I hope I didn’t come across as too negative regarding kids and learning guitar in my last post! I guess I just wanted to convey to both students and parents that they should enter the learning process with eyes open. Most do; some do not. Anyway….
On a more positive note (so to speak!) I played a private party yesterday and one of the guests was a young girl aged 12 who was very nice and took immediate interest in my playing. When I took a break she very nicely asked if she could play my guitar, saying that she was learning to play through a program at her school. I usually don’t let anyone near my guitar in these circumstances but I had a good feeling about her and she was delighted to play a couple tunes she knew. Although definitely in the beginner stages of playing you could tell she loved it and everyone was encouraging and supportive. I did my best to encourage her efforts and would be more than pleased to have her as a student if she lived closer.
It was refreshing and reminded me that positive reinforcement is perhaps the most important component in how a mentor approaches a kid’s musical endeavors. This is not news, obviously, but I think it’s good for ALL teachers to be reminded of this from time to time. I think she will do just fine and I made a point to tell her so, and her mother too.
On the other end of the spectrum, an older couple requested that I play some French songs such as the cabaret style tunes by singers like Edith Piaf. Unfortunately I didn’t know any off the top of my head and I don’t usually bring fake books to gigs. I felt badly about this because they explained that they had spent time in Europe in the early years of their relationship and loved those songs. Had I known this before the job I would certainly have made the effort to learn a few for them. In any case, they were very pleasant and seemed to enjoy the stuff I did play.
All musicians receive requests from time to time (I did play a James Taylor tune that the mother of the young girl wanted her to hear) but in most cases trying to predict and prepare for them is daunting. A guitarist friend of mine has a standard answer to the question:
“So, do you take requests?”
He always answers: “Sure, as long as it’s something I know!”
OK, a bit glib I know but I get where he’s coming from. Pianists are usually better prepared than guitarists for requests. They usually bring along a bunch of fake books or lately, a device like an IPad loaded with lead sheets of hundreds of songs. Interestingly, for a long time – at least in my experience – it was viewed as somewhat amateurish and uncool for a guitarist to take the stage with a music stand and a pile of music. You were supposed to just “know” a gazzilion songs, or so it seemed! I’ve noticed however that this seems to be changing. Many single guitarists and even players in bands seem to have music stands, tablets or laptops close at hand these days. I still feel this is something of a crutch and reading lyric and/or lead sheets makes for a less than spontaneous and professional performance. But hey, I’m a dinosaur in more ways than one!
My brother, who is a superb classical trumpet player with a major international orchestra has probably never played the first few bars of Pictures at an Exhibition from memory, right?! Even though I’m sure he could… the music is always there.
I guess it may be time to buy an IPad!
Peace & good music (memorized OR read!),