RGT Tutor Interview – Matthew Sear

In this week’s edition of the Guitar Tutor Interview Series here at the RGT Blog, we are talking to Registered RGT Tutor Matthew Sear. An experienced performer and composer, having giving concerts on the international level, Matthew is also a seasoned guitar educator who enjoys teaching a wide variety of musical genres.

A fan of Gypsy Jazz and Classical Guitar, among other genres, Matthew sat down with us to discuss his history with the RGT, how he tackles exam preparation in his teaching studio, his love of Gypsy Jazz Guitar, and much more.

For more information on Matthew, his playing and teaching, please visit his website.


Matthew Sear GuitarRGT: How did you become aware of the RGT, and why do you chose to encourage your students to take RGT guitar exams?

Matthew Sear: Thank you for having me here, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I first became aware of the RGT through The London College Of Music. It impressed me that this was an exam board solely devoted to the guitar, and with such an open mind towards music.

I treat each pupil individually, some are very motivated with their own projects, such as performing etc., and don’t wish to do exams. On the other hand, there are pupils for whom doing an exam greatly motivates them – and without the exam, they would be far less motivated in the practice room.

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

Matthew: The biggest challenge is the dichotomy of the preparation being water tight, but at the same time encouraging the pupil, in a performance situation, to play without fear and with a real sense of freedom.

I often use Miles Davis’ quote to motivate my students, “Master your instrument. Master the music. Then forget all that and just play.”

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?

Matthew: Again, everyone is so different. There definitely isn’t a ‘blanket’ approach for this with my students. With some pupils, it’s the formality that they find nerve racking. So with these types of pupils, I will do mock exams deliberately in a different room that they aren’t used to, this is a few weeks prior to the exam, which helps with coping with the unfamiliar territory they might face in an exam.

For others, it’s a case of slowing them down mentally, as their mind’s are racing. So breathing properly, and sometimes just being as practical as taking a bottle of water into the exam is a great help.

It really varies, but the one thing I encourage all students to do, is to walk into the exam room and feel proud of getting to the level that they have achieved – and to enjoy showing the examiner what you can do. Music should always be fun, even when performing in exams.

RGT: As someone that holds a number of degrees and a Licentiate from the RGT/LCM, do you see yourself continuing your own study and exam taking, or are you focusing more on the teaching side of things these days?

Matthew: After my Masters degree, I felt even more hungry than ever to keep learning. I looked up one of my classical guitar heroes, Carlos Bonell, and had two years of sheer bliss studying under him. The lessons culminated in a fellowship in classical guitar.

Since then, I’ve felt even hungrier to learn more about music. So I’m currently preparing a portfolio of compositions for a Fellowship in composition program.

As well as the aforementioned, I also subscribe to Guitar Techniques, Gypsy Jazz Secrets and The Musical Times. I love playing through all the ideas and licks in these magazines – and the interviews always intrigue me, as people’s approaches to the instrument are so varied. In short, I suppose I intend to never stop learning on the guitar.

RGT: You are a fan and performer of Gypsy Jazz Guitar. Tell us how you were first introduced to that genre and how you approach teaching students that are interested in learning to play Gypsy Jazz.

Matthew: In the late ‘80s, there was a documentary on TV about a festival, where people from all around the world come to pay homage to the music of Gypsy Jazz founder Django Reinhardt.

I was maybe 13 or 14 years old at the time, and these three kids, about eight years old, were jamming in what looked like a field. Their playing was so astounding, that I became an instant fan of that style and of Django Reinhardt.

Years later on the Gibson forum, thanks to a friend, I realized that kid from the show was Jimmy Rosenberg. My search for his name had ended, and he is now one of my favorite players – a true guitar genius.

A lot of pupils, when you play them Gypsy Jazz, love the energy, the improvisational aspect, not to mention the speedy licks. Many only associate ‘fast’ with the electric guitar, people like Malmsteen or Steve Vai for example. So gypsy jazz is very exciting to them.

It’s not only extremely joyful music, but also opens a pupil’s mind to the fretboard, as you can’t simply stay in one or two position like in a rock solo, you have to know all the shapes around the entire fret board to play a convincing Gypsy Jazz tune.

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

Matthew: I would echo Merv Young’s advice recently on Facebook, that it’s better to enter a lower grade and be completely on top of it, than to struggle with something too ambitious.

Also to cover things as thoroughly as possible in lessons, with younger pupils especially. Keeping their parents in the picture weekly via email, so they know exactly what they have to do, is also invaluable.


YouTube Preview Image


About Matthew Sear

Matthew Sear is a London born guitarist, pianist and composer. He gave his classical guitar debut on Valentine’s Day 2006, at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden and has since performed as both a classical and jazz guitarist in some of London’s most famous concert venues, including St John Smith Square, St Martin In The Fields and Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club. As well performances in his native country, Matthew has performed across Sweden, Spain, France and North America.

In addition to his work as a performer, Matthew also composes music for a variety of instruments and ensembles. Previous works include solo pieces for the piano, harpsichord and the vibraphone – as well as ensemble pieces for string quartet, wind quintet and full scale orchestra. His compositions recently being performed at The Edinburgh Festival, St Martin In The Fields ‘New Music Series’ for young composers, and live broadcasts on BBC and SW1 Radio.

Find out more about Matthew by visiting his website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *