Top 5- Music Tuition

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This month Small City, Big Personality is 5 years old!  To celebrate this momentous occasion I was given free rein to compile a list of the top 5 of anything I wanted. 

I considered doing a top 5 gigs or albums, but I've done plenty of articles like that in the past.  Instead, I thought I would do a wee piece on the best places to learn a musical instrument in Perth.  I've played guitar and bass off and on since I was a teenager but it wasn't until the last 5 years or so that I really sought out any kind of tuition.  I think, like a lot of people, I was worried that it would be cost prohibitive and I was shy about playing in front of people. 

Since then I have bitten the bullet and tried all of the places on this list.  I'm glad I did.  It turned out that cost wasn't a barrier at all.  I found all of them very reasonable and most of them have various methods of learning with different prices.  Also, the nervousness I had about my playing soon disappeared when I sat down with like-minded learners and just started to have fun.  Anyway, on with the list and for those about to rock, I salute you!

Acoustic Music Workshop

Acoustic Music Workshop- horrifyingIt was the Acoustic Music Workshop that really got me back into playing music after having not picked up an instrument for a long time. At the time I attended the workshop, it was located at Friarton House on the Shore Road and was run by Nigel Patrick along Edis and Susan Bowdon. During my time there I attended group workshops on ukelele, rhythm guitar, classical guitar, blues guitar and singing!

I absolutely loved the place and I loved playing with other students. It was so much fun. As Nigel puts it, 'As part of a group you can learn as much from other students as from the tutor'. Although still good friends, Nigel is parting ways with Susan and Edis and will soon be moving AMW to a Perth city centre location. Susan and Edis will continue teaching in Aberfeldy where they live.

Nigel's new premises in town will include a shop selling instruments and accessories, plus he will continue to offer music tuition on guitar (all styles), ukulele, bass guitar, and mandolin. With his tuition, Nigel aims to give students 'a varied and enjoyable program that keeps them wanting to play between lessons and learning at a pace that helps them achieve their personal goals.'

Perth College UHI Music Department

I got so much practice in at the Acoustic Music Workshop that I thought I would try out for a place on a Music HNC.  To be honest I didn't really think that I would get in.  I didn't do music at high school, although Edis and Nigel helped me out with some music theory and I had a decent grasp of my scales.  I practised really hard and auditioned on bass.  Despite my nerves, it went pretty well and I felt really comfortable with the interview that followed.Perth College Gallery - Acoustic Guitar

I got in and I was so stoked. I caught up with one of my tutors at the college Mark MacSporran who told me:

'Over the years I have witnessed students from all backgrounds accomplishing within the introductory NC and HNC music courses. I’ve taught and watched the success of early school leavers to those that have retired; players with years of gigging experience and those who have never performed before; students at 'Grade 8' and those who have never received any formal education. 

My teacher always said, '95% of the work is done away from the lesson' If you would like to develop your musicianship and can work well with others, then the chances are that the course is suitable for you.'

I really enjoyed my time at Perth College and the course was very broad and well structured offering the tools to take your playing to the next level, master music theory, songwriting and the opportunity to understand the music industry in a broader sense.

'It offers musicians a platform to thrive', Mark tells me, 'A great deal of resources are offered but it is down to the student to grasp these opportunities. My teacher always said, '95% of the work is done away from the lesson' and over years I've realised the truth in that statement, as a student myself, and in those that I teach'.

The Echolab

The co-founder of The Echolab, Charlotte Bibby, is a former student of Mark MacSporran who taught her drums at Perth College.  Her business partner Echolab- New premisesKerr also studied Audio Engineering at Perth College and the duo has certainly grasped the opportunities made available to them while studying at UHI.   Initially, they offered workshops and tuition on drums and guitar (you can read my review of the drum workshop here) but they have big plans for the future. 

They are now going to be adding rehearsal facilities, as well as recording, mixing and mastering to the list of the services they offer.  Why not head down to their open evening on Monday the 15th of July for music chat, networking and a tour of The Echo Lab's new studios?  They are also offering a 10% discount if you book one of their services in person at the event.

I spoke to Charlotte and Kerr about the benefits of lessons over teaching yourself:

'We find that there must be a balance of both. Lessons are very valuable in the sense that you get critique and feedback to enable you to progress. If you are only teaching yourself, sometimes it's very hard to give yourself compliments as you think you can't quite get a certain riff or drum rhythm You may think you are the best musician in the world but if you can't play in time then no-one will want you in their may be stuck for ages and then it finally sticks, and you move on.'

'You may think you are the best musician in the world but if you can't play in time with music, then no-one will want you in their band. So having the balance of feedback and listening to other tutors and sharing ideas with people is very important to being an accomplished musician.' 

The Echo Lab are currently holding weekly workshops throughout the summer, for beginners they offer Music Taster Sessions and for more experienced players they are hosting a Summer Sessions 3-day workshop which is all based around collaboration and playing music together. 

Rock Choir

This one is a little bit of a wild card.  At Rock Choir you don't actually pick up and learn an instrument but instead, you put your voice through its paces.  Rock Choir is the pioneering contemporary choir of the UK and remains unique in having over 20,000 members.  As a new member, you may choose to rehearse with your choir buddies or take to the I went along to a couple of Rock Choir sessions... I totally didn't go because I was closet 'Glee' fan and anyone who says I did is a filthy liar!stage and join them at a variety of Rock Choir events and shows- it's up to you.  

I went along to a couple of the Rock Choir sessions at St. Mathews church about 4 years ago.  I totally didn't go because I'm a closet Glee fan, and anyone who says that I did is a filthy liar.  Ok, I do have all the box sets, but I'm just holding on to them for a friend while they were living abroad. 

Anyway, it was great fun, you don't have to sing on your own and you there is no musical notation to read.  The sessions start back up again in September and if you fancy trying a bit of group singing in a safe and supportive environment it's well worth a shout.


Bandwagon and Pete Caban are intrinsically linked as Perth institutions.  Like a lot of Bandwagon Shoppeople in Perth, I bought my first guitar from Bandwagon (an acoustic Epiphone PR200 - I've still got it) and I used to buy tab books from there as a teenager.  As well as selling music gear and offering great value repairs, Bandwagon also offers tuition for guitar and bass too. 

I asked Pete what, in his view, are the advantages to guitar lessons.  'It's just more focused and personalised to individual needs', he told me.  'Also, having someone to answer to is important and can provide much-needed motivation to your practice sessions'.

When Pete learned guitar himself they didn't have the wealth of teachers they have now so he was, in the main, self-taught.  'I picked up stuff from older peers and other guitarists, but I have had spells of formal lessons on specific styles.' 

If anyone knows of any other great places to learn an instrument in Perthshire, please do comment below.

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