Senior RGT Examiner Merv Young provides some useful insights for those considering taking one of the RGT guitar teaching diplomas.
There are three levels of RGT teaching diploma available, progressing from DipLCM(TD) to ALCM(TD) and LLCM(TD).
This article will focus on the electric guitar teaching diplomas, however, the general principles will be applicable to the bass and acoustic guitar teaching diplomas as well.
Each diploma exam includes a demonstration lesson (either live or filmed) and a presentation/ demonstration about your teaching, followed by a discussion with the examiner. In addition, there is a ‘Fingerboard Knowledge’ component for DipLCM(TD). This is replaced by an essay and a sight reading component for ALCM(TD), with the essay being upgraded to a lengthier dissertation for LLCM(TD).
For more information on books, background and how to register for an exam, please visit the RGT Guitar Teaching Diplomas Page.
This section only occurs in the DipLCM(TD) and candidates are required to perform a selection of scales, arpeggios and chords from memory.
The full list of requirements is detailed in the Information Booklet that accompanies the syllabus and you’ll be expected to present each response promptly, accurately and confidently.
Fluency and accuracy are more important than speed for its own sake, so remember to take it steady if exam day nerves tend to make your fingers want to rush.
The lesson is your chance to show the examiner(s) how you approach teaching.
You have two choices here: either submit an audiovisual recording of yourself teaching a lesson to one of your students, or teach a lesson to a student during the examination.
The length of the lesson required varies from 20 minutes for DipLCM(TD) to 30 minutes for LLCM(TD). If you submit a recording make sure you keep a copy and watch it before the exam to remind yourself of the contents, as this will be discussed during the exam.
The examiner is looking for evidence of effective teaching practice. This means clear demonstrations and explanations, praise and constructive criticism, problem-solving when issues arise, inspirational ideas to encourage creativity, and so on.
Although you are required to use the RGT exam grade books here don’t turn this into a dry reproduction of the content of one or more of the sections from the grade your pupil is working on.
Make it come alive as music in the way you would do when normally teaching. If your lesson is based around Grade 3 and you’re demonstrating a typical chord chart then make sure you have practical song ideas that use these barre chord shapes.
What different rhythm patterns would you employ for different musical styles? How would you make the chord chart sound like a rock song, or a slow blues or a pop ballad?
If you’re demonstrating a scale make sure you’re explaining how this could be used other than as a scale shape.
The examiner will be looking for evidence of practical application and song ideas all the way through your lesson.
Presentation and Demonstration
This component is your opportunity to provide an overview of how you approach teaching and, in particular, to explain the aspects of your teaching that weren’t covered during the lesson component.
For instance, if your lesson was mainly focussed on rhythm playing then you’ll need to spend a good proportion of your time during your presentation talking about how you tackle teaching lead playing and improvisation.
As a starting point for planning this section have a think about the following areas:
- Brief background on your teaching set-up, ages and abilities of students, styles of music, how you monitor progress and practising.
- Fingerboard Knowledge. How do you teach this area and encourage your students to practise? How do you help them develop speed and fluency? What problems might they encounter when learning scales, arpeggios and chords – how do you resolve these problems?
- Rhythm Playing. What are the specific issues here for the grade you are focussing on? What different rhythmic and/or musical styles would you use to develop rhythm playing skills? How do you facilitate the changes between chords? How do you develop your students’ ability to play in time?
- Lead Playing. How do you help students develop playing techniques such as bends and slurs? What song and solo ideas do you use to develop your pupils’ playing to ensure it’s not all about just learning a scale shape? How do you introduce the theory elements behind scale construction and selection?
- Aural Awareness. Do you teach this as a separate section or do you include it with all of the above sections as you are going along? How would you develop these skills for a student who initially struggles with it?
Think about how your approach would vary for pupils of different ages and abilities.
Be aware of what technical/musical problems pupils might encounter and, more importantly, how you would help them resolve these.
Where you can, try to demonstrate ideas – as you would during a lesson – and give plenty of examples of songs and other material you use to teach, develop and consolidate your pupils’ learning.
This is the chance for the examiner to raise any issues about any of the components of the exam – so don’t forget to look at your lesson recording if you submitted one.
For the ALCM(TD) you are required to submit a 4,000 word essay on a topic chosen from a list in the syllabus.
The topics cover a range of teaching areas and it’s best to choose one that is most relevant to your own experiences.
For the LLCM(TD) you are required to submit a three part dissertation comprising Case Studies, Players and Styles and an Essay.
The Case Studies section details the progress and assessment of three of your pupils over a period of between six months and a year.
The Players and Styles section is a comparative study of three high profile electric guitarists and the Essay is on a topic chosen from a list in the syllabus.
Don’t be put off by the challenges posed by this section; just take your time with it. Working on these written components will help you develop a range of skills, including analysing your teaching, monitoring pupil development, assessment and generally widening your teaching knowledge.
A short piece of sight reading in standard notation is presented for both electric and bass guitar ALCM(TD) and LLCM(TD).
Chord chart reading replaces this section for the acoustic guitar diplomas.
Either way it would pay dividends to start brushing up these reading skills long in advance of exam day.
Why Take the Guitar Teaching Diplomas?
Most importantly, studying for one of these diplomas will improve your teaching skills. Whichever level of diploma you take, you will embark upon a process of self-analysis that will cause you to examine and question almost everything you currently do in your day-to-day teaching.
The result of this process has to be that you become a better teacher. In addition, obtaining an accredited professional guitar teaching qualification and becoming legally entitled to append the official qualification letters after your name will boost your self-confidence as a teacher and undoubtedly help you attract students throughout your entire teaching career, and help you gain teaching posts in educational establishments.
I thought it’d be informative to hear some comments from someone who has taken one of the teaching diplomas recently; Colin Berrido successfully passed his DipLCM(TD) and had this to say:
“My experience of the studying for and taking the Teaching Diploma was very positive. Having to stop and think about what you do and how you do it, plus what you should be doing, was very productive.
One particular practical benefit I have taken away from studying for the diploma is to think more about the student as an individual and to work with them to solve their own individual problems.
Also, I now don’t just ‘teach from the book’ but look for, or let the students choose, pieces of music that they want to play and then make them relevant to the grade they are studying – so there is a practical link to the scales, chords etc they are learning.
I found that following a formal syllabus, which clearly mapped out what was required, gave focus and structure to the whole process.
Additionally it gives you empathy of what our students go through when they have to study and then sit an external exam.
Like a lot of tutors I came to guitar teaching as a alternative career path so I was pretty much self-taught, so being awarded the Teaching Diploma was a great uplift and confidence booster – it was good to get feedback from independent academics that you have met the professional standards required for teaching.”
Good luck with whichever level of RGT teaching diploma you are working towards. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me via Merv@RGT.org.
There are pre-requisites in place to help you decide which level of teaching diploma is right for you, and these are based upon experience or prior qualifications.
You need to take (or have already passed) Grade 5 LCM Popular Music Theory or Grade 8 RGT electric guitar playing when entering this diploma. Other equivalent qualifications (e.g. GCSE music) are also acceptable – see the syllabus for details.
If you have at least three years guitar teaching experience (averaging at least 10 hours per week) you may enter directly without holding any previous qualifications. Alternatively, candidates should have obtained a DipLCM(TD) or an appropriate alternative qualification.
If you have at least five years guitar teaching experience you may enter directly. Alternatively, candidates should have an ALCM(TD) or appropriate alternative qualification.
Do you have any questions or comments about the RGT Guitar Teaching Diplomas? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.