because he makes it fun, and that is the whole point of playing music. He intersperses the syllabus pieces with more ambitious pieces (my ‘wish’ pieces) along the way. That way I am achieving my AMEB goals but also deriving tremendous pleasure from beginning to learn harder tunes and also learning new techniques along the way.
The great thing about learning with Media Luna Guitar Tuition as an adult, is that you can also change your timeframe – when your day-to-day work gets too demanding, you can extend the time you need to get to the next grade! There’s no pressure to get your grade done by a certain time. You choose what is right for you.
David: Most certainly having a good teacher and lessons has helped me progress tremendously. My first teacher experience back at the start of 2014 was less than positive, I felt that the teacher was not really helping with my requirements. Having Josh as a teacher since the start of 2015 has helped me a lot. Josh has a no pressure approach to teaching, but offers great encouragement and understanding! It’s not the best comparison, but I liken having a good music teacher as being similar to having a good driving instructor. You need someone that is calm and supportive.
Do you all seem to enjoy different styles of music and is this catered for in your lessons?
Rachel: Yes, we have individual tastes and communicate our different goals and musical tastes to him in our lessons. Josh then finds music that he thinks we would like to learn and then lets us choose which ones grab us. I have found in the past that my previous teachers liked to teach what they wanted to play. I used to find myself as the voiceless student, being told what to do. Josh, on the other hand, allows us to take control and choose our path.
David: Yes, we have different tastes in music, curiously despite learning classical guitar, I don’t tend to listen to it very often. As Rachel mentioned, learning with Media Luna Guitar Tuition allows us to communicate our requirements, and we are not learning guitar in a single fixed style. My previous guitar teacher was rigid in the requirement to learn a Bach piece regardless of if I wanted to or not. With such a wide range of guitar music, it’s great to have teacher who is not fixed in their teaching. Who knows, I might decide at some point to change focus back to electric guitar, I know that with Josh I can do this without a concern.
Why did you all want to take the AMEB classical guitar exams?
Rachel: I did them as I had had lessons on and off for years and yet my knowledge was zero! I also hadn’t improved much during that time. Doing the AMEB is making me practice and also doing the theory alongside is also very satisfying as it helps me understand many of the terms along the way. Starting from scratch ensures that I haven’t missed a thing!
David: I needed a framework and an aspiration goal. Despite playing around (not playing) with guitar for nearly 20 years, I realised I’ve never learnt guitar properly from scratch, so I had plenty of bad habits. Having a fixed target (the exam) makes me practice. And I’m enjoying the pieces available as part of AMEB grades (but I’m not fixed to them). This is where I compare learning guitar properly to learning to drive. When I first learnt to drive, I had a bad experience with my initial instructor, he had no plan apart from to get me to pass my driving test. With AMEB, I know I have a time frame of my choice to work towards, and Josh supports me along the way. Also, the AMEB exam experience gave me a new confidence. I’ve never had to perform in front of anyone that was not family before. It was nerve-racking but worth it.
What are your thoughts on playing music together?
Rachel: I would love one day for us to all be able to play together. When Arwen has to practise duets, it is lovely to be able to play alongside her each day. Dave and I are also thinking about taking occasional extra lessons, in which we just do duets. Hopefully we will be able to play them outside of the family home someday!
David: The same as Rachel, over time as we become better it would be great for us all to be able to play together.
What inspired want to learn the guitar?
Rachel: My mum bought an entry-level Alhambra in the ’70’s which she learnt the chords to “Blowing In The Wind” and then pretty much discarded to the attic! Years later, having shared a house with three guys who all played guitar, I found the Alhambra and then decided to learn classical. For most of that time though, I mucked about and didn’t really take it seriously. I also picked up a thing about buying Alhambras!
David: I think it probably comes from one of my older brothers learning guitar and being influenced by his music tastes, which helped form my own. I grew up listening to guitar heavy music, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Metallica etc. I saw that my brother was playing guitar so I (aged 15) decided to save up and buy an electric for myself. Unfortunately, my brother never wanted to jam and my parents were not overly keen on the noise! As a result I never took lessons until recently and I never took guitar seriously.
Do you guys get competitive and if so, is this a good thing?
Rachel: I would have said not, but we recently did our practical exam on the same day and had two identical pieces out of the three. I think that was a mistake as it hard not to compare how each person performed the same piece. We have decided for the future to apply for different exam intakes and do completely different pieces; that way it will stop any comparison. The only competition there is now is positive – and that is to do with practice. If I hear David practise while I am doing something else, it reminds me to pick up the guitar. It is great that we are doing to same grades (at the moment anyway!) as we can help each other with the technical and sight-reading. Dave is zooming along with his grades so it won’t be long till he is way ahead!
David: I would not say “zooming along” Rachel! Until the exam, no I would not have said we were competitive, but afterwards when we had the exam, as were working on the same pieces, it perhaps felt a little competitive waiting for the results (probably on my part). It’s better that we are taking our exams at different times and not to compare. Rachel has more demands on her time with PhD than I do, so I’m planning on taking grade 1 before her (and different pieces). The great part about learning together is we are able to support each other. In the build up to the AMEB exam, we were able to perform our pieces to each other and have dummy exams at home!