Special Interview...With My Guitar Instructor!!
No Bonus Round This Week
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Last week’s Bonus Round: "Wish You Were Here" is a song by English rock band Pink Floyd. It was released as the title track of their 1975 album of the same name. David Gilmour and Roger Waters collaborated to write the music, and Gilmour sang the lead vocal. Credit:Wikipedia
Special interview today, no Bonus Round for next week.
“Wish You Were Here” also happens to be the song my guitar instructor is valiantly attempting to get me to learn right now. Uphill battle to some extent, but we’ll get there. See below.
Today I’m extremely pleased to present an interview with a friend I’ve mentioned several times (most recently in the paragraph above) on Michael Acoustic: my guitar instructor!! I’ve often emphasized the importance of a local guitar instructor for private lessons, especially when you’re first starting out, but also an instructor you can return to after you’ve spent time working out and mastering some aspects on your own and are ready to move to the next level. We’ve also talked about your expectations for a guitar instructor. Mellad has captured the important concepts and milestones that I think every student should expect from private lessons more clearly than I ever could. I’ve mentioned on here how he challenges me to constantly improve, and every insight Mellad shares below is a spot on example of how he does just that. Your guitar instructor should provide you with the same tools.
Mellad Abeid is a university level teacher, performing musician, guitarist, recording artist, producer, and guitar instructor. He is a graduate of Gonzaga University with a BA in music composition and arranging. He records and tours with multiple local and regional artists including Kaitlyn Wiens, Izzy Burns, Christy Lee Comrie, Sara Brown Band and Jenny Anne Mannan. He also works with the Emmy Nominated PBS act “Ireland with Michael” (Ireland With Michael link) as guitarist and music director for the touring show. He has also toured with Nashville based artists Jeremy McComb and Lauren Anderson. Mellad is currently guitar instructor and assistant jazz director at Gonzaga University and teaches and records locally as well.
Q: (Michael Acoustic) When accepting a new student for guitar instruction, how do you convey expectations for success? Assuming students have various levels of competence from complete beginners to intermediate players, how do you tailor instruction for each?
A. (Mellad Abeid) I always try to meet a student wherever they are in their playing and musical journey. For college level students the expectations and curriculum are more stringent and more set in stone. For private students I am flexible and do my best to work with each student in their own particular field of interest. I start all beginners with chords just to get the momentum rolling. From there I will work in note and tab reading in addition to chords. I also teach everyone some basic strum patterns in 4/4 and ¾ time and also basic fingerpicking in both time signatures. My goal is to get a student to a point where they feel confident enough to be able to tackle projects on their own. I encourage all students to learn some music theory and try to take each of them through an understanding of the fret board and basic chord and scale theory so they can start to try to figure things out themselves.
Q: (Michael Acoustic) I spend some time in my posts on music theory from the perspective of its utility as a “language” among musicians (not just other guitarists) playing together, rather than pure theory. What are your thoughts on the role of basic music theory for beginners? Does that change as students progress in their abilities?
A. (Mellad Abeid) I believe our understanding of music theory should evolve as our understanding of music and our ability on the instrument evolve. Right at first I think the most important thing for guitar is understanding how whole steps and half steps work and the basic understanding of major and minor chord voicings so we can start to find roots and make barre chords. From there I will introduce key theory especially for those interested in song writing or improvising. Knowing how to find a key and also which chords live in a key becomes quite helpful. With all things theory though, I find a way to put it into a practical context so that the theoretical ideas always have concrete real life examples, usually using the songs that the student has learned at that point.
Q: (Michael Acoustic) Beginning guitarists may have a range of outlooks, from the timid to the bold, on when to play for or with others, from family and friends, to jamming with friends, to open mic nights, to playing with a church band or other group. What would be your suggestions for when and to what extent to “go public”, at least to some degree? Thoughts on how to deal with criticism, constructive and helpful, or otherwise, when taking this step?
A. (Mellad Abeid) I think music can be a very personal experience for people and not all people want to share music with others. I think that’s totally fine. However, I encourage all students to play with other musicians when the opportunity arises. When we start to play with other musicians it really gives context to the ideas and techniques we have been practicing on our own. For those that do want to share the experience with others however, I think that once you can change your chords on the beat with no pause, try to jump in with friends and see if you can keep up. Once you can keep up in a basic sing along type setting then maybe you can think about joining a performing group of some kind be it open mics, church etc. Something I think that really helps to prepare us for playing with other musicians is playing along with recordings of the songs we have been learning. Doing that forces us to keep up with the tempo and the chord changes but it’s low pressure because the recording isn’t listening to us ;-) As far as critics are concerned, only listen to those that want you to succeed. In most musical settings, musicians may make suggestions to one another to help with an overall feel or arrangement and the key is to never take it personally. Playing with others is all about the big picture and sometimes our role in the setting is to play a little differently than we may have initially realized. The other musicians are there to help us see better how to fit into the overall picture.
Q: (Michael Acoustic) How do you assess when a student should move to a next level, either in formal education or some level of performance? Is there a point at which students need to “go do things” while still seeking some level of further instruction? What are some examples you may give to a student who you assess needs to “go do things”?
A. (Mellad Abeid) At the college level students must accomplish a certain amount of benchmarks in order to move up to the next level. These include chord voicings, scale forms and certain pieces of repertoire. I think for private students they don’t have the same exact frame work but I still use a basic formula of learning open chord voicings, then barre chord voicings then 7th chord voicings. Also students learn all their pentatonic scales before blues scales and all major scales before altered minor, etc. I encourage students to play with other musicians to find a context to use these ideas as a way to help cement the information into their ears, minds and hands. I think that education is always a part of it regardless of how long one has been playing. I still take lessons at various times or if not formal lessons, I go to clinics or watch youtube tutorials. The big thing I do is really listen to other musicians that I work with and respect in order to always be pushing my knowledge and sharpen my game. I think we can learn a lot from other instrumentalists not just guitarists. It helps give us a better musical perspective and not just a guitar perspective.
Final thoughts (Mellad Abeid):
I believe music is a lifelong journey. I always find myself analyzing my own playing and musical choices. The secret is to be patient with ourselves and realize that there is no point at which any musician I have ever met feels like they have “made it.” All the best ones always see themselves in an evolving journey. I find this encouraging and refreshing. It's that evolution and that journey that keep music interesting and engaging, it's what captures my imagination and makes me want to continue to learn and improve. I also feel like music is still fun. After years of doing this I still enjoy every day of it. Learning new songs, meeting new people, working with old friends. It is a great way to find a community and a purpose and I encourage all people of all ages to give it a try if they have even the smallest interest. Music can capture your heart and mind and change your life for the better.
My thanks and deep appreciation to Mellad for agreeing to do this interview - it’s clear his love of music and teaching and helping others shines through and he sets a high standard for other instructors, but one we as students of the instrument should expect to be met.
See you all back here next Friday (summer hours…)!
Cheers and keep playing