The Coaching<>Instruction Spectrum
Monday, February 8, 2010 at 7:44PM
Trey Gunn in coaching, tapping, teaching

I recently received a very thoughtful email asking more specifics about how I define 'music coaching' as distinct from 'music instruction'. Here was my reply.


Basically, there is a kind of spectrum with Instruction on one end and Coaching on the other end. Only two people I am currently working with fall completely on the "coaching end".

I think I can explain it like this.

The instruction end of the spectrum is where one needs to work on facility and there may not be a burning drive to realize some clear vision. The coaching end is where there IS a very clear aim/vision but there is either uncertainty about how to realize it or the spiral of the process is putting blocks in the way. Sometimes my coaching role is to help organize the container for the workflow. Sometimes it is in the form of making suggestions about areas to pursue around the vision so that all the possibilities come forth. Sometimes what is needed is even as simple as filling the role of a cheering section from someone who has gone before. (I know that sounds almost silly, but it is far more valuable than one can imagine. And I don't cheer arbitrarily -- I cheer for what is successful and in line with the vision.)

This approach can work with any instrument or type of music, because it is your vision.

As far as my own instrument goes -- tapped string instruments -- I don’t operate from a curriculum. Meaning, you don't come to me and I have a program that you can pass through and a certain thing comes out the other side. While I do have a very large body of techniques to develop facility on the instrument, the most important thing from my perspective is "Where does this person want to go?" Then I can adapt to what their particular needs and visions are. The reasons for this may be obvious, but I can state three prominent ones:

1. There are so many places a musician can go. Why waste your energy on paths that don't feed your personal vision?

2. I have no agenda for what anyone else should be playing/creating. It is far better for me to adapt as a coach to the person's vision than vice versa. I have a very strong vision about where I am going with music and it's craft and art form. But these are my visions. Telling you that you should go down this road instead of your own is idiotic and counter to number 3.

3. I believe that each one of us has our own personal musical/artistic DNA. Every one of us. The process that interests me is uncovering those unique bits. So at the end of the day anything that supports that is a plus. And anything that counters that line of discovery is a minus.

I hope this is helpful.

In short, can I help you play the Warr Guitar better? Yes. But how far we can go eventually depends on what your vision is. Playing an instrument well is no different than welding a hammer. What you want to build is what should drive the process.




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