As many readers are aware, RGT exams are held throughout the year in the UK and ROI, where the RGT headquarters is located. But, what you may not know, is that RGT exams are also held each year throughout the world, including New Zealand.
RGT recently caught up with New Zealand guitar tutor Steve Paull, who runs a successful guitar studio in Taupo, and regularly enters his students into RGT Acoustic, Electric, and Rock exams.
RGT: How did you become aware of the RGT as a guitar tutor in New Zealand?
Steve Paull: I emigrated from England to New Zealand about 12 years ago. While in England I used to subscribe to Total Guitar magazine. I noticed that in every issue of the magazine there was usually an article relating to a topic found in one of the RGT books. I was also actively looking for a syllabus that covered more than just playing a couple of “rote learned” pieces.
RGT: Why do you choose to enter your students into RGT exams?
Steve Paull: I have looked in depth at the other syllabi for modern guitar available to be examined in New Zealand, which was Rock School and more recently, Trinity Rock Pop. While all are good in their own right, I found them not to cover enough of the musicality, improvisational and aural aspects of guitar playing, which I consider very important to be an all round player. I’ve been entering students into RGT exams for several years now because of this.
RGT: You have had steady success over the years with your student’s exam results. How do you approach preparing your students for the various types of RGT exams in order to ensure maximum results?
Steve Paull: Whether working towards the exam or not, my approach to the students is the same. Though some, usually younger, students are very nervous at the thought of being examined, the gains outweigh the nerves. These gains are not only in their guitar playing, but all round. The RGT exam may be the first time for some to be in this position and the experience will help them in other musical situations as well.
I also use the RGT books as supplementary learning material, maybe focussing on either a scale or arpeggio in the book and then finding a song where this could be practised. As the exam date draws closer my lessons tend to be based more and more on the RGT books. I’m now very familiar with the structure of the exams, and so I give each of my students a practice test just to see where they are at with their playing. This gives me a valuable insight into which areas of their playing need to be worked on in order to achieve the highest possible mark in the exam.
RGT: Though you are an accomplished performer and tutor, you are still pursuing various advanced exams in your own playing. What drives you to continue your development as a player, and to challenge yourself with further exams?
Steve Paull: This is a personal thing really. I have never considered myself “good enough” not to continue to push myself. I don’t think there is ever a stage where you don’t need to do any more. This year I have focussed on Classical guitar and hope to do more work on Jazz style next year. This question also reminds me of the legendary cellist Pablo Casals who was once asked why he continued to practise at the age of 90. “Because I think I’m making progress,” he replied.
RGT: As a guitar tutor, you are also a busy performer. How do you manage to balance your performing and teaching responsibilities and still make time to practice yourself?
Steve Paull: I sometimes wonder myself. I keep a practise journal and write down my objectives and the amount of time I will spend each day on various aspects of my playing, such as scales, arpeggios new songs etc. Both my sons are accomplished musicians who attend Auckland University doing music degrees. My wife is the Principal of the local music school here in Taupo, New Zealand. Performing has always been an integral part of our lives and one that we are reluctant to give up, though this does mean that we can have periods in the year where exhaustion can become a factor.
RGT: You have recently started the Steve Paull Guitar Facebook Page, which is a mix of your good sense of humor and love of guitar. How have you found your social networking presence has helped to promote your guitar lessons?
Steve Paull: Initially I was reluctant to succumb to the Facebook phenomenon but it became a case of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” I’ve since found it a really useful way to keep in contact with students and other like minded people, not just in New Zealand, but all around the world. It’s a great way to advertise performances and to keep in touch with my students.
RGT: What advice would you have for any tutor who is looking to enter students into RGT exams?
Steve Paull: Don’t be afraid to enter into the “unknown.” Look carefully at the syllabus with consideration to your students needs. Take advice from other teachers who use the RGT syllabus – we are a friendly bunch.