A deep conversation/QnA session with the most brilliant educator — Floyd Francisco Fernandes (Guitarist//Educator//Micro-Electronics Engineer) as The Showrunners exclusive pick of the week
I have seen professional musicians, artists, and educators mastering their crafts to be considered in the best of the best list. Then at some point in my life, I got to know about Floyd and what he does. I can’t imagine how he managed to be so good at music while taking the intense academic route. A Micro-electronic engineer/Technician by profession becomes a kickass musician and an educator. Today I have a big task to interview my guru and not gonna lie, I had to take some help to design these questions.
Q1 — Tell us about your early days of music? How did you start getting into music? Also a little bit about your school life?
I’ve always listened to music and remember asking my dad to play records continuously. Just loved hearing all kinds of music and it was a natural gravitation to these sounds. Not that I had some inherited talent or anything because both my parents are just listeners. One thing they can vouch for is that I was inquisitive about stuff and very naughty. I was given a toy guitar one Christmas and just banged on the strings along with the records just a natural reaction for any clown at that age. In primary school I played triangle in the school band and went to sleep waiting for my cue at the annual day show.
School was a place to have fun and I had lots of that. Loved mathematics and science being a curious sort of chap. Would come back home to play cricket on the beach, something I did for most of my life as a kid. So to be dead honest I had no perceived talent and had a great childhood playing the fool and solving puzzles.
Q2 — What was the reason behind choosing the guitar as your main instrument? Tell us about your influences while you were starting as a beginner?
By the time I was in my teens I had noticed the guys in the church group playing guitar and the girls were in awe of them. I figured it would be difficult getting laid with a piano because it’s generally difficult to carry to a picnic where most of the action generally happened. So yeah it wasn’t a deep realization or anything. It was convenient, relatively cheap and that was it.
I couldn’t afford a teacher at the time because well that’s the way it was and I chanced upon discarded Guitar Player magazines at the local raddiwala ‘ Vinod Paper Mart’. These came with a sound page and lovely articles including some great players drawing chord diagrams. Teachers like Ron Eschete, Joe Diorio and others had monthly columns.
I made notes and diagrams and started to teach myself from these articles. The math of the layouts was very simple for me to understand because that’s what I actually have a gift for.
Every single album I heard was an influence. From Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass to all the rock bands like Sabbath, Deep Purple and whatever dad had in his collection. My deal was to approximate whatever I heard and kept what I liked after plotting it on my system. A slew of great guitar players from Shrapnel like Greg Howe, Tony Mc Alpine, Yngwie, Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker etc. really opened my ears and mind to know what really good guitar players could accomplish. In Mumbai we had our local band ‘Rock Machine’ who were by far the best Indian band I’ve heard till date and they were a big influence because I could get to see what equipment looked like at a distance of a few feet. All these live gigs back in the day played a very important part for me because I had no gear to speak of and made me aspire to atleast have a functional guitar.
Q3 — How did you pursue music education? What were those aspects during your early days of learning that worked wonders for you?
I learned whatever I know by trial and mostly error using a system of combinatorics and plots. As I have mentioned I didn’t really have the finance to be tutored so it was just working on my own. I guess the urge to approximate a sound was what helped me because that’s all I had, a passion.
Q4 — You have been openly critical of the way music is being taught across music schools in India and have been appreciative of the Gurukul system, why do you feel that way?
I honestly think that music education in India is approached as a means for the unemployed to generate income. It has fuckall to do with nurturing and empowering genuine talents, something that is actually part of a strong tradition in our country. Classical music in India enjoys this concept of immersion in an art form, a wonderful thing.
Most teachers here have an incomplete understanding of the basics and do more damage than good. The formative years are super important and focusing on the rudiments is key. The average Indian parent wants ‘certification’ to validate children and therein lies the problem. We get these performing monkeys at annual events who play some shitty pieces and forget all about music the moment they get a ‘grade’ or discover other pleasures. I loathe this wastage of talent by people who just want to make money and say this out of sheer experience with kids and parents in the current generation.
The Indian Gurukul system had students study music in detail with it’s cultural data embedded in the art form. The teacher expected rigorous practice and honesty. It was/is a no bullshit approach and I respect that.
