Stefan Joubert: What motivated you to start learning the guitar?
John Welch: I first picked up the guitar because of Queen. I was and still am a huge fan of the band and Freddie Mercury is an idol. To be honest I wanted to sing like Freddie and thus picked up the guitar to accompany myself while trying to sing like him. Needless to say I failed dismally in this but realised how much fun it was to play guitar instead!
Soon enough homework took a distant second to practising the guitar and I would spend hours trying to figure out what my heroes at the time were doing. I remember spending most of my waking hours either practising or rehearsing with bands or just thinking about the guitar. This is something is still do a lot of… Just thinking of the instrument and music in general.
Stefan Joubert: During your early learning stages, what obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
John Welch: I never saw difficulties on the guitar as obstacles. I saw it as challenges and puzzles to be overcome. And loved every minute of this!
Stefan Joubert: What advice would you give to someone starting out?
John Welch: Just keep at it. Listen to what your teacher is telling you. Not just hear him and watch him, but listen! He/She has a lot of experience that is not always obvious in words but in the intonation of voice and the way they can say things on the instrument. Sometimes just a little 1-fret slide can open a universe of ideas.
Stefan Joubert: At the moment you are running your own guitar school in Peterborough, can you tell me more about it?
John Welch: I ran my own Guitar School back home in Pretoria, South Africa. Upon arriving on these shores almost 4 years ago I had start everything from scratch again. At last everything fell into place and I got the opportunity to start doing what I love the most – Playing and teaching music.
I teach all people from the age of 8 upwards and all levels from total beginner to advanced. I have big plans for the future and planning to expand this endeavour further soon.
I teach mostly at my residence in Peterborough as well as at the Cambridge School of Performing Arts.
Stefan Joubert: We both studied with the legend of Jazz guitar Johnny Fourie, can you please tell me about the impression he made on your life and guitar playing?
John Welch: Johnny was not just a great musician but a great and humble human being. I learned a lot from him as far as music is concerned obviously, but also a great deal about surviving in the music industry and life in general.
Johnny had infinite knowledge when it came to the guitar. An absolute guru of the instrument, all knowing – all seeing. It was an honour spending time with him and valued more than any money can buy.
Stefan Joubert: How can a student improve his or her phrasing and timing?
John Welch: Practise using a metronome. It will be the simplest and cheapest piece of kit you will likely buy, but will make you better than a £2000 guitar or rack unit ever will.
Also listen to the greats. John Coltrane, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Adam Rogers etc. Listen to what makes your hair on your arm stand up. That is the phrasing. The groove.
Stefan Joubert: How do you approach teaching an adult beginner?
John Welch: Firstly we will establish what he wants from lessons. Some people want to play a few chords, others want to know the entire Led Zepplin repertoire eventually. ‘Eventually’ is the key here. We must all learn the fundamentals first, the foundation to the house you are about to build. Plainly put, we start on chords and some simple single string melodies.
The student’s likes as far as musical taste goes determines what goals we will set, both short- and long term.
Stefan Joubert: How do you help someone who really struggles to learn?
John Welch: For me personally, the best is always to be patient as the teacher. Listen to the student. Sometimes there are reasons why they do not progress as they want or should, things that might be out of their control. I do however always set goals for the next lesson and the next month and 6 months etc. This helps keep up the motivation and makes learning more manageable.
Stefan Joubert: Success grows on the tree of perseverance, great guitar technique is acquired through a similar methodology. What can a student do to motivate him or herself through tough times? (When inspiration runs dry)
John Welch: This is a topic upon which a novel can be written… For me, listening to different music which I have not heard before seemed to always have helped. Even music that I have not heard in a while can be beneficial to get some creative juices flowing again.
Conversely, sometimes just putting the instrument down for a day or two can do wonders as well. After a day or so the brain seems to have rebooted itself and feel all fresh and willing to participate in cramming as many little black dots in a second as possible.
Stefan Joubert: What is your future plans for your own guitar playing and teaching?
John Welch: As far as playing goes, I am starting a new project this year for which I am quite excited! There may be a solo album in the works too…
I plan on taking my music business to new heights and reading up on teaching strategies, marketing and all things business related.
Stefan Joubert: Any final bits of wisdom and advice that you would give to students?
John Welch: There is no magic pill to make you great. Not even good. You have to work at it with the guidance of a teacher who has done it and continues to do so. The work never ends. The learning never ends. You don’t need more strings on your guitar or more gear in your rack. You need to have fun with the instrument and explore what 12 little notes have got to offer you. I don’t care how fast you play either; I just want to hear you say something.
A SMALL BIO ON JOHN WELCH:
John Welch is master guitarist and instructor running a highly-successful guitar school in Peterborough. John Welch studied under master guitar instructor Johnny Fourie and he has gained a tremendous amount of knowledge on the instrument. (Stefan Joubert also studied under Johnny).
John moved to the United Kingdom (from South Africa) to broaden his horizons, and have not since looked back. John is now inviting new students to learn the SECRETS of guitar at the “John Welch School of Guitar” (In Peterborough) and to help people with the desire to ‘play like their heroes’, reach those dreams and realise their desires upon the guitar.
Visit John’s guitar school today: http://johnwelchguitar.co.uk/