Friday, April 10, 2009

Interview - Shred Teacher Jonathan Vipond

He's toured the UK many times and his teaching business commands a sizable chunk of West Yorkshire. Jonathan Vipond tells us about the joys he gets from teaching and gives some sage advise.

How long have you been teaching guitar?

I have been teaching guitar for almost 5 years.

Why do you teach guitar?

I do this because I love helping people to enjoy playing guitar. It’s also the most satisfying job I’ve ever done and has allowed me to spend more time with my family and of course spend time making my own music and practicing.

Where is your teaching practice based?

I’m based on the Leeds and Bradford border in West Yorkshire, UK and I teach from my home studio and from a local community centre.

As far as teaching goes, what is your specialty?

I specialize in most rock and metal based styles in lead and rhythm guitar to advanced levels. I’ve been playing in these sorts of bands for 10 years now and I love it though I do teach blues and acoustic fingerstyle to an intermediate level as well.

What level of player do you prefer to teach?

I enjoy teaching students of all levels. Each poses it’s own challenges but it’s always satisfying for me to teach all levels. As long as the student is dedicated, wants to learn and to put the time and effort in I will help them. I get as much out of helping beginners to take the first steps as I do helping more advanced players hone their skills.

What makes a player a virtuoso?

Virtuoso can mean many things but to me it means an exceedingly high level of skill on their instrument, the ability to communicate and play what they mean in a way that is not mindlessly self-indulgent, an uncanny dedication to their craft and a strong work ethic towards playing, practicing and creating.

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

When the playing ceases to be musically expressive in term of the music being played. Someone can play at death defying speeds and if they can still make the music mean something and communicate it to a listener then that’s still fine. The concept of ‘too fast’ only comes about if someone is considering speed over the thought or feel for the music.

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

A student must approach playing the guitar from the right mindset. Someone who expect success to just ‘happen’ tend not to do too well. You have to put the time into learning in the right way. I’ve had so many students who simply thought that by coming for lessons with me they would automatically improve without having to put the time in and develop a real love for the instrument and the music that they make. They tend not to last very long because they’re probably not playing guitar for the right reasons. Even more experienced players seem to forget this important fact as well. Success at something must be earned.

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

A good student is someone who has a hunger to learn and develop. My best students are always the ones who take what I teach them and begin using it right away to create something or learn songs in the best way that they can at that stage. Fact of the matter is that you don’t need to know much to be able to make simple but great music on the guitar but it takes the drive and initiative to take what you know and make something from it. Obviously practice helps. As a said above music lessons in themselves don’t make you good, it’s how you use the knowledge you are given and by putting the time into learning, developing and eventually mastering something that gives the biggest payoff and ultimately the best and most satisfied students.

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

I have students from all ages who learn at different speeds. My oldest student is 61 and has been playing for a year and a half but has had a strong desire to play since his teens when he saw Hendrix and Cream. Also, he wants to be great so badly and has wanted to for so long he now works very hard to get to where he needs to be. Similarly I have a younger student, just turned 14, who never fails to surprise me with what he can do. At a recent student event he got up on stage on a live jam and blew everyone else away. He’s only been playing a year.

Both of these people have the common traits of a good student described above. I don’t think that age really has anything to do with it except that younger people in their teens have a lot more time on their hands than they realize to practice and play. Anyone can play and be great at guitar though if you have a strong enough desire and the patience and dedication to learn.

What is your teaching format?

I teach private and group lessons. A lot of time I get students to use what they learn in a jam situation or in composing their own music through my home studio setup. Private lessons are good for helping people with individual problems but the group sessions really help people to come out of their shell and develop the confidence in their playing that they need. I also run more specific classes on composition, recording and improvisation for those that need it.

What models of learning benefit the student the most?

I prefer to give peple mixed format of private and group is better so that I can give them the best of both worlds. However it really depends on what the student needs and enjoys doing. I have people who happily turn up each week just to jam with people and that suits them fine.

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

Get playing and making music with other people as soon as you can. It’s all very well being a bedroom player but when it comes to making music with and for other people do you really have what it takes? Playing with others helps you to apply what you have learnt and make all those hours of practice worthwhile. Get some experience of it. It’s unbelievably good fun as well!

How can prospective students contact you for lessons?

They can contact me through my website - or by emailing me at

No comments: