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FOR PLAYERS WHO HAVE REACHED THE LEVEL EQUIVALENT TO ROYAL CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC GRADE 8 AND ABOVE
Coaching advanced students is a bit different than working with beginner or intermediate students. Although there is still technical work to do, aural skills to enhance, and an even greater diversity of repertoire to explore, the major focus shifts to a student-led process where the student learns to develop their creative ideas and discover their voice.
At the beginning and intermediate stages, much of the content and training is instructor-led, where the teacher delivers content and strategies to the student. However, at the advanced stage, the focus centres on helping the student discover their own truth; that is, honing their own interpretive ideas and developing their musical sensibilities. It is about exploring interpretive possibilities, learning to paint with a variety of different tonal colours, investigating the structure and building blocks of the composition and how that information may impact their interpretations. Most importantly, it is about helping them develop good listening skills; that is, listening critically to his/her own playing. It is no longer about finding fault (though we will still point out the obvious and not so obvious errors) but searching for possibilities and learning how to develop and give birth to one’s own creative ideas.
Thus, critical listening and self-teaching becomes the major focus of those studying at the advanced level. At this stage, the role of the instructor is primarily to ask questions that will help students find good interpretive solutions as a means to developing their musicianship. Of course, as mentioned before, the instructor still corrects oversights, provides historical context to the compositions being studied, helps the student to cultivate better practicing habits, introduces new exercises or studies to improve technique, help refine tone production, et cetera.
Finally, parallel—and equally important—to this student-led process is mentoring the advanced student. Many students at this stage are also transitioning into adulthood and it is important to guide them as they become independent and self-responsible young adults who set their own goals and make their own decisions. An instructor at this stage helps advanced students integrate their life experiences into their music-making. It is an honour and a privilege to be in that position and a critical role in helping emerging guitarists transition into mature independent artists.
If you are seeking an experienced and proven instructor that can help you navigate the internal and external obstacles in your musical development, as well as encourage and support you finding and developing your own creative voice, click on the link below and schedule your free consultation lesson. Strike the iron while it is hot!
I wish the biggest obstacle facing you in your development as a classical guitarist—and the thing that is getting in the way of you realising your full potential—was something as simple as not having the chance to study with an internationally renowned player, or not having the opportunity to study at a well-known conservatory or music school, or not having an ideal practice space, or not tackling more challenging repertoire, or not winning a major guitar competition, or not associating with more accomplished guitarists, or not having that perfect instrument that allows you to speak through it, or whatever other reason you think is preventing you from experiencing the joy and bliss you think the next level of achievement will reward you with.
I wish the key in reaching that next level that you desire was as easy as refining your technique, learning that next major composition, learning all the Sor, Carcassi, Brouwer, or Villa Lobos studies, eliminating tension in your body, adjusting your seating or arm positions, playing more chamber music, refining your tone, longer practice sessions, practice more slowly, practicing at tempo, working on finger independence, developing better reading skills, learning all the major guitar concertos, practicing more consistently, recording yourself, using a metronome more regularly, getting rid of distractions, following a practice schedule, creating a warm-up routine, playing with your eyes open, playing with your eyes closed . . . well, you get the idea.
All the above will certainly assist you in reaching that next level—and in and of themselves, they are a good thing—but they will not bring what you truly seek. In fact, I would suggest you already possess what you want—you just have to activate it.
If it was any of the above obstacles—the challenge—would be fairly easy to overcome. Really! Those are challenges that are “out there,” and if they are “out there,” they are usually pretty simple (not necessarily easy) to deal with, generally speaking.
However, you have the privilege (yes, I said "privilege") of dealing with something that is much more difficult to overcome, but essential if you want to reach that next level.
The biggest obstacle—your greatest challenge—is you!
Learning to deal with your own internal blocks, limiting beliefs, self-sabatoging habits is a key to dealing with the biggest road block to your success. Deal with the internal obstacles and the challenges that are external, that is, those things that are "out there," are fairly simple (but, again, not necessarily easy) to deal with.
Schedule a free consultation and discover how continuing to development your musicianship, sharpening your technical abilities, and subtle mental shifts can help you reach that next level in your musical journey.
I ENJOY WORKING WITH ALL AGES AND LEVELS . . .
If you are a parent interested in giving your son or daughter the lifetime gift of making music and bringing joy to themselves and those around them, find out more about music lessons for your child here.
If you are new to the guitar (or maybe have tried to teach yourself or taken an online course but haven't made much progress) and you really want to establish a solid foundation on which to build your musical interests on, start here.
If you have acquired a certain level of musicianship, music reading skills, and technical proficiency (equivalent to RCM grade 3 - 7) but lack the training to tackle the repertoire you really want to learn to play, you can find out more here.
If you are an advanced student (equivalent to RCM grade 8 or above) and want to elevate your playing to that next level, or you're considering studying music at a university or conservatory and want to prepare yourself for post-secondary studies, you can find out more here!
“Don is an amazing teacher who is great at explaining concepts in an easy to understand manner. Prior to joining the Fort Langley Guitar Studio, I played in multiple small, local competitions and performances. While studying with Don, I was able to advance my skill to the next level, which resulted in receiving a Gold medal for the highest mark in my exam from the Royal Conservatory of Music, a second place finish in the Northwest Classical Guitar youth competition, as well as the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall. Don instinctively knows how to inspire students and he has truly helped me improve my skill as a musician and reinvigorated my passion for music.”
High School Student | Science Enthusiast | Classical Guitarist
I was the Director of Guitar at Kwantlen Polytechnic University for 26 years (I was the Department Chair for six of those years) and also the Founder and Artistic Director of the Fraser Valley Acoustic Guitar Festival. I have an Undergraduate degree in Classical Guitar (Performance), a Masters degree in Higher Education, and over 35 years of teaching experience. In addition, I am a member of the BC Registered Music Teachers’ Association (South Fraser Branch), a member of the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators' Association (CMFAA), and a Royal Conservatory of Music certified teacher.
The list is extremely long but some of my favourite classical guitarists who have had a huge influence on me include: Julian Bream, David Russell, Marc Teicholz, Antigoni Goni, Manuel Barrueco, Jason Vieaux, Eliot Fisk, Andrew York, Berta Rojas, and Bill Kanengiser. Paul O'Dette and Nigel North are favourite lutenists. The next generation of classical guitarists are absolutely stunning players, including individuals such as Ana Vidovic, Steve Cowan, Stephanie Jones, Karmen Stendler, and Anabel Montesinos.
Teaching has always been my first choice in terms of a vocation. Although a performing career was an income stream when I was younger, I've always considered my primary activity to be helping emerging classical guitarists develop their creativity and unique voice. In other words, teaching is not something I do jsut to "pay the bills;" it is—and has always been—my main focus as a professional musician. Students who I have the privilege of working with are like family to me. My success and fulfillment is based on the continued enjoyment my students regarding music and the guitar.
One of my favourite "cross-over" players (i.e., plays both classical and fingerstyle steel-string) is Michael Chapdelaine. I think my favourite acoustic fingerstyle percussive player is the Canadian, Don Ross. Favourite fingerstyle jazz guitarists include Joe Pass, Earl Klugh, Lenny Breau, and Martin Taylor.
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