Having lessons with Al meant I had a 100 mile round trip but it was certainly worth it. A wonderful teacher who has a true love of music which makes all the difference to students. Gave me the confidence to go to my first open mic night too!
I have been teaching for 24 years and spent many years composing and arranging for varying ensemble sizes professionally. I lectured improvisation and arrangement at Exeter College and taught musicianship skills and composition for South West Music School as well as leading and working collaboratively on a range of workshops and residentials for both. More recently I have been engaged in some small group workshops for Bristol Pre-Conservatoire and with the Tommaso Starace Quartet.
I received a BA (Hons) degree in Music from Colchester Institute in 1993 and subsequently a PCGE in Secondary Music from Bretton Hall in 1994.
Since then I have taught both privately (1994 – ) and also for Devon Youth Music (1994 – 2004), Devon County Council (2004 – 2009), Exeter College (2007 – 2016) & South West Music School (2008 – 2014). I have also been engaged for freelance ensemble coaching by Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra, Bristol Pre-Conservertoire and as part of various touring jazz ensembles including the Tomasso Starace Quartet.
guitarist / composer / vocalist / lecturer
…masterful – no hint of awkwardness or embarrassment and complete clarity – absolutely what I can imagine any student would want. I was very impressed and thought of your comments as an ideal…there was no real feeling of “good” or “bad”, simply that the student’s performance was evaluated in relationship to what the student had wanted to achieve. The discussion was about how far the student had achieved their goals and what courses of action my lead them further on their path.
My approach to teaching is focused on enabling students to think and learn for themselves as a tool for self-expression and group interaction. By developing core skills such as improvisation, rhythmic and postural awareness, sight-reading, chord and scale knowledge we can form a solid foundation to confidently perform in any situation. Any motivated student can achieve excellent results and, more importantly, have fun learning.
My instrumental specialisms are bass guitar, double bass, piano and french horn but I welcome teaching musicianship skills to any instrument.
As a bandleader, arranger and composer I enjoy encouraging groups of players to develop their ensemble skills through workshop situations.
For specific composition and arrangement coaching I am an experienced user of paper and pen, Sibelius, Cubase & Ableton.
"I loved your playing and your deep understanding of music. Thank you for the time and help you gave.” – Helen Sheppard (Vocal Tutor)
“Al was the musician who gave me my first confidence boost. Brilliant, straight-forward, supportive teaching. Al Swainger will get you moving towards where you want to be. The rest will be up to you... I highly recommend him.” – Becky Brine (Vocalist)
“Al’s lessons taught me what it meant to musically say what you want to say. His feedback was always honest and grounded with his vast musical knowledge. A very inspiring educator and musician.” – Frazer Kerslake (Former bass student now on the jazz course at Leeds)
"The few lessons I had from you certainly changed my bass playing and musical understanding tremendously." - Ivan Andrews (Recently completed an MA in Composition at Bristol)
"Thanks for all the help - even on hectic tunes like Donna Lee my playing now sounds a lot more in the pocket!" - Adam Stokes (Jazz Guitarist)