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Lessons are not for me....at least with this teacher

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(@joehempel)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 2415
Topic starter  

I bought a travel guitar last Friday, and the place was offering two free guitar lessons with each guitar. I thought cool, I'll take them up on it, and said I could always use some help with classical and fingerstyle, I want to grow in those styles and take my playing to the next level.

They said cool, come in next Wednesday and bring something you are working on.

I came in yesterday with my guitar, and he asked me a bit about theory, asked me to noodle around in certain keys to see where I was, so I messed around in a couple Major keys, no big deal. He liked what I played, liked the technique etc..so he asked me to bring out what I was working on.

I took out the "Rock Goes Classical" book and turned it to Hotel California.....and that's when the lesson went downhill. The book is standard notation, and not tab.

He just kind of looked at me like "huh?". The sales person was there as well (The shop very small), and came over and was like "You read notes? Why?" So I regurgitated some points that were in the Sight Reading topic here that made sense.

The instructor asked me to turn it into tab and come back for my next lessons, I would learn faster that way. I refused. While if I ever performed it live I would most likely do it because I'm more comfortable, I really wanted to learn it as it was before doing that.

Then the shop sales person, and the instructor proceeded to make fun of me for not wanting to do it with tab....they kind of started to treat me like I thought I was better than them because I wanted to read the sheet music, and I purposely came in there to try and make a fool out of the teacher!!??

WHAT?!!!

Anyway, long story short, I'm sure there are teachers out there that can in fact get me to the next level, but this experience was incredibly dis-heartening. So while I continue my search...and get money to actually pay for these, I'll continue to abuse everyone here. LOL. :lol: :lol:

In Space, no one can hear me sing!


   
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(@liontable)
Estimable Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 146
 

That's really nasty, I sure wish you good luck on your next one!


   
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(@joehempel)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 2415
Topic starter  

Yeah, I'm not going back.

In Space, no one can hear me sing!


   
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(@adrianjmartin)
Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 76
 

Name the store - it not going to effect me because the chances of me going to Cincinnati are slim...

The're attitude is probably why the're working in shop....


   
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(@noteboat)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

Sorry to hear about your experience, Joe. But unfortunately, it's pretty common. It's more common for guitar than other instruments - but I had a couple of bad teachers for other instruments I've studied too.

Unfortunately, music stores don't approach teaching as a business - it's a sideline. Their main thing is selling instruments, so they're not as focused on the quality of the other things they do.

I think a good teacher needs three things:

1. A broad understanding of the subject. Not just the mechanics of how to play, but the history, notation, aesthetics, etc. Student questions can cover everything: the physics of sound production, basic instrument repair, recording techniques, etc.

2. The ability to communicate. People learn in different wasys, and if you can't share what you know in several different ways to fit folks who learn visually vs. aurally, or give a thorough explanation for those with an intellectual bent, you'll have a tough time matching up with some students.

3. The ability to inspire. You do that by being interested in the student, and tailoring the lessons to their interests. The mechanics of counting eighth notes and sixteenths in syncopation are the same in any genre - if a student loves Melissa Etheridge, you should use "Come to My Window" to illustrate the method book stuff. Many teachers can't bridge the gap between book learning and real-world application.

You need all three to excel at teaching.

Unfortunately, many teachers don't have the right balance. Lots of teachers with great academic credentials get stuck in the methods they like, and won't inspire. On the flip side, teachers who focus too much on a student's musical tastes end up just teaching songs instead of building technique.

You'll notice two items are not on my list:

1. Academic credentials. One of the worst teachers I ever had had an MM. As a result of my own experience, I don't list the academic credentials of any of our teachers in our marketing materials. It would give an unfair impression that the teachers with MMs are 'better' than the teachers with a lower credential. And the simple truth is, they're not - they've just spent more time in school. Credentials of any kind don't guarantee the ability to communicate. I also know from my own education that what I learned in school is in some ways superior to what others learned at a different school... and in other ways, I was seriously short-changed.

2. Personal chops. You excel at what you practice; not all techniques apply to all styles. I liken this to athletic coaching: world-class sprinters all have coaches; very few of those coaches were world-class runners. Good teachers need a certain minimum level of chops to demonstrate a technique... but what's more important is their ability to break down what you're doing, diagnose what could be done better, and develop a plan to improve your ability. The two best teachers I've ever had were not world class guitarists - but they were great teachers. The most famous teacher I had I didn't get much from. I think maybe he was too invested in what he did, and not enough in what I wanted.

