Paul Gilbert (right) teaching—and learning from—GIT student Shawn McGovern.
WITH A SOLO TOUR IMMINENT AND MR. BIG
recording a new album, Paul Gilbert has had a full calendar as of
late. What’s interesting about the Hollywood-based guitar hero,
though, is that it’s often when he’s most busy that he likes to return
to his alma mater, Musicians Institute, to teach private lessons.
“That’s because the best way to learn about your playing is to
see it reflected through the playing of someone else,” says Gilbert.
With countless industry peers and other famous guitarists
eager to jam with him at a moment’s notice, why, then, does
Gilbert like to sit in a room at MI with students who are typically
much less experienced than him?
“It’s funny,” he says. “I recently gave a lesson to a very
advanced and well-known guitarist—a guy who tours regularly
with world-famous singers—but I tend to get much more
from teaching beginners. That’s because if I teach a beginner,
they’re obviously struggling more with whatever I might show
them. Because of that, it becomes my job to deconstruct what
I’m doing and give it to them in manageable chunks.
“That process is probably more enlightening to me than
it is to them, because I get to really see the mechanics of what
I’m doing more than I ever would have if the other person
had gotten it right away. I mean, my first goal is always to
enlighten the student, but the huge side benefit is that because
I’m seeing those details for the first time, I suddenly start
coming up with cool variations on what I’m doing, and find
interesting ways to branch out from there.”
Gilbert sums up with a car metaphor: “If the engine’s running
fine you never have to look at it. It’s having to open up
the hood and look at it that teaches you about the engine.
Then, you can hotrod it!”