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Performers vs Teachers

Hi All

@DariusScheider brought up an excellent suggestion for a topic. The difference between performing and teaching.

I have long believed these to be quite different skill sets. Some teachers are good performers some performers are good teachers. I have never MET anyone who is a master at both although within our genre I have to say Martin Taylor comes close though I find his performing is at a higher level than his teaching.

I look forward to your comments.
The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed


  • geese_comgeese_com New Barault #105
    Posts: 121
    I think Frank Vignola might fit in this category as well.
  • ScoredogScoredog Santa Barbara, Ca✭✭✭✭
    edited September 2018 Posts: 564
    I have found as I have progressed through the years I either cannot remember how to teach beginners or do not want to (nothing against beginners), patience not being one of my better qualities. I would think most players who have not been teaching and have advanced pretty far would not be good teachers for beginners and some intermediates as they would be far removed from the process. Players who have been consistently teaching along the whole way of their improvement will likely make a better teacher for before mentioned classifications.
  • JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
    Posts: 380
    Maybe slightly off topic, but interesting to think about - teaching as proxy for performance in the age of YouTube/forums. I've heard this from so many sources, but will paraphrase it again "These days, no wants to listen to music, they just want to learn how to play it...". Not trying to start any wars here (I really don't like war :) ) but it an interesting state of affairs, especially in online expressions of this music I think.
  • PapsPierPapsPier ✭✭
    Posts: 366
    I dont think there is much to say or to debate. Yes, teaching and playing require two different skill sets. Yes, most good teachers are not great players and vice versa (because when you focus on learning how to teach you dont focus on learning how to play). Yes, there are exceptions.

    I have met a really great teacher and performer and it was not a guitarist. It was a young clarinet player. She was an amazing teacher, she knew how to found the perfect image to make you feel the right position to adopt to play instead of telling you Contract this, put your tongue like that... And she was a really great performer, member of the National Young Orchestra when I was her student. Now she is in one of the top national opera orchestras I think.
    But I dont think it gives any additional information.
  • vanmalmsteenvanmalmsteen Cameron Park ,CANew DiMaruro, Paris swing, Altamira m30d , Altimira Mod M
    Posts: 123
    I teach close to 75 students a week ,individually, been doing it for many years . What Jazzaferri says about “Two totally different skill sets “ is right on ! Truer words were never spoken :)
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,657
    I enjoyed and got a lot out of lessons with Gonzalo. I think he is an excellent teacher and obviously a great player.
  • vanmalmsteenvanmalmsteen Cameron Park ,CANew DiMaruro, Paris swing, Altamira m30d , Altimira Mod M
    Posts: 123
    For the record I’d like to say I love Christiaan Van Hemert’s YouTube channel. Wonderful Teacher of Gypsy Swing!
  • ShemiShemi Cardiff✭✭✭
    edited September 2018 Posts: 170
    I suppose it would be helpful to qualify what is meant by a good performer. Do we mean someone who is at the technical pinnacle of the instrument as well as possessing all the other qualities needed for expression and performance, or simply people who can communicate really well with the audience. I think it would be fair to say that a player like Robin Nolan is a great performer but he hasn't got the technical chops of someone like Joscho.

    I don't see why a teacher can't be good at both. It really comes down to how well someone can communicate and find a way to relate the information to the group or individual. I've had lessons with some of the top classical musicians in the world and some were good teachers and others not, all were world class players. Similarly, when I was studying I watched lots of masterclasses from top players on many instruments and some just had that ability to explain and inspire. My take away from all that is someone being a great player means little in regards to their teaching abilities.

    I did a PGCE in music education after my degree and then went on to teach music to 11 to 18 year olds in school, doing all the things a typical classroom music teacher does. I didn't learn anything about music itself as I already had that information, but I learned a lot about various teaching ideas and of course had to really think, learn and practice on how to deliver the information and skills that needed to be taught. You quickly learn that you have to adapt, as what worked with one may not be as effective with another, so you find a new way in. Being willing to adapt is sadly a skill some will not employ, which is the problem with dogmatic pedagogies and teachers who won't teach outside of instrumental grade exam requirements.

    I left the classroom to teach guitar (rock and fingerstyle) and cello privately because playing instruments is my passion, buy the skills I learnt in the classroom have served me well in my instrumental teaching. I certainly don't miss the sound of 30, 11 year old kids playing glockenspiel!lol

    I would also say there is a limit to what the teacher can teach in regards to their own technical ability. It is very unlikely that you can effectively teach something you don't have the technical ability to learn yourself. You don't necessarily have to be able to play it at that point of time, but you must be able to understand how you would go about learning it, which is ultimately what the student needs.

    I have also experienced, and heard from many others, how teaching improves your own playing. I teach beginners as well as advanced students and I do believe teaching beginners is much harder than many think and takes more forethought than sadly many give. You are responsible for building the foundation on which will rest the rest of their musical journey. A poor foundation could mean they never reach their potential or even worse quit all together but it takes a lot of patience on the part of the teacher.
  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 209
    Playing and teaching are indeed distinct skill sets, but there is plenty of overlap--doing one well is helped by being able to do the other--though the two might not be evenly present or developed in any given performer-teacher. Nevertheless, in 30-some years of taking guitar workshops, I have to say that my teachers have been very good at both. Of course, there is some filtering going on there: I chose either the teachers or the programs in which they operated, and in both cases that meant vetting the instructors.

    For example, the Augusta Heritage Center's programs, which I've been attending for 22 years now, always have strong staffs, and my swing-guitar and vocal teachers have been very fine musicians and as well as articulate explainers/demonstrators of their crafts.

    I've been both a writer and a teacher of writing, and those two practices inform each other--I was a better teacher because I was a writer, and I became a better writer (or at least a more conscious one) because I had to analyze and understand my own writing process (and the processes of other writers) in order to teach.

  • Kenny Werner brings up an interesting point about jazz schools. Lots of people graduating with excellent technical skills but no artistry.

    I have noticed over the years that players who intensely study technique often end up with mind blowing technical bravura that lacks soul.

    Lots of teachers are excellent at teaching the technique side of things. The artistry however is a very different matter. I am not sure what the process of learning artistry is. Is it a combination of aptitude and experiential learning or ?????
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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