Saturday, May 2, 2009

Interview - Shred Teacher Teemu Kleemola

Teemu has been playing guitar since age 10. His influences include players like Al Di Meola, Vinnie Moore, Tony McAlpine, Steve Vai and his favourite player John Petrucci. Teemu attended the Porvoo Pop/Jazz school in 2000 and took private lessons with Matias Kupiainen (Stratovarius) in 2008. He is currently studying with Tom Hess (Hess, Holy Hell) and Luca Turilli (Rhapsody of Fire). He is currently writing his debut album and his instrumental song "Running in Changing Weather" will be featured on the "Sonic Bridges" compilation album.

How long have you been teaching guitar?

I’ve been teaching guitar about 3 years.

Why do you teach guitar?

Well, I like to solve problems in general. I like to use creative ways to find a solution to a problem. When I’m teaching guitar a problem might be something that holds a student back in reaching his/her goals or the desired skill level in student’s playing. Every student has his/her own challenges and it’s nice when they get past those challenges. Teaching with a guitar in your hand is also a nice way to earn money.

Where is your teaching practice based?

I’m teaching in Finland, near Loviisa. I have a separate room at home for that purpose and there are no time or volume restrictions when teaching or practicing etc.

As far as teaching goes, what is your specialty?

I teach shredding techniques, sight reading and pop/jazz standards. Currently my personal focus is mainly on shredding.

What level of player do you prefer to teach?

All levels. It’s nice to teach shedding to the more advanced students, but it’s also very nice to see the skills grow right from the beginning level. When teaching beginners you really have to think how the students are learning the new things in the most effective ways for his/her purposes and what the new things actually are for this particular student. When teaching more advanced students, one of the most critical things is to learn how to practice. The way you practice is very important. It includes a correct mindset so that you are really concentrating on the right things with the correct attitude during your practice session. So the focus should be on tempos used, the right hand, the left hand, the body posture, tension, listening and the actual thing that you are practicing.

What makes a player a virtuoso?

It means different things for different people. For me it could be measured in speed, your improvisation skills (so that you know the scales, chords, arpeggios and can apply them in any improvisation situation), your level of mastering different techniques (techniques are not an obstacles when expressing yourself), your ear skills, your writing skills, your communicating skills (when playing with other people) etc.

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

If someone expresses him/herself with extreme fast speeds and it still sounds musical, I’m ok with that. I know what it takes to be able to play over 1000 notes per minute. That’s why I highly respect those who are at that level or above.

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

Well, first you have to believe that you can, then you have to concentrate with a positive attitude on your personal goals and how to get yourself there, then practice the goals in mind correctly, and really focusing on what you’re doing.

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

There are many reasons why students are progressing at different speeds. It’s good if you have good concentration skills, passion and perseverance, but everyone can improve his/her skills and become a faster progressing student.

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

It depends on the person, but definitely older people can progress faster than young people, even if you start playing at age of 40. But I think it’s good to start early.

What is your teaching format?

I’m teaching private lessons, doubles (two students at a time) and I have just held my first clinic. I’m teaching in Finnish and in English. Currently I have a general teaching strategy and almost every student is eventually learning the same things. The actual teaching varies and is more personal with each student. Depending on the student age, I try to teach the importance of goal setting and how to reach their goals. If the student is not ready for the goal setting part, then I make goals and the teaching strategy for them. I always explain why we are doing things on my lessons and what actual skills we will reach by doing the exercises I have pointed out. The learning steps are not linear or the same for every student. I try to find the most effective ways to teach the students what they need to learn and take their personality into account. The practicing part is usually up to a student, but I try to influence that also. The students do things in my lessons and I try to challenge their abilities in a positive way and get them to keep there current goals in mind. Coaching and mentoring are very important too. One job is to get the student to believe in him/herself and that he/she can do and will do the things he/she desire.

What models of learning benefit the student the most?

It’s case by case, but the framework is:

What: chords, scales, arpeggios, rhythms, improvisation skills, different playing techniques, ear training, music theory, song writing
How: Learning is happening in a creative and inspiring way by doing with a real context using my own materials, books, songs, tablatures, music notation, sight reading, computer programs, backing tracks etc.

It doesn’t matter if the student is on a beginner or on an advanced level, I’m always trying to make the materials interesting and relevant with real life applications.

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

Training your left and right hand separately. One way is to define the weaknesses on your left hand and the weaknesses on your right hand. Then focusing on each hand at a time and practice with those things in mind. One example might be that your pick is popping up and down from the strings when picking on one string or when changing strings and that makes your playing sound sloppy, or you are not getting any faster, or you have unnecessary tension on your right hand when trying to play faster. The solution is simple, don’t let the pick pop up and down from the strings. You can do that by memorizing the left hand part and then watching what your right hand is doing when playing and practicing. One way is to use palm of your hand as an anchor on strings and using your wrist when picking.

How can prospective students contact you for lessons?

They can send me an email to or they can call me. My mobile phone number is +358 50 440 9890 and the contact info can be found on my website. The website address is

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