TRPB Learning Journey
We’d like to take you on a journey…
Imagine you walk into a room filled with guitars, bass guitars, drums and microphones. The guitars are shiny and tempting, with strings that are just calling out to be strummed, while the drum sticks are just begging you to bang out the drum beat from your favourite song. But wait, the microphone is there on its stand and no one else is in the room – why not sing to your hearts content? You walk over towards your chosen instrument when other people begin to fill the room. You retreat back and remind yourself that you cannot play an instrument, who are you kidding? Now, fast forward several months later and you are stood on stage performing at your first ever gig! How on earth did that happen?
The Rock Project Berkshire happened! Its talented tutors worked their magic and now you can play the guitar or drums or sing an entire song perfecting the techniques you have been taught.
Now let’s take another journey. This time through the eyes of the tutors, many of whom, despite being professional artists, have never taught before…
Guitar – Aaron Iley
Aaron is one of our guitar tutors and has experienced some pleasant surprises this year while teaching.
“I’ve become more aware of different styles of learning and encouragement. Some students find it easier with chords described as shapes that they can picture as opposed to others whom are much more comfortable using the numbers in a tab. I came up with a basic but interesting analogy to try and describe how keys work to a junior student. A key is like a recipe; let’s say for a jam sandwich. It will let you know what you can put in the sandwich (song) that will sound good. So if the jam sandwich is in C major playing a C# would be like putting mustard in your jam sandwich. Whereas the butter or bread could be an E or G. I did consider taking it further with the idea of sweet and sour foods and clash and resolve but decided that was for another day!
“For me, teaching the juniors is getting the balance right between installing great fundamental techniques but keeping it fun, while teaching the seniors is different because many have often learnt bits and pieces at home, so I might have to adjust bad self-taught habits, most commonly neglecting the use of a little finger, or helping them understand the role they are playing in the song – serve the song not yourself! This not only helps them sound better playing with each other in a band but also helps break ‘the wall’ that all musicians hit from time to time with improving their playing.
“On the other hand, I find that many of the adults I teach are really successful at what they do as a day job and as such, a lot of them feel very nervous playing their instrument around. My job is to also help them to feel confident so that they can play what I am teaching them with others and to really enjoy that moment in the song away from day to day pressures.
“I’ve really enjoyed giving some of my students something that I believed would stretch their ability and may even be a little beyond them at this moment in time to push them. I often find that a week later they are playing the part more in time and cleaner than I believed they would be able to. It is a fantastic feeling to know they have taken the challenge and your advice on how to practice it!
“Ultimately the end result is so rewarding! I loved the performances! The look on peoples’ faces when they’ve worked really hard, been so nervous but enjoyed that moment and the applause is fantastic!”
Vocals – Rebecca Cooch
Rebecca is one of our talented vocal coaches and our newest tutor. This year, she has taken a fun approach to teaching and it has really paid off!
“With the Juniors I always try to make lessons particularly fun and interesting because they tend to have shorter attention spans and respond well to learning through games while the seniors are usually more focused and motivated to improve their singing and learn the songs quickly, so we can spend a bit more time on technique exercises and once we have learnt the main structure of the song, we can spend more time on more difficult aspects such as harmonies and performance of the song. The adults who come to Encore sessions are very motivated and therefore we focus on technique and can move on to harmonies once we have the structure and tune of the song learnt. I sometimes find that the adults can be less confident than the younger students, so I work on building their confidence too.
“I am so pleased that approximately 70% of the juniors I have taught have excelled at singing over the past year, while all my students have impressed me with their progress, mastering tuning and timing issues. I would say approximately 90% of my senior students have excelled at technique this year. I have been very impressed with their progress. Their ability to sing harmonies accurately has really improved. Approximately 45% of my Encore students have excelled at mastering their technique since Easter when I started teaching them. They have all made great improvements too.
“The students surprise me every week! I have been amazed by many of their abilities to retain and deliver harmonies and the sheer energy they bring to the lessons and performances, including making up their own dance moves, for example! Being fairly new to teaching, I have also surprised myself with my ability to engage a group of young people of varying ages and abilities, often with very different characters, and enable them all to learn the same song in a short pace of time. I have developed new ways to teach harmonies and help people to learn and retain their harmony line against the tune. I have also found new ways to make lessons fun for the younger students and to divide up the time and parts of the songs in order to keep the lessons flowing effectively and cater for different abilities within one group. I find it very rewarding, although it can be challenging!
