The Above and Beyond Program

As you may or may not know, I have a beef with how music is taught in Australia. People who need lessons don’t get them, and people who get lessons get led down a confusing rabbit hole that is designed to extract money from the person who foots the bill. Parents get lessons for their children, often without meeting the teacher, and most of the time, without even seeing the teacher’s ability to play (google your teachers!). I have picked up students from other teachers who have been learning for three years, who have been unable to play a single song, all while the teachers and parents boast about music and it’s ability to boost confidence. One school I worked with forced them all to perform. It boggles my mind.

I have been playing for almost twenty years. In this time, I have studied classical guitar, I’ve played many headlining shows with a signed death metal band, I’ve played weddings, and I’ve released three solo bass CDs. If you’re interested in what I do, you can punch my name into google and see the results. I have been teaching guitar professionally since 2007, for schools, contracting for companies, and I’ve taught privately, and in this time, I have learned a lot about the psychology of assimilating new knowledge and skills. I ask every student of mine what they like and dislike about lessons, and how they could be better, and I have refined a system for teaching all the skills I have in a smaller time frame. I believe i have the holy grail of guitar or bass programs. The package includes a 60 minute lesson, plus extra time if you’re still learning (lesson time is based on attention span as opposed to a set time). Lesson plans are 100% tailored to the student with the ultimate objective of the student becoming more skilled than myself.

Question: How can I teach someone to have better skills than me? Easy. Step 1 is that everyone has their own skill set developed by music that they’ve listened to since adolescence, everything they have learned outside of lessons (private music learning is strongly encouraged!) and the formulaic approach that I’ve developed to share what I know. Everything that I know, plus the random things the student picks up along the way equals somebody who knows more than me.

In my experience, I have learned that lesson plans need to be tailored to learning types. (I’m not going to explain everything as it’s a trade secret). Of the learning types (written, aural, visual, kinaesthetic, etc) in my experience of hundreds of students, less than 10% are written learners. The current accepted curriculum for guitar is that it is targeted and taught in a written format. Kids are encouraged more to read music than actually learning how to play the instrument, in a one-size-fits-all method based on books. If you look at the results, the professional guitarists in Australia who learned this way is tiny, in fact I am yet to meet one. The matter of the fact is that more people learn themselves through bad internet tabs and persistance. Perhaps 1% of all the musicians I’ve worked with professionally can definitively read music and understand theory. The education system speaks for itself here.

With guitar lessons, a massive flaw is that you get one opportunity per week to ask questions, and that’s it. I go above and beyond and propose twice a week homework updates and reminders. A massive request I have had is for day-before reminder text messages, which is no worries! If you have an instrument that requires maintenance or strings, it’s all covered in the price of the lesson. I can’t have a student playing on gear that doesn’t work properly, so I see that as my responsibility to fix, and I can teach them how to do it themselves. I have access to a full recording studio, so there are opportunities to record tracks. If you do something awesome, there’s even an option to do a full video clip and recording, all for free, because your success is my success. You do an awesome thing and I’m going to want to tell everyone about it.

Collaborations with myself and other students are encouraged as often and as quickly as possible, if of interest. Speaking of songs and content, pick what you want to learn and I teach it to you! The specialty that I have is anything involving composition, fingerpicking, percussion techniques, slap or tap, as these are techniques that can be applied to any genre or style.

Music lessons taught in half hour increments are a joke. When I went to Spain I was immediately outplayed by a ten year old kid. We’ve all seen videos of prodigies from China playing Chopin by the age of seven. Why doesn’t that happen in Australia? Prodigies are more the result of a great teacher and encouragement from parents, and more than 30 minutes once a week of being taught. In Spain, flamenco is taught from father to child, and from an extremely young age.

