From Student to Master – An interview with Michael McConville
Michael McConville is one of our resident student-to-master graduates from Riverside’s HND Music Performance course, and has been going from strength to strength working here as a popular Guitar tutor and lecturer. We asked him a few questions about his Riverside Journey so far…
Michael, what work have you been doing at Riverside since graduating the HND course?
Since finishing my HND, I was very kindly asked to return in 2017 as a member of the private tuition staff. The PT lessons were a fantastic but challenging new chapter for me, ranging from group lessons for absolute beginners aged 6-9 and 1 to 1 lessons with more experienced players looking to take their playing to the next level. Then in September of 2021 I was very kindly asked to lecture on the HND year 1 and year 2 course.
So far it has been absolutely amazing, connecting with players looking for a real career in the industry and giving guidance to already great guitar players to help them achieve what they’ve always wanted to be able to do. I am extremely excited to continue working with the HND students in their bands and in the 1st Instrument Guitar Lessons to help them attain their goals as Guitar players.
You are a popular tutor, especially with young learners. What are some of your favourite teaching techniques?
Ah! Thats fantastic to hear ahaha, I guess it’ll sound pretty cliché for anyone in any kind of teaching position but i think the most useful technique is patience. I personally hear so many stories of students having a guitar teacher prior to meeting me and the common denominator is almost always the fact that the last person had no patience what so ever with the student.
Especially with playing the guitar (which is heavily reliant on muscle memory) the student needs time to practice and let the muscles in the fingers remember/get used to what the pattern is or what the shape is. More practically, a favourite technique that I use is slowing the song down. Usually a student is very eager to get playing the song with the track straight away but obviously, after just learning something new, it’s often hard to play it at track tempo straight away. Playing the song at a slower tempo gives the student a constant goal to get it back up to the original track speed. Nothing beats the look on their face when they finally get it after one or two weeks of hard graft practicing it at a lower tempo.
What skills did you learn on the course that have helped you to become a better teacher and guitar player?
I learned so much on the course that bettered me as a player and as a teacher, in a band setting and as a solo guitar player. On the course I had the absolute pleasure of studying under the best musician I have ever met, Johnny Cameron. In the 1st Instrument lessons Johnny was incredibly patient and incredibly knowledgable on any question I had. He taught me patience, he taught me to play for the track and most importantly for my style, he taught me ‘Hybrid Picking’, a style of picking that requires the use of a guitar pick and 2 or more fingers simultaneously. Johnny is The Dude, no one can argue ahahha.
In a band setting, I learned so much from (Music Performance Senior Lecturer) Jamie Cameron in the way of how things should be in a live setting. Really getting into dynamics within a band, contrasting guitar tones in a live mix, and just how to properly run a professional band. All of these are skills that I use everyday and
credit to the success that I have seen with my band so far, it’s easy to say that I wouldn’t have seen such success not having learned these things from Jamie. I’m extremely proud to call both these guys my colleagues.
What is something about the course that you now appreciate from being a part of the staff?
I’d probably say I now appreciate all the things the staff members do behind the scenes, its not just a 45 min Guitar lesson or 2 hours of getting to jam in one of the rehearsal rooms with your peers. It’s all the planning, the advice, the student services staff that make sure everything’s perfect, that all comes together to provide the best music education there can be.
You’re also a member of the band The Rhubarb (with fellow Riverside graduates): how would you describe your sound, and what are your future plans?
The Rhubarb is a grungy, riffy, 90’s tinged doom metal band with dual male and female vocals! We kinda sound like Sleep, Electric Wizard, High On Fire, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats! We have a couple of singles and a new record planned for the next year at some point which will also come with some killer live shows and a couple of tours of the UK that we’re all very excited for!
[check out The Rhubarb…]
Do you have any advice for current or future students on having a career in the music industry?
The main piece of advice i’d give to current and future students is to jam with as many different types/styles of players as possible. Being primarily a metal/alternative player myself, i’ve learned countless things/techniques from jamming with jazz players, ceilidh players, country players etc and i’ve been able to work these diverse techniques into my own playing!
On a secondary level ; another piece of advice is practice to a click… THE METRONOME
IS KING ahahah