RGT Guitar Tutor Geoff Lea Interview

In this edition of the RGT Guitar Tutor Interview Series, we are catching up with veteran performer and guitar tutor Geoff Lea.

Geoff has been playing guitar for over 30 years, and during this long career has had the opportunity to perform with in many styles of music, in venues across Europe and beyond.

After graduating from the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, Geoff has since made a name for himself as a top-level educator as well as world-class performer.

We recently caught up with guitar tutor Geoff Lea to talk about his history with RGT exams, how he works with students to fully prepare them for these exams, as well as his thoughts on RGT rock guitar exam syllabi.

Learn more about Geoff by visiting the Geoff Lea Homepage, Geoff Lea Facebook page or the Geoff Lea YouTube channel.


Guitar tutor Geoff LeaRGT: How did you become aware of the RGT, and why do you chose to encourage your students to take RGT guitar exams?

Geoff Lea: I joined RGT many years ago when it first started, as I’ve been teaching for going on 23 years now.

I seem to remember RGT being formed and it was announced in a guitar magazine. So I joined up pretty much right at the beginning.

I encourage my students to take RGT exams for a number of reasons. Firstly, students are always asking me to assess how good they are in relation to friends or other students.

This seems to be a trait of most young, male guitar students, that they are competitive and want to know how they relate to their peers.

Another reason is that exam preparation helps focus their minds. If they have a goal to work towards, they tend to practice more and take the process seriously.

I am aware, having had dealings with a number of music services, that they do their own exam systems, but in my opinion none get close to RGT exams for being contemporary, as well as the validity afforded them through the London College of Music.

I think the guitar exams are great, and with the rock exams, they have broached the main issues with other guitar exams, where the pieces are completely unknown.

By taking well known, classic tunes, the students pick up the tunes so much quicker. It’s also better for their relatives, as they are hearing these tunes repeatedly, so they at least recognise what they are being subjected to.

RGT: What do you find is the biggest challenge when preparing a student for an
upcoming RGT exam?

Geoff Lea: The biggest challenge? Well, there aren’t big ones, more just a succession of small hurdles that are taken one at a time.

Learning a tune all the way through is the challenge for those coming to RGT exams for the first time.

Most students, for as long as I can remember, learn riffs and licks and never bother to join them all together until they get together with friends to jam.

Then they realise they don’t know how to, and get a kick in the confidence department. This is addressed with the exams, and becomes the challenge for most of my students, moving from a verse section to a chorus section and so on.

Each are little steps, and I find that by isolating these issues and just spending a few minutes getting students to work on joining sections and nothing else, they soon get the hang of it.

There are other challenges in terms of fingerings, timings, repeated sections, and dynamics, but I find we just address these items as we go along.

For all players there are plateaus. To begin with, just learning the notes for the tune is a mountain to climb, so we break it down into one step at a time. Learning the song in sections.

Then they need to learn to play the song. Really play it, not just repeat it.

This is achieved by getting them to turn notes into motor memory, which is done with lots of repetition as my neighbours will testify.

RGT: Most students, if not all, deal with nervousness on some level either before or during their exams. How do you address this issue with your students in their lessons?

Geoff Lea: I am a qualified NLP practitioner and a qualified stress consultant, mostly because I found that I was doing lots of NLP in lessons already anyway, so I got my qualification.

As a result of this, I try to install confidence and belief in students without them even realising, and often visualisation is key.

Getting them to see themselves playing the song in their head, knowing it will all be OK, this type of work, as well as being fully prepared, are great ways to remove nervousness.

If you know the material, and are drilled in it, then you are 90% of the way there.

Students also become nervous through self talk. If you can get them to stop the unhelpful internal dialogue then they relax.

For some reason, most people pressure themselves over examinations, although the truth is that everyone wants them to succeed.

I have also entered a large number of students for performance exams by video. This means that they are playing in front of me, and they are used to that.

The introduction of the video camera knocks them a bit to begin with. So I try to get them used to the fact there is a camera present, and they soon get over it and just play.

Once they are familiar with a situation, they relax and concentrate on the task in hand.

RGT: You are active on YouTube and have a website and social media for your teaching
output. How do you find YouTube and your website has impacted your guitar teaching studio and performance/recording career?


YouTube Preview Image


Geoff Lea: YouTube is a blessing and a curse. You can put videos up, but anyone who has been on YouTube knows that you are open to trolls and people with social issues.

So whilst I put videos up, mostly for my students to watch at home outside of lessons, so that I can still be teaching them outside of lessons.

I find the more you key word and push the videos, the more It attracts people with issues who just want to be rude about anything you put up.

I don’t really bother with videos on advanced techniques or the fastest flashiest stuff, because there are plenty of people putting up those kinds of videos.

