William Song: “I always strive to encourage students to push themselves harder, so that they can spend more time working on techniques and/or scales that are more challenging for them”
William is a self taught guitarist with a Bachelor’s degree in Arts with an Honors Music major. He hopes to have his own studio album in the near future. He is a hard working teacher who always gives his best at every lesson he provides. William enjoys the interactive environment of being able to communicate with his students while playing guitar.
The following questions are focused on William’s journey and experiences in the music industry. as well as his teaching methods and on how he feels about Cleftune.
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How did you get into the music industry?
I am a guitarist who has just graduated university with a Bachelor’s degree in Arts with an Honors Music major. Before I formally studied music in university, I self-taught myself on how to play guitar. I remember the days of watching YouTube videos of established guitarists such as Ben Eller and NeoGeoFanatic back when I used to be in high school. I spent night after night refining my craft for years before I decided to start recording guitar covers on YouTube.
Initially music was a side hobby for me, and I never thought of actually pushing myself to be a better musician in the past. However, I came to realize how big of a role music has been in my life, since I started playing piano when I was a young child in elementary school. After realizing how important music was to my life not only as part of my stress relief but also part of my motivational and spiritual healing process; that was when I decided to fixate my goals towards the music career. I’ve started writing compositions and one day I hope to put them on a studio album.
Your bio states that you taught yourself electric guitar. Where did you get this inspiration from?
My inspirations to self-teach electric guitar dated back to middle school, when one of my closest friends introduced me to a game called Rock Band, which was a game that allowed players to play various rock and metal songs in an arcade-like fashion as if we were part of a band. Before this I used to play clarinet in my middle school bands, but after listening to songs like ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ by Blue Oyster Cult and ‘Ride the Lightning’ by Metallica, seeing how the guitarists of many rock and metal bands in the present receive a lot of attention, it eventually served as a motivator for me to teach myself how to play guitar.
You went to University of Waterloo . What was the most rewarding part of attending that university?
The most rewarding part of attending the University of Waterloo was the sense of community – the Conrad Grebel University College, which is the faculty that serves as the main hub for music major and minor students, helped me feel welcome as if I was part of a family. That sense of community has helped me acquire connections to other musicians in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and contributed to my academic and emotional well-being. The professors there were very kind and supportive to me, helping me through even the most challenging course material in numerous music courses such as music theory, history, and world music.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I wanted to be a teacher so that other beginner guitarists do not make the same mistakes I have made in the past when I used to teach myself how to play guitar. When you go on YouTube, there are so many videos of guitar lessons where the teachers would try to generalize the basics of the instrument based on their personal experiences.
However, what YouTube guitar lessons miss out on is the interactive factor. A lot of beginners have trouble trying to play their own instruments when they are faced with challenges that are difficult to solve by themselves. When teachers are not available to guide them out of such troubles, they start falling into bad habits that eventually build up over time. Back when started playing guitar, I often wished I could have had a guitar teacher to help me through challenging aspects of playing guitar such as scales, sweep picking and chord fingering.
What are your strengths as a personal music teacher?
My biggest strength as a teacher is that I am able to identify the student’s strengths and weaknesses and adjust my lessons based on my findings. I would always try my best to consolidate the strengths of the student while working on his/her weaknesses.
Unless the student struggles on a certain technique or repertoire significantly, I don’t ask him/her to overdo repertoire or exercises that he/she is already familiar with. I always strive to encourage students to push themselves harder, so that they can spend more time working on techniques and/or scales that are more challenging for them, rather than spend it towards repeating the same scale or exercise all over again.
How do prepare for your upcoming classes?
Generally, before I set a syllabus for my students, I spend the first class evaluating how well the student is able to play, as well as how knowledgeable he/she is in music theory. This gives me a general picture of how skilled the student is at the present time. Then depending on my findings, I would adjust my syllabus according to the student’s current skill level and interests, and go from there.
Would you like to share some thoughts about your journey as a teacher in the music industry?
Teaching other students how to play guitar is not an easy task. It not only requires an in-depth understanding of how to play guitar but also how to read and perform music as a whole. Before university, I didn’t take music theory very seriously, as I never predicted that I’d come this far in my journey as a musician. That all changed once I started taking music theory lessons in university, where I was able to understand more advanced forms of music through knowledge of various concepts such as Neapolitan chords, augmented 6th chords, and many more.
Without music theory, I don’t know how well I’d be teaching guitar lessons to this day, much less be able to start composing my own music.
Would you like to describe your teaching style?
For beginners, I have a set syllabus that I usually follow to help them understand the basics of how to play guitar. However, for intermediates and advanced players, those lessons are more interactive and thus, I’d spend more time evaluating the student’s skill level as I teach. Also, in cases where the student is struggling a lot, I try to be more hands-on with the approach, where I demonstrate on the student’s guitar as to how to master a certain technique or play a certain passage of a song. That way, I am able to convey my lessons to the students at a more direct level such that they are able to grasp it from a first-person point-of-view.
What are some extra steps would you take to make the student experience success?
Not only will I provide resources for my students to utilize outside the classes in order to make understanding my lessons a lot simpler, I will also be communicating with students outside of classes via social media or texting in order to check in with them to see how well they are doing in terms of practicing guitar. This way I am able to get real-time updates on the student’s progress such that I am able to prepare for my next lessons a lot better.
What made you choose Cleftune?
It was an open opportunity for me to join the Cleftune community because of how I wanted to be able to connect with more students in a more efficient manner. The fact that I can organize my lessons with students in a database-like fashion was the biggest selling point of Cleftune that got me interested.
Why would you recommend Cleftune to your fellow musician friends?
It is an easy-to-use platform for providing music lessons, and the support line that is available for those who have trouble trying to navigate through the site. For a startup platform that is developing every day, I would like to ask anyone who wishes to provide music lessons or looking for music teachers to give Cleftune a serious consideration.
Can you give us a quote on what music means to you?
Music is my soul, one of the integral parts of my own life. It is a treasure that is shared with others, and expressed through emotions, life experiences, and its surrounding nature.