Q5 — What differences have you seen in the professional guitar players/musicians of your generation in India compared to the current one in the context of musicianship given how many resources and opportunities present themselves to musicians compared to the previous ones?
The unschooled guitar players of my time played with passion and very little understanding. Now I hear people with more understanding courtesy the internet but limited passion. By the law of conservation things balanced out.
The tangible avenues for musicians in the past were live gigs and studio dates (for the chosen few). Now,everyone has his own soapbox at home and can broadcast whatever they do to a target audience. There is no red tapeism. Social media is bursting with content good and bad.
Peer pressure however has made people ape and mimic popular musicians to the point of being ludicrous. Many find it embarrassing to play like themselves for fear of not being relevant. I hope this feeling goes away.
Q6 — Besides the ongoing pandemic, what else motivated you to start “The Guitar Study Circle” on Facebook?
The pandemic had nothing to do with my page simply because I was teaching these low cost (free) modules right from the inception of Facebook. I just want the basics to be accessible to everyone at a small fee ( few respect free shit ). When a student/musician has a sound platform the learning process becomes easier.
My focus is purely on giving the target set of people the ability to unlock their own learning potential. It’s simple to understand and doesn’t believe in this cock and bull approach of taking a higher artistic ground. I am motivated to teach people who have a talent and love for the instrument. I was teaching before any pandemic and will do after, can’t say the same about the rest.
Q7 — Your students in the past have qualified and entered prestigious music college/s around the globe, How was your experience teaching them and what do you think is the key to these successes?
I have just pushed them to play to their best abilities and opened their ears out. Their achievements are purely due to their own work ethic and I take no credit for that. My experience with most of them has been good because if someone doesn’t really work I knock them off, I don’t give a fuck about a ‘revenue model’, it’s a ‘music only’ space. I hope that this approach made them focus hard as well, so that imbibing more information would never be a problem. I always love hearing young talented people play well and enjoy themselves.
Q8 — Any top 10 albums you would like to recommend to the musicians?
Virtuoso — Joe Pass
Secrets, I.O.U., Sixteen Men Of Tain — Allan Holdsworth
Illicit, Face First — Tribal Tech
East Coast Love Affair, Intuit — Kurt Rosenwinkel
Live at Murphy’s — Jesse Van Ruller
Standards — Lage Lund
Introspection, Uncertain Terms — Greg Howe
Listen to anything that Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway have written.
Listen to Peter Bernstein on any recording.
Live at Yoshi’s — Mulgrew Miller.
Enroute, Loud Jazz — John Scofield.
are some good titles I have enjoyed.
Q9 — If you have a chance to change or improve a few things about musicians in India, what would you like to improve/change?
I would love to see more people play without a care of being accepted, something tough to do. Play with honesty and conviction. Be aware of the market dynamics and play smart. Use your education to find new ways and avenues to push your music. Stop being sycophants for a gig, speak up and forge a ‘scene’ that’s long lasting. Save your earnings and insulate yourselves from hard times. Value your education and have alternative methods to sustain yourself. Living the esoteric ‘I ONLY play music’ lifestyle will bring you to your knees, if it’s not already. Change is a result of an intelligent mind adapting itself to an environment.
Q10 — (Last question) Any message would you like to give to the musicians before signing off on this interview?
Work hard at the music, so you can transmit the ideas seamlessly. Spend time on perfecting this amazing art force and be grounded. Music is the only master, people who have played have come and gone. So enjoy the process and don’t be hard on yourselves with comparisons. Remain a student till the end.
Floyd Francisco Fernandes is a professional micro-electronic engineer, technician, musician, and music educator. Floyd runs a private Facebook group called ‘The Guitar Study Circle’. It's a monthly membership-based group where any guitar player who had a hard time finding affordable lessons or a good educator, can join. Floyd is a determined and humble educator. He does daily live sessions which sometimes go up to 2.5–3 hours. He promotes having fun with the music study rather than getting fried. He is kind enough to provide these lessons with a super affordable fee of 500bucks per month.
That’s it for today. See you soon with another amazing musician in our next edition of The Showrunners exclusive pick of the week.