Playing as fast and complex as I can on YouTube doesn’t really float my boat. For starters, Guthrie Govan and the likes already do it superbly, so I stick to simple things.

People that are looking for tips for free online are generally those starting out on the instrument, at least in my experience they are.

I also have live videos of me playing that people have taken at gigs and the like.

These videos show me as the player not the teacher, and to a degree work quite well for letting potential clients know what I can do if they require it.

I think these days you do have to have media content for people to look at, it’s a factor of the modern world.

I didn’t take up playing guitar to be popular on YouTube, there weren’t even home computers when I started playing.

So, my website does have a disclaimer on it, that it isn’t flash and whizzy and the videos aren’t high production value, because I spend my time teaching and playing.

If someone wants to improve that for me that would be great, but my core business is improving students and myself on the guitar, so I dedicate most of my time to that.

I don’t really want to be video editor or web designer, if I did I’d do that instead of guitar.

I think that Facebook is a good outlet. I run a Facebook page and it’s a good way to reach hundreds if not thousands of people with news and announcements.

Twitter also is OK, although I don’t put as much effort into these social media areas as some do.

I’m not sure how many of my potential students are likely to find me on these, not many so far, as I seem to be followed mostly by other guitar teachers and equipment companies, and I don’t think they are really my target audience.

I have recently moved into using Skype for video linked lessons for people farther afield, and that is proving very successful and popular.

My recording and performing career is pretty much down to the old adage, who I know and not what I know.

Luckily, I know some very excellent musicians who I get to play with in bands all around the world. I’m not aware of any of this coming about through social media, although that could all change.

RGT: You seem to be a big fan of the RGT Rock Guitar Exams. Can you tell me about your experience with these exams, and why you are keen to recommend them to your students?

Geoff Lea: I have found RGT rock exams to be excellent, and they seem to hit the mark with the majority of my students.

They love the tunes and they love the fact they can do recorded video submissions. They are great exams that allow students to achieve certification for something they love doing.

I took a few myself after a student told me it was OK for me that I didn’t have to do them, I’m a GIT graduate. So I took level 6 and 8, got distinctions in both, which was a relief. I’d never have heard the last of it if they did better than me on those exams.

So at present, the majority of my students are taking either the rock exams or the acoustic exams. I think both are excellent, as I mentioned before that I think these are more valid than some of the other awards available.

The accessibility through being able to record and submit with the Rock Guitar Performance Awards is also a great innovation that demonstrates forward thinking by RGT.

RGT: Besides teaching, you are also a performer. How do you balance these two sides of your career, and do you find that your teaching influences your playing and vice-versa?

Geoff Lea: I am a lucky chap in that I have pretty much either played or taught for all of my adult life. Never really had a ‘real’ job as my parents would call it.

I play and have played with a number of tribute bands over the years, and I have original projects past and present, both live and recording.

I am in a band called The Arrows with Alan Merrill. He wrote ‘I Love Rock n Roll,’ which is now the 40 something best-selling song of all time.

I play with him on his European dates which is great. There is so much you can learn from someone who was the guitarist for Meatloaf and Rick Derringer amongst others.

I have also been lucky enough to have played at Wembley Arena, Docklands Arena and the NEC over the years, as well as in many other countries.

Gigging and playing is my priority I have to say. As much as I love teaching and spend most of my time doing it, I took up the guitar to play. So I juggle my time to facilitate both.

I also find that students love that their teacher goes off and does prestige gigs and plays with high profile musicians. I suppose it’s a bit of putting my money where my mouth is.

Do they influence each other? To a degree, yes. Everything in life influences everything else. Playing live allows you to let students know what is required to play to gigs as I am able to provide insights and anecdotes from the experiences that I have gained.

Some of the musicians I play with have played with acts such as Slade, The Sweet, Paul Di’anno’s Killers, Jagged edge, Magnum, Meatloaf, Ronnie Wood, and things I learn from these band mates can be passed on to students as well. You never stop learning, and so I am a perpetual student.

RGT: If you had one piece of advice for other guitar teachers that are preparing students for RGT exams, what would it be?

Geoff Lea: Remember that the verb for guitar is play. So make sure it stays fun for you and the student. No one wants to do something they don’t enjoy.


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One thought on “RGT Guitar Tutor Geoff Lea Interview

  1. I have wanted to play guitar all of my life, but have been one of those people who would make the excuse, too busy, cant afford it, cant find the time too practice or too difficult. Then at the age of 58 I met Geoff and surprisingly he did not say forget it your too old, he said why not give it a try. Playing some great tunes at R.G.T level 4 and fulfilling one of those bucket list things to do and loving it, if only I could have done this 30 years ago.

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