“All of my students make me proud, but I was particularly bowled over by the performance the Encore singers gave at the end of term gig and I was extremely pleased with the young people at the summer concert. The seniors did everything we had worked on and really performed their songs. The juniors did brilliantly performing some tricky songs in harmony on a big stage in front of an audience – probably bigger than they had imagined. I was so impressed with how confident the students were.”
Bass – Jo Alden
Our talented bassist Jo is also new to teaching and has found her first job doing it most rewarding.
“There is a different technique to teaching the juniors. I find I need to break down the song that much more than for the seniors and Encore. I need to make them see that they can in fact play the song at a simple level; to then build up to what their ability can make them achieve.
“On the other hand, the seniors always make me laugh! They’re all so laid back, but not so much all at the same time! I find that if I break it down and simplify it too much, they get in the habit of playing the song in that simplified way and find it a lot more difficult to then be built up to a more advanced level. I find I need to challenge them more from the word go, to help them play what the song requires. With the Encore students, I tend to show them what they need to do and how to play it, and then they kind of need to be left to it to work the rest out by themselves. I certainly throw a word of advice out there every-so-often though!
“I am so pleased that after attending classes, the majority, if not all, of my students can comfortably play the bass to a certain level. It’s a very easy instrument to just pick up and play a few notes, but it’s when you get going on it, you realise how much there is to learn and how complex playing the bass can be. I’d say 50% can play any rhythm I throw at them, and one student has even expressed an interest in slap! I find that leaving them to it is actually one of best teaching technique I have developed (once I’ve showed them what they need to do!)! Giving them the opportunity to just play the song without relying on me has huge benefits and shows them (and me) that they can indeed play the song. It’s a huge confidence boost for the students. They always manage to surprise me! My Juniors especially – I have on some occasions taken their music away while they’re playing, and they nail it. Sometimes the tab/music sheets act as a massive security blanket that they can hide behind. I love getting to the point when I can prove to them that they DON’T need it.
“I’ve also surprised myself this year! As this is my first official job as a tutor, I’ve surprised myself that everything that has been thrown at me this year, I’ve been able to do. Initially, I’m proud that I am able to teach a group, not 1:1, of kids/teens/adults a bunch of songs well enough, for them to then get up on a stage in front of a big audience, and ace it.
“This year has been awesome – I’m doing a job I love AND I get to watch how all my students’ hard work as benefitted them, not just on a weekly basis, but at the Summer Concert and Encore gigs. It’s just amazing seeing a child’s confidence grow on a weekly basis and seeing it grow enough for them to then get on a big stage and perform! I think that’s the biggest thing for me – seeing that the students are noticing they actually CAN do this, and they really can do anything if they put their mind to it.”
Drums – Raj Puni
As one of our seasoned tutors, Raj has been surprised by the laid back approach of some students but that the end result is still just as awesome as those who are more hands on.
“With the juniors the focus has been on understanding rhythm and getting the basics as solid and correct as possible, as well as understanding the key elements of different styles, such as the emphasis of kick and snare in pop and rock music. As the seniors are older and a bit more dexterous I can go into more detail and I have more chance to focus on the finer points on their technique, start working on fills and rudiments and how to apply technique on the drum set. The songs are also more difficult, which means we can cover some more advanced subjects.
“With Encore it is slightly different as most students have played before or have taught themselves. I find myself trying to correct bad habits more than really teaching new drum beats. We can normally get through the song fairly quick and I can then focus on things like making sure my students are holding their stick properly and striking the drums as effectively as possible. We also end up covering gig etiquette and performance techniques.
“Most of my students are confident with reading drum notation. It’s easier for the seniors and Encore Students to get the hang of it easier than the juniors. I think in the beginning it’s more important to get the juniors playing the songs than focusing on being able to read the notation.
“One thing I have realised is that everyone learns at different speeds and to be patient enough to give each student a chance to excel is really important. One of my biggest challenges was realising just how diverse students’ learning styles were. I have had to come up with multiple analogies for the same subject. Also with some students getting them to count aloud while they are playing works really well while with others getting them to “say’ the drum beat seems to work better. I think treating each session as five individual drum lessons rather than one group lesson has really helped me make sure that each student gets the attention they deserve. I think this one depends on the song. All of my students, when they find a song they really like will do all they can to master it, although I do have a fair few students who are really keen and will put a lot of time into anything I put in front of them.
“Have the students surprised you in any way? Most definitely, quite a few of my students have quite a laid back approach to practicing so I am surprised quite often when they come in next week having taken everything on board and put some time in. Have you surprised yourself as a tutor in any way? I never thought I’d be able to teach 5 students at once. Having done two concerts now, it feels great!”
How great is that?! Feel free to share this blog post, letting us know your thoughts!
Harmeet August 2nd, 2017
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