Teaching and Learning the Electric Guitar: A Case Study in a Singaporean Higher Education Teacher-Preparation Institution

Eugene Dairianathan, Larry Hilarian Francis


Many electric guitarists have earned their reputation as expert performers and connoisseurs, despite the absence, at least until very recently, of school-based curricula or internationally recognised examination bodies, and usually without any institution to validate their credentials. Despite recent initiatives to support new pedagogical paradigms in teaching and learning, teachers of the electric guitar continue to be confronted with problems of preparing learners for soundscapes beyond a gig setting or one of the recent electric guitar examinations. Instrumental fluency cannot be understood merely as a function of mechanical achievement (that is, musical and instrumental techniques), but as a function of human capacity as “instrumentality”: how “human beings have puzzled over […] something they acquire without knowing how, that they possess but which something possesses them even more, that is not a part of them but without which they would not be what they are” (Sigaut 2002: 421). This paper is based on a case-study with an undergraduate music education trainee teacher at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University who undertook lessons with a music faculty member in the electric guitar as part of his music ensemble activities. The findings from this interaction explore an electric guitar practitioner’s technology in four ways: first as a musical and instrumental technique which has been consolidated in the global practice of electric guitarists; second as a way of devising strategies to study electric guitar within its own unique glocal soundscape; third, as a way of encouraging learners across social and cultural contexts to find their own voice through the instrument; and fourth, through these means, to come to terms with the difference and distance between the practitioner-as-learner, and the learner-as-future-classroom teacher/practitioner.


electric guitar, instrumentality, teaching and learning, practitioner-as-learner, music education, teacher preparation

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