Shred Academy Instructing Interview


One of the nicest (and busiest) young shredders on the scene is back. This time Zack gives us some priceless insight from a shred teacher's point of view.

How long have you been teaching guitar?

I have been a guitar instructor professionally since 2005. Previously, I would teach occasionally, but in 2005 I decided that I wanted to dedicate time each week to helping others with their guitar playing, music, and to help them reach their goals in the shortest amount of time possible.

Why do you teach guitar?

I teach guitar to help my students reach their goals. I absolutely love to help people in any way that I can, so it is natural for me as a guitarist and musician to want to teach people. I want to help speed up the process of my students' abilities to reach their short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals in the most efficient way possible.

Where is your teaching practice based?

For the most part, I instruct my various classes and programs out of my private studio in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. However, I also do a lot of guest instruction at universities, for things like Camp Jam, and other various clinics, classes, and events.

As far as teaching goes, what is your specialty?

My specialty is definitely progressive-metal, lead guitar, and music theory. I do teach elements of jazz, classical, and other styles, but it all falls into a progressive-metal context. For example, jazz uses some very cool chord and progressions, I teach the theory and concepts of it, but in a way that applies to my students (since my students are basically all within this genre to some extent).

What level of player do you prefer to teach?

For me, it is less about the level of the student and way more about their dedication and motivation levels. I do however mainly instruct intermediate to advanced metal guitarists. I only take on highly motivated students. I love to teach anyone who is dedicated, but mainly prefer intermediate to advanced metal guitarists if I had to choose.

What makes a player a virtuoso?

I view the term "virtuoso" in different ways. I think of the term virtuoso as another word for expert. I think someone could be a technical virtuoso on their instrument (playing 1,000 notes per minute or more) and a virtuoso with things like song-writing. In general the term virtuoso is used to describe the very best of artists and normally it is describing technical abilities. I tend to think that way the most however, I really only consider someone to be a virtuoso if they appropriately use the techniques and not use them in "mindless" kind of ways.

How fast is too fast, if such a concept exists?

With speed, it must be used appropriately. If not, then I believe it is too fast, but I do not think you can really put a "notes-per-minute" calculation on something like this. Something could be 400npm and be too fast to fit the music in an appropriate way, or it could be 1,400npm and fit perfectly.

From a teacher's point of view, what is the number one roadblock to becoming a better player?

I think that the biggest "roadblock" for students is not having an effective practice schedule. Having a practice schedule massively improves the rate in which you learn. A good guitar instructor can easily help their students develop an incredible practice schedule that will allow the student to reach their goals in the most efficient and effective way. If anyone who reads this wants help with this, just shoot me an email.

What makes a good student? Describe the student who progresses really quickly.

I good student is willing to work hard for the results that they want. They will realize and understand that there is a huge different between playing guitar and practicing guitar. They will invest their practice time into focused practice rather than abstract licks and songs. They are highly motivated and dedicated to reaching their personal goals. If a student has all of that, they will without a doubt succeed tremendously and within a much shorter time period.

Do you find that older or younger students progress faster/learn quicker?

In general, I would say that younger students (kids through teenage years) will learn faster, however there are a ton of factors to this. Anyone can learn quickly with a great instructor and with an organized practice routine. Dedication, motivation, and organization are the important things. Age does have a slight affect on learning, but nothing major really.

What is your teaching format?

I teach in several formats including private one-on-one classes, classes with small groups (2 to 4 people), classes with large groups (10 to 20 people), and various other programs and specialty classes.

What models of learning benefit the student the most?

This depends completely on each student and their goals. Some students will learn better with one-on-one lessons while others will learn way faster being in a small or large group. I interview potential students with their goals to see what will work best for them personally.

Is there one piece of advice that you can give the readers to improve their playing right now?

Get organized. Have a set practice schedule and stay focused within each practice session. Realize that there is a massive different between playing and practicing. You will see much higher results this way.

How can prospective students contact you for lessons?

Prospective students, or anyone for that matter, can get in touch with me best via my website,, or by simply emailing me at zack (at) zackuidl (dot) com. I like to talk to my students prior to the first meeting, so often a phone call will be arranged before the first class or lesson. Email me for my phone number.