With decades of experience in guitar teaching and working within the wider creative industries, Phil Harris is an impressive musical entrepreneur. Phil has also qualified with a distinction as Licentiate Teacher of Music, LRSL in 2009, before gaining a First Class BA (Hons) in Creative Music Performance in 2019.
During his time managing a music department, Phil became an assessor for the government’s ‘New Deal for Musicians’. At this time, Phil successfully obtained funding from Youth Music London, which offered music opportunities to young people in deprived communities across South Wales (where he is based).
Made-the-grade: Some of Phil’s students celebrate passing their latest Rockschool exams
Can you give us a brief explanation of your teaching business?
I have been teaching electric and acoustic guitar for over thirty years. Alongside this, I have worked within the creative industries in a variety of ways: I was an assessor/verifier for the governments ‘New Deal for Musicians’ programme. I’ve worked as a guitar teacher for Sony records. I have secured funding from Youth Music UK for under privileged areas in Wales. I have written guitar units for the CQFW and QCF; and I have qualified – with a distinction – as Licentiate Teacher of Music in 2009 and a First-Class BA (Hons) in Creative Music Performance, as recently as 2019.
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[on the Song Records role] Was this for any artists/bands we may have heard of?
I was contracted to assist a Sony recording artist. Unfortunately, that’s all I can say due to a signed agreement!
How did the funding from Youth Music help and how do you feel about the future of music teaching in your region?
The funding was a fantastic opportunity for many underprivileged learners and their families to gain access to music education for the first time. It also facilitated many freelance teachers to increase their academic levels and professionalism in the region, whereby there was less means to do so previously.
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As the years have passed, I see many more students, the young and the older generation, suffering from performance anxiety and its adverse effects. This maybe just down to the demands on society in general, but I think this area needs further research and attention. I think it will become increasingly more important that teachers should study this area in greater detail to assist their students; whether it be by studying mindfulness or relaxation techniques, or maybe just talking about anxiety more regularly.
How long have you been using Rockschool, and why has it worked for you?
Since the late 90s I do believe. It’s worked for me because of its large selection of arrangements and types of music, as well as its professional processes.
What’s your favourite performance piece to teach, and how does it improve your learners?
From the early Debut grade book, ‘Another Dime’. This tune helps develop a students’ confidence in applying basic rhythms and rests in a great rock-styled genre. Also, I’m really fond of the grade 8 tune ‘Freightshaker’, which allows me to assist the students uderstanding of fretboards visualisation and the dominant chords in the EDCAG system, with the appropriate scales and stylistic riffs.
Freightshaker! Guitarist, Ian Devlin, plays an awesome version of the classic Rockschool track
What’s your favourite test to teach, and how does it benefit your learners?
Definitely the Improv and QSP tests. These help the student become creative, by allowing them to employ the scales they have practiced in order to develop chord harmony, rhythmical understanding, and the ability to create variations in different genres.
Improve Your Improv! Phil shows off his own improv skills here
What’s your favourite learner success story?
A parent had emailed me about their 9 year old son. He had been receiving lessons from a different teacher, who had told both the parent and student that he (the student) would never have the ability to play the guitar. I was so taken aback by this teachers comments, that I made it my aim then and there to help the student reach their goal. This student has just successfully passed his first grade, which has instilled pride and confidence in the student, as well as his parents.
What musician(s) inspired you to start playing?
I was first introduced to the guitar by a neighbour at a young age and instantly found inspiration from my older brothers’ record collections. Inspired by all the great iconic riffs from musicians such as, Jimmy Page, Rory Gallagher, Stevie Ray Vaughan and of course the great melodic phrasing of Joe Satriani, I started to play myself, and never looked back!
Communication Breakdown: Guitar-hero, Jimmy Page, plays the classic track with his band, Led Zeppelin
Do you have any favourite personal experiences as a musician?
I really enjoy attending masterclasses with well-known guitarists. I have been fortunate enough to do so with Alex Hutching, Tom Quayle, Martin Goulding and Prog Rock guitarist, Plini. And last but not least, interviewing Shaun Baxter!
Do you have any goals for the future of your teaching business?
To complete my Masters in June with AMS and UWL, and hopefully progressing on to a PhD. I believe by continually developing my learning process, it will help me deliver the best quality and most up-to-date information to my students, helping them to reach their potential, whilst making sure the journey as musical and enjoyable as possible.
What reasons would you give to encourage young musicians to teach others?
The answer to this question is an easy one. To have a key influence on someone who has a dream to become a confident, expressive musician is a unique and important experience that will only change your life for the better.
A big thank you to Phil for taking the time to speak to us. If you’d like to enquire into how you can learn Rockschool Guitar in South Wales, you can click on the image below to get started now!
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