[This article was written by guest contributor Matt Blick from The Beatles Songwriting Academy.]
I’m a guitar teacher by trade. Sure I write songs and perform, but if you met me at a party and ask what I do I’d say “teach guitar.”
If I won the lottery tomorrow I’d still carry on teaching (but maybe reduce my hours a little) because I feel a responsibility to pass on what I’ve learned and I think it’s something every musician should do.
At the same time, it’s a battle. Full-time teaching tends to squeeze the original creative impulse out of my soul that made me want to play guitar in the first place. And I’m aware that not having the time to learn anything new on my instrument dries up writing AND teaching, keeping me going round the same ever-deepening ruts.
Many of us will be firmly in one camp. A teacher, student or creator. That’s fine. But to be a truly healthy member of a musical society, we need to be a little of each.
You need to be a teacher
I am self taught. What that means is my school music teachers taught me notation, got me to listen critically and perform in school productions. An older guy at school taught me all the Judas Priest songs he knew in return for me roadying for his band. My art teacher introduced me to lots of jazz & avant garde music and my sister loaned me everything from Gershwin to Led Zeppelin. I devoured instructional books and magazines.
I hope you get the point? No one is self taught. We all had help coming up and we all have to give something back. Not everyone could or should teach formally; some of us lack patience, punctuality or an analytical mind — or have issues with the police or alcohol. But we can all do something to help the next generation.
You need to be a student
Sadly, most teachers stop learning anything new about their subject right after they qualify, just like recording artists stop learning once they start touring the first album. Thereafter, the next 20 years worth of music (or teaching) is drawn from an ever diminishing pool of ideas.
Teachers and lecturers get long summer breaks (some even get sabbaticals) but many just use the time to collapse and recover. And the few successful artists that do seek out formal tuition only do it to correct career threatening flaws in their technique.
It’s simple: in order to keep growing, you need to keep learning.
You need to be a creator
Art and Fear warns of the danger that … “an artist who teaches will eventually dwindle away to something much less: a teacher who formerly made art… like some perverse recycling process from a sci-fi novel, the same system that produces new artists, produces ex-artists.”
It goes on to say, “The greatest gift you have to offer your students is the example of your own life as a working artist” (p.82-3).
Meanwhile, students are sometimes trapped into a mindset that they must learn everything before they create anything, not realising that the best way to understand any musical concept you learn is to use it.
If you’re struggling in one or more of these areas — teacher, student or creator — I’ve got some tailor-made suggestions to help you get out of your rut. Check them out on my website HERE.
Author bio: Matt Blick is a singer/songwriter and musical educator from Nottingham, UK. He has been blogging his way through the entire Beatles back catalogue since 2009 at Beatles Songwriting Academy. His EP Let’s Build An Airport is available on CD Baby (of course!)
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