When you’re developing as a player, and whether you’ve turned professional or not, it’s really never too early to start passing on, and teaching to others what you’ve learned so far. The truth is, and I can vouch for this, you actually learn at an accelerated pace when you teach! I started showing others what I knew way back when I was still living at my parent’s apartment in the Bronx, and was already developing a reputation as a player and as a teacher. I had students who’d take the subway up from Manhattan to see me, as well as many others I would travel to. At this point I was still around 19 years old, but was already in a couple of instruction books and was signed on to do my first book, Slide Guitar, for Oak Publications. This all gave me a great sense of self-confidence, and others really did want to learn from me.
Of course, for me, this was a time before the internet, and before there was a great guitarist on every block! The less competition was certainly also what made people willing to travel far for the info and wisdom, but even today, they still come from far and wide to see me. But now with the advent of grater and faster communication, I can bring my knowledge to you via such methods as my Gibson.com online lessons, these Blogs, and the Hot Licks videos and DVDs I created over the years.
And all of this started with the very humble beginnings of teaching myself, moving to Woodstock, gigging for several hard years and all the while, teaching wherever and whenever I could. I used to be inspired by some friends and relatives who at that time I’d visit and “pick things up” from. I did take a few formal classical guitar lessons, which greatly helped me get my act together at the early age of ten, but it was really the self-teaching and teaching others that truly made the difference for me!
I am a big believer in the fact that teaching does in fact, make you learn more. After all, where does all this knowledge come from in the first place? When I was asked to do my slide guitar book at the age of 19, and as I look back on that today, I really have to ask myself, “where did my knowledge come from?” I mean, I literally had to dissect and figure out what it was that seemed to make my technique and style “click” right from the start….why and how did I dampen those strings? Why was it best to fingerpick instead of flatpick? What are the best scales and shapes to work with, and on and on? Sure, I did some research on other well-known slide greats, because I wanted to cover a wide range in the book, and that also helped me gain a greater wealth of slide guitar knowledge that has always stayed with me.
So, in the long run, all of this early teaching has certainly paid off, and I have always held the art of teaching in just as high esteem as I do the art of playing. I hope you will too. It’s one very noble thing to do, and you, and the others you help, will forever be grateful!