Canada has produced some of the most important
guitarists of the past hundred years.Â Â
Players like Lenny Breau, Ed Bickert, Liona Boyd, Lorne Lofsky and many
more all cut their teeth in the great white north.Â Roy Patterson is a guitarist and educator from
Toronto who is
right at home with this select group of high-level guitarists.
Royâ€™s latest CD â€œAtlantic Bluesâ€, which
features bassist Don Thompson and drummer Terry Clarke, was released in
December, 2008 and ranks as one of the best jazz CDâ€™s released last year.
Roy sat down with me this week to discuss
his thoughts on guitar education and the importance of being a teacher and a
MW: How did you
get your start as a guitar teacher?
RP: I began
teaching at small guitar studios like Eli Kassner's here in Toronto and privately at home. Â When I finished my Master of Music degree I
was hired as a contract faculty member at the University of Toronto
because they were expanding the jazz area at that time (1993). Â I now teach at York
University, which is also in Toronto.
MW: Did any of
your teachers have an influence on your private teaching approach?
RP: Yes, my
first guitar teacher, Howard
Spring, had a lot to do
with my approach to chord voicing, and John Abercrombie showed me that it is OK
to follow one's intuition, as long as there is discipline to go with it.
MW: As someone
who draws from many influences in their playing how do you encourage students
to explore different genres and styles of music?
RP: I try to
draw comparisons with other traditions that have strong rhythmic and improvised
components such as Arabic music, East Indian music and Brazilian music. Â If we step back from the stylistic elements
and look at the larger architecture of the music we begin to see a set of
MW: In your
opinion how has technology, especially the internet, changed the landscape of
guitar education in recent years and where do you see it headed in the future?
RP: The internet
has made resources available to students. Â For example, I recently saw a web site where
the author published all of his research on Freddie Green; chord voicings,
progressions...it was all there. Â This is
both positive and negative. Positive for the obvious reasons that a student can
get the information easily, but negative because there is a great learning
process that is lost by not seeking out the good recordings and really using
the ear to dig out the information. Â When
we learn things from recordings by saturated listening, transcribing and
copying the time feel and subtleties of the artist's performance, we gain a
much deeper insight into the music. Â It
is like studying privately with the artist and we absorb something on a very
MW: You are such
an experienced and accomplished performer as well as an educator.Â How has your teaching experience influenced
your performing and vice-versa?
RP: Teaching has had the effect of
helping me consolidate the concepts that I talk about and demonstrate during
the lessons. Â At this point I can see the
limitations from defining things so clearly, and perhaps in reaction to that, I
seem to be coming around to a much more direct relationship with the instrument
and improvising. Â I no longer feel the
need to understand or explain to myself what I am doing. Â If I hear something in context I don't care if
the notes are "correct" or not. Â I also practice things that I try to play and
mess up, without thinking so much about technique in the larger sense. Â I simply use the principles that I talk about
and demonstrate in lessons, where I use formal materials like scales,
arpeggios, bebop lines, melodies etc., and apply the body mechanics to the
musical idea that I can't play. Â There is
an incorrect assumption held by many students and musicians that if we develop
a "reservoir" of technique we will be able to play anything we want. Â If this was true classical musicians could
play anything at any time. Â This is
simply not the case. Â Aside from the
principles associated with good body mechanics that we all should develop, musicians
develop the technical skills needed to perform certain types of music. Â We can't separate the technique from the
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