From the distorted sounds of a Vox AC30, to the mid-range pickup in a Fender Stratocaster, I knew I was in heaven when I walked into the Melbourne Guitar Show.
The Melbourne Guitar Show was held at Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday 6th August to Sunday 7th August. Due to my guitar-teaching schedule, I could only attend the morning sessions on Saturday. However, I hope some of my findings may be useful for any guitar player starting out, or progressing through senior school music exams.
Here are the top 3 insights of the day:
1. “How do you get past technical demands, and then expression?”
The first session I attended was on the VCE Guitar Syllabus, presented by Matthew Fagan and Emilio Kormanic. They played three main songs from the syllabus: “For The Love of God” by Steve Vai, “Always With Me, Always With You” by Steve Vai and “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. Throughout the session, Emilio and Matthew talked about some technical terminology, such as rubato (playing freely against time) and staccato (in a light accented manner). The performers were impressive and confident in their expression.
The main takeaways from the session:
- The metronome is not the “be all and end all” of music
- Study as many different versions of the piece
- Musicians like to “show” before they tell. The content of this session was concentrated upon performing, and showing the audience numerous techniques.
- The trends of studying online should be paired with a face-to-face teacher, so the guitar student can focus on physical aspects of playing – i.e hand position and adjustment.
- Tip when presenting to (non-musical) parents: Summarise the 3 takeaways at the end of the session. Some audience members may be a bit confused with the technical jargon. Handouts may also prove to be useful for those who want to find out more.
2. Where technology fails, human expression is left standing. Make it count.
The second session I attended was on the Rockschool exam, presented by Alyson Locke and Simon Gallagher. I was particularly excited to see this session, as I had taught the same curriculum to my students with moderate success. Some pieces were played during the session, such as ‘Cranal Contraption’ from Rockschool 6 and ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by Metallica. Throughout the session, Alyson and Simon talked about the different styles you can be examined for, and the goal-oriented nature of the Rockschool examinations.
The main takeaways from the session:
- Contextualise guitar practice beyond the “notes”. Rockschool’s curriculum invites the guitar student to explore amp settings, tone and the functions of the guitar.
- Student, family and teacher success are one in the same. It is so important to agree on the same musical goal, whilst allowing students to completely be themselves.
- Think outside the box – literally. Pentatonic scales and chords are only the beginning of guitar learning.
- Tip: technical issues bring to light the calibre of any teacher (I’ve been there as a classroom teacher!). The teachers did their best to present above loud noises and technical issues, and supplemented their talk with a Rockschool stand filled with books.
After the show, I spoke with Simon at the Rockschool music stand. One of his quotes resonated with me: “learning guitar is not a linear progression.” We all have different paths to becoming a great guitarist, and should attempt to find out how we learn best.
3. Communities matter
Whether it is a local face-to-face connection, or an email in your inbox, the new currency of today’s economy is focus. I stopped by the Muso stand, and had a good chat with the founder Andy. He has ambitions to bring together communities online and offline, whether it be through his recent Swap Meets, or through improving the buyer experience on his website.
My conversation with Andy led me to reflect on an article I read on Smart Company. The magazine discussed the transition of Allans Billy Hyde to the current owner, Con Gallin in 2012. The article explained that musicians may not have disposable income, but they will still buy musical instruments out of passion, as “it is a creative thing”.
It is my belief that creativity, whilst initiated by passion, can be sustained by accountability and commitment. Communities can boost both factors to a whole new level.
So how are you being creative today?
Who are you surrounding yourself with?
If you are lacking in inspiration, perhaps it is time to find musicians who are on a similar journey.
I would rate the Guitar Show 5/5, and I will definitely go both days in 2017.
Special thanks to Australian Musician for organising the conference!
Thank you Andy, Emilio and Simon for having such fruitful conversation with me!
Until next time,
Keep on rockin’
Find out more:
Matthew Fagan: www.matthew-fagan.com