The Magic of the Hidden

By the Way

As a musician and educator, I source a lot of insights about my craft from the world of music. One recent insight came from an interview with John Frusciante guitarist in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He discussed how his guitar playing on the album “By the Way” was influenced by Eddie Van Halen. This helped me realize that instruction focused on content loses the magic of what is hidden.

Typically a guitarist influenced by Eddie Van Halen would be employing two of his signature guitar techniques, two-hand tapping and whammy bar dive bombs. John’s guitar playing on the album is void of these. His style is described as “recognized for the melodic and subdued emotions.” These are not things that you would associate with Eddie’s playing.

John explains it this way, “there’s a certain confidence between the way I am playing those simple things that I’m playing, and a certain precision in the accenting of things, and the rhythm playing. It’s a lot of things that I got from his style that just aren’t the obvious frontal parts of his style.”

Venice Queen

In that same interview, John also talks about how his rhythmic guitar playing was influenced by his interest in drum and bass music. When writing the acoustic guitar part of the song “Venice Queen” he used his exposure to the pulsating rhythms of electronic dance music to dictate his right-hand technique.

Listening to this driving and melodic rock-n-roll song it would be hard to hear the impact of music that uses samples and synthesizers.

Music shows us that instead of focusing on the “what” in education, we can focus on the “how.” This shift in focus can move us from only assessing content knowledge and make space for the assessment of self-knowledge.

Getting to Know You

A common experience at the beginning of the school year is a “getting to know you” activity. These commonly function as “ice breakers” or introductory diversions from the start-of-the-year routines. Adopting a musical mindset of assessing self-knowledge can help us leverage these moments to do so much more.

Frame these as important moments in which the students look inward and share valuable information about themselves. Use simple and free creative tools like Canva or Adobe Creative Cloud to have students create original pieces of digital media. Co-create rubrics with students that incorporate language around competencies like self-awareness and communication.

One template I use was shared with me by Claudio Zaval Jr. With this template students can identify unique traits, characteristics, or interests that influence them. Combining these digital creations with the peer and self-assessment rubrics that you co-created with the students, both you and the students gain insights into who they are as individuals.

Teaching Like Frusciante

John Frusciante’s guitar playing is confident in its simplicity and its precise rhythmic style. I have followed John’s guitar playing my whole life and wasn’t until that interview that I became aware he had adopted those stylistic characteristics from Eddie Van Halen.

In a similar way, John’s guitar playing has influenced my style as a teacher. From deep studies of his guitar playing, I have developed my thoughtfulness and creativity. Much like John who does extensive examinations of various musical and guitar styles I immerse myself in a variety of instructional techniques.

Ask Yourself

What magic is hidden behind your own unique style? How do you incorporate your individual interests to shape your instruction? What are the unexpected people or places that sneak their way into how you approach the craft of teaching?

By asking these questions we can unlock the magic hiding behind who we are as educators.


If you would like to hear the entire interview it is embedded below.