My Interview With FindGuitarTeachers.com

reposted from findguitarteachers.com

FGT: Hi Corey, can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

CC: I’m a full time singer/songwriter and recording artist living in Buffalo, NY. I would describe my music as the aural equivalent of Elvis Costello and Stevie Wonder making breakfast in the next room as Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” plays on your alarm clock radio.

Or, more succinctly, Soulful Alt-Pop.

FGT: Sounds tasty. How long have you been playing guitar?

CC: I started playing around the age of eleven. My mother had a big twelve string Guild that I started playing around with. It was too big for me to hold correctly, so I would lay it flat on my lap and play it that way.

My whole family is very musical, and my mother and father both sing and play guitar. Actually, now both of my brothers are singers and guitarists, and one of them, Sean Patrick, is also a songwriter.

Eventually my dad gave me the Eric Clapton – Unplugged tape (the rectangular plastic things you might see in a landfill or at the Salvation Army). I ended up teaching myself most of that record by the time I was thirteen, and it just evolved from there.

At more financially precarious times I sometimes wonder what would have happened if, instead of that tape, he had brought in a drafting table or a banking ledger. But in retrospect I was drawn to music and the guitar with very little outside influence.

FGT: So who would you say have been your biggest musical influences?

CC: Early on it was definitely Eric Clapton, moving on to BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. I started with the Blues and actually began playing semi-professionally when I was fourteen or fifteen.

At some point I accidentally received a Pat Metheny record in the mail, and that changed my entire universe. I started really diving into Jazz until I was about 20.

Recently my influences have spread out into some interesting territories. I’ve played Salsa music, Country, Progressive Rock, Bluegrass, Funk, and many other styles.

On any given day I could be listening to anything from Mos Def to Rufus Wainwright to Philip Glass.

FGT: Your tastes seems as extensive as your musical history! At what point did feel qualified to start taking on students?

CC: I’m not sure I ever thought about it in terms of qualifications. It happened organically. A neighborhood kid asked if I could show her a few things, which I could. She told someone who was looking for guitar lessons to get with me and it just sort of grew from there.

I think I was about 15 when I started teaching. Now, I was known to practice more than ten hours a day, so I was quite advanced for my age, but I’m sure there were plenty of holes in my understanding at the time.

It’s all about teaching what you know to be true, and admitting that you don’t know everything. So really, you’re qualified to teach as soon as you pick up a guitar and strum a C chord.

Doing it professionally is a different story. At that point you really need to know your stuff because you are being paid to basically be able to answer any question that might come up.

FGT: Do you have a specific philosophy or maxim towards your approach at guitar?

CC: I’m not sure I have anything defined to the extent where you could put it beneath a picture of some guy skydiving and hang it on your wall for inspiration, but I do have a couple of general thoughts.

I’m a proponent of very disciplined and intense focus on the guitar and anything else I may be learning, but I also know that if there isn’t any fun or implied reward it will be hard to follow through.

One very rigid requirement I have is that the guitar be looked at as a means to develop musicianship. So I focus on music theory. I am most interested in being a musician who plays music with a guitar. Not a guitarist who plays guitar music with a guitar.

I’m not sure if that makes sense to everyone, but it does to me.

Most guitarists are very guitar-centric and can’t communicate on a meaningful musical level with musicians who don’t play guitar. Yet every other type of instrument generally requires the ability to speak the same language as a trumpeter, violinist, pianist or harpist.

So I don’t allow myself or my students to claim exemption from that requirement. Unless someone comes to me and says “All I’m interested in is learning how to strum Hank Williams songs”. And even then, I would tend to introduce some level of theory into the mix.

FGT: What's the best part about being a guitar teacher?

CC: There are a lot of rewarding things about being a guitar teacher.

I suppose my favorite part is finding that “diamond in the rough” student who really invests themselves into what they’re doing and shows the fruits of those labors by impressing me every week.

FGT: What advice would you give to others who are looking to take on students?

CC: Treat each student as if they were your only student. They’ll appreciate it more, you’ll feel better about your life, and you’ll really stoke the “word of mouth” fires that will build your business.

I would also recommend that every new teacher do a serious inventory of what they know, and what they don’t. It’s a grave disservice to teach students incorrectly, so make sure to only teach what you know, and learn what you don’t know.

FGT: On the flip side, what advice can you give to the new student that will allow them to get the most out of their lessons?

Music lessons are not like Summer soccer leagues or swimming lessons in the county pool. Becoming a musician is a lifestyle choice. It’s like learning to garden or cook or speak Mandarin.

The most important thing is to throw yourself into it fully, practice until your fingers bleed, and take it seriously.

Again, it’s different if you’re only looking to strum Hank Williams songs (which is totally valid), but if you’re looking to become a musician (not just a guitarist), you’ll have to treat it the same way you would if you were becoming a physicist or else it isn’t going to happen.

FGT: Are you working on any special projects right now?

CC: I’m actually writing and recording a new EP of songs I wrote for people who responded to an invitation to request a song on Twitter. The details are on my blog.

FGT: Cool idea! Back to some technical details for a second - what is your practice regimen like?

CC: It varies based on what I happen to be working on at any given time. Ideally it’s about 10 minutes of warm-up exercises, followed by an intensely focused period of time devoted to the subject at hand. That period of time can be anywhere from thirty minutes to four hours, depending on my schedule and the amount of information to be absorbed.

After that I usually try and feed the information to my subconscious by nonchalantly playing something related while watching a movie or reading the news. I find that helps to codify it into a more “automatic response” situation when it needs to be recalled.

FGT: Interesting approach. How has your playing evolved over the years?

CC: At first it was a steady climb from very basic things like learning the modes and the blues scale to the point where I was starting to understand the Bebop vernacular and playing over changes. After that point, and up to now, it has tended to progress in momentary leaps and bounds. (i.e. learning a new Lydian Pentatonic pattern or an intense Chet Atkins lick).

FGT: Any parting words for your new fans?

CC: Ever wonder why time goes by faster as we get older? It’s because we stop learning, and everyday starts to look the same.

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Making It - By Corey Coleman