I actually started teaching guitar and bass when I was thirteen years old. My dad had a music store with sixty students a week. I would go to the store right after school, and dad would ask me to join him in some of his lessons and play with the students. I would chunk along with them playing G, C, and D, so he could get a much needed break. I was working one or two nights a week with him in packed clubs so I could play.
After the first week of sitting in on five or six of his lessons, he asked me if I wanted to teach some the students myself. I jumped at the chance to make the money. Within a short time I was teaching eight to ten half-hour lessons a week. He would occasionally come into the lesson and give me a few pointers.
At that early stage of my development, I recognized the value in playing along with the student. With some of the students, we grooved and had a blast. With others I would musically carry them along, and we still had fun.
The picture to the right is of us at one of his student recitals. Twice a year he would have all of his students perform. He would pack out the local community center with students and relatives. My job was to support the students. I would play guitar, bass, drums, banjo, etc., what ever was needed. Dad would show me off as an example of a good student.
Two people playing the same guitar was always a crowd pleaser. This pic is from1969 when I was fourteen.
In college I always had two or three students. I did not have time for more. Most of these students were classmates who needed some extra tutoring on the bass or guitar. Sometimes, guys who saw me play gigs with the top players in town would ask for lessons. These players were normally adults who had reached a plateau in their development. I was good at analyzing a player's needs and teaching exactly what each individual needed to grow. This had been my forte back at my dad's music store as well.
A cornerstone of my successful teaching practice for over fifty years, and still today, is observing the player and knowing what to teach. While we all need to learn many of the same skills to develop our playing, each student has a different set of strengths and weaknesses.
Good teaching is a combination of three things.
1. What the student wants to learn.
2. What the teacher wants the student to learn.
3. What the student can actually handle.
A founding principle of the Stinnett Applied Music Method is, "Less Talk and More Music."
Don't tell the student what to do, show them, play for them.
Don't ask the student if he practiced. Ask him to play for you.
In the lesson, play their assignment for next week with them.
Send them home with an audio example/play-along to practice with.
I have learned the common pitfalls of teaching and how to avoid them. I constantly create hurdles for the student to jump. I hold a mirror up to the student so they can see an honest evaluation of their progress. I avoid spoon feeding the student. I allow them to learn by trial and error. I am careful to be there for steadying them exactly when they need it. I give them the space to sound bad. I give them examples of what sounds good. I provide very detailed instruction. I require very specific practice.
Effective practice is "The repetition of a pre-determined physical activity."
Today, my teaching is considered "old school." I have no problem with that title. The results have shown that my methods are effective. Every one of my students who buy into the system become excellent players. I guarantee success if the process is followed.
First and foremost in my teaching is developing good technique. Command of your instrument is necessary to create beautiful music. It is common for my students to spend two to three years in serious technique study.
I require copying the masters of a given style to develop both the ear and the concept. I call this "learning the language." Learning to perform a line, a bass line or solo, completely, perfectly requires discipline and patience. This procedure is a big part of my teaching. In all fields of endeavor, good students copy the masters that came before them.
I challenge my students to think bigger of their potential. I want them to challenge themselves in learning what they are capable of. Today's society breeds an attitude of, "How little can I do to get by?" No greatness is reached without great sacrifice. No top professional in any field works at half-speed.
Many of my students learn to play far beyond my ability. I focus on helping each student to develop a strong self image. I believe that inspiration comes from hard work.
Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right.
I have had many excellent students who mastered their instruments. Some of them achieved social musical success as well.
Here are a few of my past students that you may recognize. Ask any of them about their study with me. - Mike Gordon (Phish), Brent Rusinow (Allen Stone), Ben Mckee (Imagine Dragons), Steve Bailey (Berklee Bass Dpt), Michael Blum (Downbeat Rising Star 2015), Shane Allessio, Rob Gourlay, Grant Stinnett, Jim Lambie, Sunder Panatella, Charles Berthoud, et al.
Trust the system (Luke), and practice.