Q & A with Teacher Alan

Hi everyone, welcome to the Q & A page. The intent of this page is for you to know me better as well as my work. I will be honest with my answers. If you have a question to ask, please drop it in the comments box below. Once I see it, I will add the question to this page and give my answer. Let's begin!

Q1: Why did you choose to teach guitar?

Ans: Guitar playing and teaching are God's gift to me. I want use them well to bless other people. Teaching value adds people.

Q2: How long have you been playing guitar?

Ans: Since 2002 in my poly days. So its around 19 years as of now.

Q3: Why guitar and not other instruments?

Ans: I believe I'm destined to pick up this instrument. I simply like it and naturally and would spend time practicing without having someone tell me to do so. As for other instruments, no natural inclination to want to learn them.

Q4: How long have you been teaching guitar?

Ans: Since March 2010, so that would be about 11 years.

Q5: Have you ever thought about other jobs?

Ans: No. I'm happy with where I am now. I'm am easily contented. I prefer simplicity of life over quality.

Q6: How many students do you see per week?

Ans: 20. I don't take anything more than that because I do not want to stress myself out. I have a medical history of anxiety disorder. Stress is one of the triggers. If I hit my number, usually I will tell other potential students to wait for their turn until someone decides to stop lessons. I will not kick any student out to let others in. I'm sorry if you are on the waiting list.

Q7: What happens during a trial lesson?

Ans: It is an opportunity for us to get to know each other a little more in an informal setting. After which I will present my lesson syllabus to you, explain and demonstrate what you will be learning. When that is done, I will take questions. You can ask me anything work related, so don't need paiseh, just ask whatever you want.

Just to add on, you do not need to feel obliged to take up lessons if you do not like my presentation after the trial lesson. As I have mentioned, it is REALLY free and no strings attached. If you are happy with the outcome of the trial lesson, please let me know so that I will follow up on you. If my schedule allows, I will assign you a possible day and time for lesson. If my schedule is full, I'm sorry to tell you that there is going be a waiting time.

Q8: Do you have any music credentials and certificates?

Ans: Apart from a Grade 5 Theory Cert by ABRSM, none.

Q9: How do you see yourself as compared to other teachers who are more certified?

Ans: I try not to. Comparison drives competition and it creates a divide. We should not continue down this wrong train of thought. Instead of trying to prove who is better or more qualified, we should focus on the common goal of improving ourselves as teachers so that students will benefit from us. Teachers are not perfect. Sometimes we even have to admit that we don't know everything and we are also learning as we teach. One thing I always remind myself, I didn't play guitar to be better than someone else, but simply because I like to.

Every teacher have their strengths and limitations. It doesn't mean if I can play the guitar well, I can teach well. In my opinion, teaching is a different ball game. It focuses on delivery of the lesson and the method of instruction. It is also about understanding the students needs and identifying key areas for him/her to improve on. If I can sum it up, it would be observation and communication. If you can establish this, you build trust with your students. They will respond well to your method of teaching.

A good tree bears good fruits. If you want to know if the tree is good, look at the fruits.

Q10: What is your greatest satisfaction in teaching?

Ans: During guitar lessons, students begin to open up and share their problems they face in life. Issues like stress from work, stress of parenting or someone whom they love fell sick etc. I wouldn't say this is a form of satisfaction so to speak. Rather, I'm glad that they trust me enough to tell me issues they face in life and I am able to lend a listening ear. Some even cried as they spoke of the grievances they suffered. I believe in creating an environment where people feel safe to share their hearts and just to be themselves. In addition, I do believe healing begins from moment when the problem is being spoken forth.

Besides the above, I would be happy watching students play their "want to learn" songs with a smile on their faces. Knowing that even when they have stopped coming for lessons, they are still practicing on their own and doing well in life. Students who stayed in contact with me and maintain a good friendship together. 

Q11: What is your style in teaching?

Ans: Patient, encouraging and always believe. Help students see the rationale of doing what you tell them to. I am very patient towards slow learners and I don't believe anyone is stupid. That being said, even you are really down right slow, I will help you get past the finishing line so long as you don't give up. There is no need to feel inferior or ashamed because you might be good in something else which I would look like a fool if I'm doing it.

Q12: Have you ever got angry or lost your temper with any student?

Ans: No. I hope it stays this way.

Q13: Do you intend to expand in future?

Ans: No, I like to keep things on a small and manageable scale.

Q14: Who is/are your favourite guitarist(s)?

Ans: John Mayer, Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), David Gilmour (Pink Floyd).

Q15: What is/are your favourite guitar song(s)?

Ans: John Mayer - Neon, Dire Straits - Sultans of Swing, Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb.

Q16: How many guitars do you have?

Ans: Max 7 at one time. Now I have 5, but I'm intending to trim it down to 3 because I hardly have time to play all of them.

Q17: What kind of guitar would you recommend for a fresh beginner to start with?

Ans: Solid top guitar at least. OM or Concert shape for comfort.

Q18: What guitar strings do you like best and why?

Ans: Previously I recommended D'Addario EXP 16 Coated Phosphor Bronze (12-53). Now that I've tested the new D'Addario XS Phosphor Bronze (12-53) coated strings on multiple guitars, these are the strings I would go to hence forth. Try it and hear the immense difference.

D'Addario XS Phosphor Bronze (12-53)

Q19: Do you travel to student's home for lesson?

Ans: No. All students come to my place for lessons. I do not wish to charge you extra for transport, time and opportunity cost.

Q20: Did you design your own lesson plan?

Ans: Yes I do. They will be given to every student when they start their first lesson.

Q21: Do I have to bring my guitar for lesson?

Ans: No. I do provide it here so that it will be less troublesome for you. However if you want to bring yours, please feel free. Usually students who drive do that.

Q22: Is learning guitar difficult?

Ans: Good question, try it and you will know the answer. It differs for every individual. I think you are the best judge.

Q23: What are the common problems your students face while learning?

Ans: A few. 

1) Finger strength and flexibility
2) Psychomotor skills (Play and sing at the same time)
3) Bar chord technique and strength

Q24: How do I overcome them?

Ans: Proper instruction and the rest is practice.

Q25: Will my fingers feel pain when pressing the strings?

Ans: Yes, and I will give you a lot of work to make sure they feel pain. As time goes by, you get calluses and the pain will fade.

Q26: How long do I need to learn before I don't need a teacher?

Ans: It really depends on many factors as well as the student. If you are naturally more talented, you take lesser time. It also depends how far you wish to set your goals. Some are happy with just playing simple songs while some want to play like John Mayer. Both are right, so it is really what you want. If you have achieved your goals, I will tell you that you don't need lessons anymore. If what you want to learn is beyond my ability, I will also be honest enough to tell you that you need a better teacher.

Q27: How do I remember what I have learnt every lesson?

Ans: I will get you to record me playing and singing every song taught during lesson. This is for you to have something to "tag along" or "follow" when you practice at home. In the recording, you can hear my singing as well as guitar accompaniment. Your job is to follow closely as much as possible.

Q28: Comment box


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