Thursday, March 26, 2009

Interview - Shred Teacher Lee Carlson

Lee has Just released his album "Essence of Time". He also teaches at a very high level. check out what he has to say about teaching.

How long have you been teaching guitar?

For about 16 years. I started when I was in grade 12. But it actually hasn’t been 16 years straight I have taken breaks from it from time to time.

Why do you teach guitar?

I love playing guitar: I am still obsessed with it. And because of that I just need to show others who have the same passion for it how play to! It is pretty awesome. Nothing’s as cool as seeing a student progress week to week.

Where is your teaching practice based?

I teach here in Calgary at Axe School of Music. It is a really great place to teach. They even have Rock Camps in the summers where we coach students in a band situation then they get to put on a concert. Everyone has an awesome time!

As far as teaching goes, what is your specialty?

Talking too much! Seriously, I talk my students ears off because I get pretty wired about guitar, like I said I am still obsessed. I guess my specialty would be shedding light on topics students might be confused about. Sometimes I explain things in ten different ways. I insist they ask tons of questions and we won’t let the subject go until it is perfectly clear.

What level of player do you prefer to teach?

For me it isn’t about what level. As long as they are there because they want to be, not because someone makes them go. Nothing can drain your energy more than pushing through lessons week to week with someone who isn’t interested. But it is pretty cool to teach players on the intermediate level on the edge of becoming an advanced players, that is when I get even more wound up and talk even more, it can get exciting.

What makes a player a virtuoso?

Well, I think a saying I heard from Tom Hess sums it up pretty well: An average player practices to get it right, but a Virtuoso practices to never get it wrong. There is a big difference! I also see it as someone with no technical limitations on their playing and composing, whether it is a simple piece of music or extremely challenging, they can play it at the highest level. Most people attach speed with virtuosity, which is very often the case, but even when a Virtuoso plays something slow or simple, there is still a certain command of the instrument evident in their playing.

How fast is too fast, if such a concept exists?

When you start sounding sloppy, it is too fast! But I personally don’t think there is a limit, I mean what is fast to me might not be fast to the next guy. Everyone has their own limits on their abilities. I guess as long as the passage being played at mach 8 isn’t taking away from the song but is adding to what is being portrayed in the composition then it works. Though I have heard players who just sound like they are just wanking over a riff aimlessly, I believe notes and licks should be consciously chosen not just ripping up and down scales shapes because you know they are in the right key.

From a Teacher’s point of view, what is the number one roadblock to becoming a better player?

Looking for a short cut around practicing! I personally don’t have a button I push to make them great.

What makes a good student? Describe the student who progresses really quickly?

Someone who asks lots of questions and has decided before they come to me that they will achieve their goals! Sounds simple, but I really believe it.

Do you find that older or younger students progress faster/learn quicker?

From my personal experience I found that students in their early teens seem to be the ones that make the fastest progress. Young kids can lack the discipline to sit and practice and adults have many other responsibilities to tend to apart from practicing. Again that is just what I have noticed.

What is your teaching format?

I insist that all students know the essentials like chords, scales, intervals, and at least basic theory. After that I start personalizing the lessons for their specific goals. Not everyone wants to be a wanker like me.

What models of learning benefit the student the most?

I don’t know that I have any specific models that work all the time, but simply explaining that in the end it is up to them. Either they want to learn and get better or they don’t, and if they do then I am there to facilitate that. However, it can also depend on what the student goals are. I just really try hard to connect with them.

Is there one piece of advice that you can give the readers to improve their playing right now?

Don’t settle for second, push yourself and don’t let it go until you have mastered whatever concept it is that is causing you problems. And that means knowing what it is you are aiming for, whether it is to be a Virtuoso or not.

How can prospective students contact you for lessons?

They can go to and either email or just call.

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