In the past I have been known for just going hard and, as the program states, go above and beyond with encouragement, homework, reminders and the like. For instance, one of my most dedicated students, named Marc, earned himself a brand new, 6-string Ibanez bass, for which I paid half. The reason he got the bass was because I ran out of things to teach him for tapping. He then used the bass to record an EP of his own compositions, which he submitted for his Year 10 Music class major work assessment. Needless to say, I also loaned him my 8-string bass and main bass amp while I went to Spain to study flamenco.

Another student of mine named Dylan, from a high school I used to teach at, did work experience with me, and when I went to Spain, he filled in for my students at ICON music in Sydney, and did so well he landed himself a job there teaching guitar. When he moved to Melbourne in 2017, I bestowed him with all of my recording gear (Sonic Fingerprint Studios was a small-time recording studio based in Sydney between 2012 and 2014 with enough recording equipment to record three separate bands at three locations at any time). Dylan now runs Sonic Fingerprint professionally.

One of my other students, Eli (affectionately known as 3li), learned how to play one of my more complicated songs for the 4-string bass, so I invited him to join me on stage for a pub gig at the ripe old age of 11, for a joint performance of that piece. He played it perfectly! At the end, I presented him with a 6-string Spector Legend Classic, that I had been using for the first half of the show. He is also the sort of student who received some stickers, posters, keyrings, a whole bass care package including strings and lemon oil for cleaning, for a birthday gift. Not everyone gets birthday presents, but if it will inspire you, you can’t really stop me.

I recently joined one of my older students in a duet of the Ed Sheeran song Perfect, which he was requested to play at his daughter’s wedding. I was stoked to be involved with that, as it was a nice gift from father to daughter for her first dance, and it went down very well.

I routinely get up and play school concerts with any of my students who are performing, to show support and make them feel more comfortable on stage. Onstage is where dreams are made, but if unprepared, it’s where nightmares are born. Students are encouraged to perform but never pressured if they don’t want to.

I loaned my student Carlos my Fender P Bass for his HSC music performance exam, where he played Portrait of Tracy, and Good Times Bad Times (with no vocalist, so he had to play the bass lines and the vocal melodies at the same time). Needless to say, he smashed his HSC and was accepted into the Conservatorium of Music on the first try.

Dani was a student in his 20s, a looping artist, master of the beatbox, ukulele, guitar and bass, and managed to catch a free EP, Meat Doesn’t Grow on Trees. An awesome project to work on and with, and the reality of it is that I saw it as a way to inspire him and up his skills. We gathered samples from his car to use as drums for one of the songs, Treadmill, and I played with him for the opening show. In fact, I recorded it as well. Above and beyond.

Simon and Dale both managed to get free recordings to accompany their lessons.

At every school I have worked at, I have instigated lunchtime jams with whoever is interested. One of my favourites include a Year 6 group called The Little Fastheads, and during our lunchtime jams we wrote three songs, which they performed in front of the school and at a separate gig. Both shows I was front and centre to watch them perform. Mason, the bass player of the two-piece, managed to be gifted one of my old bass guitars that I wasn’t using anymore, an old Yamaha that I converted to fretless, that played like a dream. I had used it on stage many times, and I’m glad to know he uses it now. Ollie, the drummer, was never even a student of mine, but he asked me to come to his Year 6 graduation, and I jumped at the chance to show support.

What can you potentially expect to see after all this above and beyond nonsense? After one year, you will have mastered complex melodies, basic chords, all of the scales and modes, and a strong intro to fingerpicking. Second year you will master intermediate rhythms, alternative chords, music theory up to grade 4 (equivalent to classical guitar, focusing on music theory) and improvisation. Third year consists of composition, rhythm endgame, and complex pieces. Fourth year focuses on collaborations, gigs, advanced techniques, and anything left over, grade 7-8 and beyond.

Requirements: you’ve got to have an instrument, a phone number or email address, and a computer with Guitar Pro X or above.

Cost: $60/week for everything mentioned. (I’m more interested in teaching than getting paid, so if you need a discount, let me know and I will see what I can do)

Get in touch on 0404 128 828