Greetings fellow guitar travellers! This is for those of you who are wondering just who I am. My name is Rowan J Parker. I was born in 1970, which makes me 41 at the moment. Now just how did that happen? The last 20 years have gone by in the blink of an eye, but then again I’ve done a lot in 20 years. Currently (this is late 2012) I’ve been playing for 26 years and it’s been an interesting journey.

Without boring you all to death here is the story so far...

I had no interest in the guitar or music generally till I was about 16 or so. I picked up the guitar for no better reason than I thought it would be cool to play. I just sort of imagined that I would pick it up and be able to, you know, just do it. This idea was swiftly dispatched the very first time I held a guitar; the instant realisation was that this was going to be hard. I still have quite vivid memories of these early days and I remind myself just how hard the guitar is for a beginner, especially when I’m teaching.

I had no one to teach me back then, none of my friends played and remember there was no internet either! The only way I could learn was through my record collection, so fundamentally I’m self taught by ear. This has had some massive advantages, for instance my aural acuity is pretty good, but also some major drawbacks. It took me a long time to learn things, I absorbed only tiny pieces of information at a time and I had no clue about theory at all. I know now that a good teacher could really have helped me progress much faster so it’s a pity I didn’t have one but that’s the way it was.

I became pretty obsessive about guitar, it was the only thing I cared about and indeed the only thing I could focus on. I practiced incessantly in those early days. Almost right away I was playing in a band and I think that was really important looking back now, so here is a brief digression, if you are learning the guitar get in band. It will teach you things that no amount of bedroom practice will do.

After I had been playing about a year I got into Heavy Rock and Metal and soon discovered some very good guitar players. The first truly good rock guitarist I heard was Randy Rhoads, he really inspired me. I learned his solos note for note and loved his legato which I tried to copy. Then I heard Yngwie. You’ve got to remember that this was the 1980’s and Yngwie’s arrival on the scene turned the whole guitar playing world upside down. At the time he was just so far ahead of everyone else it was scary. From that point on that was it for me; I wanted to be a neo classical shredder. I practiced about 8 hours every day. I remember that being a great period of expansion for me, I just seemed to be getting better all the time. I started teaching around this time as well, mostly just my friends initially but my technique advanced so quickly that after playing for about 2½ years I became known as the guy who could shred and I got quite a few students even though I had only been playing a short time. I found I really enjoyed teaching and it’s a love that has never left me. It is in many ways more satisfying that live performance.

In 1990 I went to study music at college and it was there that it became apparent that although I could widdle a bit I couldn’t do much else. I had in fact learned the guitar back to front, learning to solo first while my rhythm and chord skills were very poor. This was a bit of a shock. I worked really hard to address the many deficiencies in my playing and I had a really great guitar teacher called Laurie Hamilton. He really helped me see there was a lot more to music than shred. I owe him a lot. I won the award for the most dedicated student while at college, I really did work hard. I completed the course in 1993.

I almost quit playing guitar in 1995. I had been drifting a bit since I left college, not practicing and generally not very happy. I got to a major crossroads where I realised I was not going to be another Yngwie and nor did I want to be. I was sick of being a one dimensional rock guitar player. I did consider a career in journalism but when I really thought about it the problem wasn’t music or guitar, which I very much loved, but rather what I was doing with it. This was my solution. I dumped all my electric guitar playing and began studying classical guitar. This was hard as 1) I could not read music and 2) I could not use my right hand fingers! The learning curve was pretty painful to begin with but I found a great teacher in Glasgow called Joe McGowan and I really worked on it. It was during this period that I sat graded exams. I achieved Guitar Grade 8 ABRSM, Guitar Grade 8 London College and Grade 8 ABRSM Music Theory in an intense period of study lasting about two years and my classical period lasted almost 4 years. At this point I fully intended to become a concert classical guitarist, but fate had other plans.

