One of the driving principles behind Start Teaching Guitar is that we can all learn from each other. This “Guitar Teacher Interview” series is a chance for us to hear from other guitar teachers around the world and hopefully get some ideas for our own teaching businesses.
This interview is with Bruce Noble from Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. You can get more info about Bruce by visiting his website at noblemusicstudios.com.
Guitar Teacher Interview
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What’s your background?
I’m from Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada and I started playing music around age 7. When The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and others came on the scene I was still very young, but I begged for a guitar. My father had an acoustic guitar, a great old Kay, and I tried to copy Chet Atkins with it.
In high school I progressed until I was playing with much older cats than myself, and afterwards went on the road with a singer from England. I was right out of high school underage playing in night clubs…it was a blast!
Later on, while I was playing in a progressive rock band, I heard about the formation of this new school in Hollywood called GIT…so I had to get there and study with those guys no matter what! I moved down to Hollywood in 1979. GIT is unbelievable, studying with the best players and teachers day in day out, staying in the facility 16-20 hours a day playing if you want and you have to get the s**t together or you just get behind and swamped.
Afterward, I toured Canada with a revamped 70’s band called Mashmakhan, played with a Vegas group, backed up lots of country acts in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and eventually started teaching.
Tell us about your guitar teaching business. Are you doing it part-time or full-time? How many students are you currently teaching?
I taught several thousand students at the Canadian Conservatory of Music over 20 years, where I developed a curriculum for guitar, bass and drums which I called “The Delta System”. I have revamped it since the Conservatory was sold and is gone…I now call it “The Paragon System”, which is based on MI theory and moves progressively through levels until the student feels he or she has reached their desired level. This system would differ from other similar systems such as the “Royal Conservatory of Canada” in that the Paragon System is directed towards alternate styles such as Blues, Rock, Jazz, Pop and Metal.
After I left the Conservatory I set up my own recording studio, which became rather busy, but students began to call…so I took on a few teachers and grew a bit, but now I am focusing more on studio work, Internet and such.
What’s been the biggest key to success in your teaching business so far?
I think the biggest key to my success as an instructor has been learning from great instructors, without question, but also listening to the student. When a student comes to you, often we as teachers force our favorite things on them…it could be a new song, new lick whatever. But sometimes it’s better to ask what it is they are looking for in lessons or if they have had bad experiences in the past.
What’s been your most effective way of attracting new students?
In the past at the other Conservatory, we were attached to a large music store, so that helped. When I left I didn’t want to teach for a while, just write and record, but somehow the word of mouth in the area got around.
As my local business grew, I hired teachers and it got more serious, so I started putting an ad on the front page of a monthly flyer delivered in the mailbox. That worked wonders! I also took out ads on the cable TV info channel…if you have one that may or may not be an option.
Radio is good, but pricey. Try to get them to do a contra deal, where you trade off something like 50% of the deal so you don’t pay all cash, and then give away something like a guitar or amp. I use radio a lot.
What’s been your most effective way of keeping your existing students from quitting?
I remember when the first student quit on me – I thought I was a failure. But it wasn’t their time to pursue the instrument, really. I have students coming back to me now 20 years later –wow, I can’t believe that…but yeah, all grown up and monster players…and they quit, came back, quit.
Things like guitar lessons are cyclical. I remember this phrase I learned from one of my mentors Howard Roberts: “you learn what you want to learn, when you want to learn it”. I think it could be said that “you learn what you learn when you’re ready to learn it”.
What helps to keep you motivated to continue when things don’t seem to be going as well as you would like?
Put on a punk song…or some Miles Davis.
What advice would you have for someone who would like to get started teaching guitar lessons for the first time?
Know your stuff!
Can you share one tip that has worked for you to help your students get better results on the guitar?
One phrase when it is not working for your fretting hand: “it’s all in the elbow”!
Well, that’s it for today’s Guitar Teacher Interview. If you’d like to be considered for a future interview, enter your name and email address below to join the Start Teaching Guitar community. I send out occasional interview requests to this mailing list.
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