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The chicken or the egg?

So let’s get to it… the Rock & Pop introductions are over and now it’s time to play the music and become a musician. This post is slanted towards teachers, but the content is for all to read.

So what came first, the guitarist or musician? No, it’s not a joke… I don’t know for sure about the chicken and egg thing, but guitarist, drummer, keyboard player etc, I’m pretty sure you have to know your instrument before you become a musician. Before you become any of the above, you have to learn your instrument, and practice your craft. Whether you are taught by another player, musician or teacher or are teaching yourself, I’m telling you, for all of us players or musicians there is a learning process.

A few weeks ago in Lebanon, a group of teacher/musicians or musician/teachers (all are teachers and all play professionally) participated in Lebanon’s first Rock & Pop workshop. During the meetings, the discussion turned to teaching in the classroom, and one teacher said, ‘I teach rudiments like this’, another said, ‘I always have my singers warm-up’, and yet another: ‘Teaching chords and positions with tab works for me.’ Then others added, ‘You have to know your scales’, ‘What about dynamics’, and another: ‘You have to read music, man!’

All are necessary for the teaching and learning process and much, much more. Then the big question came. ‘So what do I teach to get a candidate prepared for Rock & Pop exams?’ asked the keyboard player/teacher sitting across from me on the round table overlooking the deep blue Mediterranean. One of the teachers asked, ‘Shouldn’t you examine the scales, rudiments, sight-reading, aural abilities?’ Once again, the answer is yes!  But how is it framed and assessed?  Does it have to be chopped up and served on different plates, regimented to play this scale now then play this chord, do this and do that?  I don’t think so!!!

I’m sure I’ve never walked up to a player or musician on stage, anywhere, and said, ‘Play me Cmaj7+5 chord and then play Gm scale.’ I’m positive that has never happened. But when I hear someone play say Santana and I don’t hear the correct chord voicing and progressions, the correct scale positions – that famous tone – I begin to assess musicianship and performance because it’s the execution of your performance that you are assessed on, in life and in your exam. Your interpretation, articulation, tone, balance within the band; in every piece you play, your musicianship is on review. You are being assessed every time you perform, not just on exam day.

So as a teacher or student, think about the all the ingredients that make up the piece, then build towards the music. Teachers, guide your student towards good habits; the sum total of their practice, or non-practice, is evident. Now that you have begun developing the player for the Rock & Pop exam, you should mentor the candidate on stage presence and communication of the music, and you are on your way to teaching a young musician to play rock and pop music, becoming just what you are – a musician. I say good news!!!


How can I get a Rock & Pop Syllabus?

The Rock & Pop Syllabus can be found online at or from the Trinity coordinator in your country Details of the exams, instruments examined and song lists for each grade are included in the syllabus. Helpful demo videos are available both on the website and our YouTube channel

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