As great as classical guitar was for me there was one problem with it and that is it is a solitary pursuit. I love interacting with other people, whether teaching or playing and classical guitar was just too isolating for me. About 1999 I started playing with some guys who were heavily into Jazz. I had always loved Jazz but didn’t understand it harmonically or theoretically, I could not comp or play over changes. You can imagine what our first jam together must have sounded like! However, they were very patient with me and in about 6 months I was beginning to hold my own. So this is another piece of advice I will give to all you aspiring players. Get into a band with guys much better than you are, it forces you up to their level. It certainly worked for me.

During this period I played with many different bands. At one time I was in five bands at the same time, which was mad. I played all sorts of stuff, Pop, Rock, Metal, Funk and Jazz. It was then that I realised that being flexible and being able to fit in to the musical situation was really more important than anything else. This helped turn me into a musician in the true sense of the word. It was no longer about self aggrandisement and listen to my great solo. It was about making the collective sound good, and that meant sometimes you had to play simply, or not play at all. It’s a lesson any guitar player should learn if they want a career in music. Basically no one cares if you can shred or not, and 99% of the time there is no call for it. Your job is to make the band sound good, not indulge your ego! One of the things I have realised about myself is that I love music too much to be tied down to one genre. On the one hand this means I’m not awesome at any one thing, but on the other hand it means that I can play in a wide variety of styles. For my career this has certainly been an advantage as I’ve done pretty much everything now.

I had been teaching full time since 1995 and during summer breaks from college so I already had about 8 years teaching experience when in 2000 I was approached by Yamaha Music Schools to teach for them. I’m still doing this and I’m currently the most experienced Yamaha Guitar Teacher in the UK and also one of their senior instructors now. My job is basically to teach guitar teachers. In 2006 I started examining for Rockschool and I was one of their Diploma Examiners. This was great as I got to travel all over the world and I saw all sorts of playing, from the exceptional to the truly awful. When the playing was awful it was usually the teacher to blame as unfortunately the general standard of music education, is to put it gently, uneven.

My recorded output up to about 2009 was pretty much nonexistent. I had produced one album which was a collection of demos and other bits and pieces and to be honest it wasn’t very good. It certainly did not showcase my playing the way I would have liked. Then the Guitar Encounters project came along. This is the course that is taught in Yamaha Music Schools, and as I was one of their senior teachers and instructors I was asked to contribute to Grades 6-8. I wrote some original pieces which I then recorded. My boss at Yamaha was suitably impressed. He agreed that I take charge of the entire recording project, and serve as editor and coordinator as well. So we produced Guitar Encounters Grades 6-8. I’m really proud of the work in these books. 200 pages of material and 4 full length 80 minute CD’s of music. I was in the studio constantly for about 8 months writing and recording. It was epic. Almost immediately I launched into more stuff for Yamaha, I wrote and recorded music for two albums used on the Drum Encounters course and designed the examination syllabus for Guitar Encounters, composing more music for that. It was as if all this stuff had built up over the years and, like a dam breaking, it unleashed a torrent of music.

In 2010 I was approached by a company in India called Furtados, they are the largest retailer of musical instruments in India. They planned to open a chain of music schools but wanted an original syllabus to call their own. I agreed to develop this for them and the result was the Rockstar course, which covers Guitar, Keyboards and Drums. In the last 18 months I have completed 8 books for them and written over 80 pieces of music. It’s a good course and I’m proud of it. It’s not complete, if all goes to schedule it will done to Grade 8 by 2015. So in the last 3 years I have produced about 15 albums and to be honest I can’t quite believe that myself.

So here we are finally in late 2012. Maybe because I’m now over 40 I see things quite differently and I ask myself, what do I really want to accomplish? The answer for me is to leave a substantial body of work behind me that can help and inspire others to enjoy learning and making music. I’ve always believed strongly in education and the transformative power of music. It’s no exaggeration to say music saved me when I was a directionless teenager. So that brings me (and you) here to this website. I intend this site to be resource for guitar players at all levels to learn from. Much will be given away free, though you can buy things as well. It will be in parts educational, informative, inspiring and ludicrous. Music is so powerful and it has given so much to me. This is my attempt, in a small way, to give something back.


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