Our ongoing series of guitar teacher interviews continues today with Matt Williamson, a New York City guitar instruction, giving guitar lessons to guitar students in Manhattan. Matt answers our questions about his guitar teaching approach, as well as playing a little guitar for us. To see and hear Matt’s video profile, visit his guitar teacher page and learn how it would be to take guitar lessons in New York with him.
FindaGuitarTeacher: We’re here with Matt Williamson. Matt, great to have you here this morning thanks for taking the time to talk with us about your guitar teaching.
Matt Williamson: Thanks for having me.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Of course. Can you tell us first where you teach – what city and state are you in?
Matt Williamson: I’m in New York City – a proud New Yorker.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Whereabouts in New York City do you teach guitar – such a large city. Do you teach all over the city or do guitar students come to you?
Matt Williamson: I do both. I have students who come to my apartment, which is just north of the (Central) Park, and I also do some travel and teach some guitar students in their apartments.
FindaGuitarTeacher: And do you teach primarily in Manhattan or do you go to other boroughs as well?
Matt Williamson: Just Manhattan.
FindaGuitarTeacher: And how would you describe the guitar lesson climate there in Manhattan. Do you find there are a lot of people who want to learn guitar, and what kind of styles do students most often want to learn?
Matt Williamson: There are definitely a lot of people who want to learn guitar. It seems to be maybe a 30 / 70 mix with kids making up the 30 per cent and professional adults making up the rest. There are a lot of adults that want to do it as a hobby in their spare time. You know they’re working, and they just want a little something more to do, and they get into that way.
FindaGuitarTeacher: And in terms of the guitar styles you teach, do you find that children you teach and the adults you teach want to learn different styles?
Matt Williamson: (Laughs) Ooh yeah. Generally I think kids don’t have a … you know … super-defined sense of what it is they want to learn, just because they haven’t had as much time to develop their musical sensibility. Adults typically want to learn, you know, things they connected with in their earlier life, whether that’s folk music from the sixties or some of the younger adults want to learn nineties rock – some of the new stuff. But when I get kids, it’s a little more nebulous.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Right … And when you teach guitar – in simple terms – how would you describe your guitar teaching focus? How do you approach each individual student?
Matt Williamson: Well, you know, everyone’s different, but my overall approach is … you know … I’m very affirming and encouraging and gentle, but, at the same time, I’m going to push you just a little bit further than you would push yourself, since out of the comfort zone is typically where the growth happens.
FindaGuitarTeacher: And how long are your guitar lessons?
Matt Williamson: With kids, I usually do a shorter lesson, just depending on the attention span, so typically with kids it’s a half-hour lesson, and, with adults, I usually do forty-five minutes, just cause that’s a sweet spot in terms of new stuff vs review vs sort of getting full up here (Matt points to his temple). Some adults want an hour guitar lesson, but most of the time, we do forty-five minutes.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Got it. And can you also tell us a little bit about your fees and your scheduling format? How often do you work with students and what are your rates?
Matt Williamson: The fees vary depending on the type of lesson, the length of lesson, location of lesson – there are a lot of variables, so the fees vary a little a bit, but it’s between fifty and seventy-five an hour, just depending on what we’re doing … or per lesson – I’m sorry … depending on what we’re doing … I’m sorry, what was the first part of that question?
FindaGuitarTeacher: The first part of the question was: How often do you work with your students?
Matt Williamson: Most students do once a week, but the occasional guitar student will want to do twice a week, or even some kind of intensive three times a week or four times a week, if they’re coming in from out of town or something. But most of the students want to do once a week.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Right. And, when you’re teaching guitar, what kind of guitars do you use? Can you tell us a little bit about your equipment?
Matt Williamson: Sure, sure. I use, primarily, this guy here (Matt holds up his Guild acoustic guitar to the camera), which is a Guild guitar … just a Guild acoustic guitar … You know, it travels well, it’s taken quite a beating on the subway.
Findaguitarteacher: As guitars do …
Matt Williamson: That’s true. Usually, I just teach on this. Every now and again, I bring out an electric guitar for this or that, but mostly this guy … this guy here.
FindaGuitarTeacher: And when you teach with the electric (guitar), what kind of electric do you use?
Matt Williamson: I have that Strat – I don’t know if you can see it back there (Matt points to a Fender Stratocaster hanging on the wall.) I’ve got a Telecaster that I’ll pull out some times. I have a little hollow body … it’s a Gretsch.
FindaGuitarTeacher: Yes. And do you teach your guitar students how to use recording equipment … how to record themselves playing and singing?
Matt Williamson: Yeah, if asked. There’s so much with tech these days, they can do it on their iPhone practically, so the learning curve has gone tremendously down. But a lot of students want to just learn how to do some basic stuff, so they can throw down a little idea or to hear themselves, so it’s not a lot of in-depth recording, but a lot of pocket-recording type stuff.
FindaGuitarTeacher: And do you offer guidance to students about what kind of guitar to buy?
Matt Williamson: Totally. I spent maybe four years at a guitar store a long time ago, so I have very strong opinions about this and I’m always happy to help guide people in the right direction.
FindaGuitarTeacher: This interview has been very helpful to help us learn more about your guitar teaching. You do have your Guild guitar in your lap there. Would you like to play something for us before we stop? It could be something that you show students, but I’d say maybe something that you enjoy playing … that you would play when you sit down at home and play the guitar – just to give prospective guitar students an idea of what kind of guitar you play.
Matt Williamson: Sure. I’ll play you a little blues something or other …
(Editor’s note: It’s here that Matt plays an uptempo, self-contained blues guitar piece that demonstrates both what he likes to play and what a prospective guitar student could hope to learn by taking guitar lessons with him.)
FindaGuitarTeacher: That sounds awesome, Matt. Thanks for being here with us on the interview today. It’s great to learn more about your guitar teaching and to hear you play.
Matt Williamson: Thanks for having me.
FindaGuitarTeacher: You’re very welcome. Take care and good luck in your guitar teaching.
Matt Williamson: Alright. Thanks a lot.