One final thought - it sounds like your local music store doesn't know much about business in general. Making fun of what a customer wants is not a good way to sell the next instrument.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4459
 

Wow Joe I've had a few instructors and none were ever that bad it's too bad you had to go through that.

I guess I feel pretty lucky as I read Noteboats post because the teacher I am with now has allt he qualities that Noteboat described as what a teacher should have.

Which in some ways brings up another point somewhat unrelated to this but having just said that I think my instructor is great one might wonder why I'm not a virtuoso yet but even with the best teacher I still think the bulk of the work comes from the student and I probably have to blame myself for calling the shots on what I want to learn so I really have no one to blame but myself.

Noteboat I always wondered how you feel as a teacher if someone comes in and asks to work on X but subconciously you feel he might be better served working on Y. Do you suggest the change or since it's the students time do you just teach what they asked for?

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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(@joehempel)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 2415
Topic starter  

Those are some good point to look for! Thanks for that! I don't think I'll be taking lessons for a while, but I think I can only go so far on my own when it comes to what I want to do. I don't think I've reached my potential on my own yet, but I think I will know when it comes.

Thanks for the tips!!! Oh I didn't list the store because I tend not to bash companies online, because for the most part, the people there are really nice people....but if you want to know I'll send you a PM with the name.

In Space, no one can hear me sing!


   
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(@noteboat)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

cnev, it depends. I don't stereotype students, because everyone is a bit different, but I can kind of divide the spectrum of students into two main groups:

Trusting students give me a general direction, and let me figure out how to get them there. They're never a problem - you want to play x? we need to learn y first. And off we go on y.

Distrustful students want everything tailored to a specific desire. A near beginner coming in with a difficult tune that they're clearly not ready for needs to see that I'm headed in that direction. So I'll use the tune they want to learn and show what topics need to be addressed - speed, odd time, syncopation, whatever. I'll demonstrate using their tune, and I'll write out simpler variations that hit the fundamentals. But I can't skip over the fundamentals, or I'm just teaching the song.

Most folks - or at least most of those over about age 8 or 10 - are somewhere in the middle. Showing them that I have a plan builds trust, and over time I'll get a more control over the sequence. I'll also try to be aware of what we're skipping over, and figure out a way to build that in to later lessons.

As an example, I've got one student right now who really wants to learn "Going to California". She made it clear that it's the song she REALLY wants to play. But that's a seriously bad choice for a beginner - altered tuning, fingerpicking, syncopation... but it's what she wants. In her first two lessons we worked on the basics of fingerpicking in standard tuning, so we had at least a starting point.

She's got the advantage of having two guitars, because her father also plays - so I brought another guitar to the school so she's got a spare. In each lesson, while she unpacks I retune to double-drop D, and we work through two measures of her song. Then I'll hand her one of my guitars, and while she puts hers away I'm retuning mine to standard, and we'll work on fundamentals - basic chords, timing, song form, and so on. Some of that directly applies to her song, but most of it doesn't... but I don't want to be training jukeboxes; it's my job to figure out a way to teach her to play guitar, not just the songs on her list.

There are a few exceptions. Every once in a while I'll get a student who comes in with great chops, and wants to work on one specific thing. About once a year I'll get a gigging musician who wants to learn one specific thing they're struggling with. They generally take 1 lesson, never more than about 4... we work only on what they want, focus on the mechanics, and they know what to do from there. I also get a few students who make it clear they're happy just learning songs - it's usually a a night out from their kids. At the moment I have three of those. For them I'm only bringing in the appropriate technique/theory stuff, and I let them be in complete control of the direction.

I really enjoy having the different types of students. Teaching advanced students is hard; I'll often spend more time planning and preparing for a lesson than actually teaching - a kid with great chops who's soloing with his school jazz band is actually getting maybe 90 minutes or more of my time each week. A beginner gets a third of that (for the same price) because I don't have to do outside-the-lesson prep work. And the truly recreational students give me a mental coffee break - teaching well requires keeping focus, and after about five straight hours, that's more demanding than non-teachers realize!

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4459
 

Noteboat thanks for the reply kind of what I thought it would be. I have been for the most part a learn the song kind of student but I know that taking that path is limiting.

As good as my teacher is I'm not sure how much "outside" of the lesson work he does for anyone I'm not a good judge for him I'm probably a "mental coffee break" as you say. But he has steered me away from a few songs that were probably over my head at the timne but not many since then but maybe it's because I'm bringing in easy songs. I just pick the songs we are playing with the band there is no rhyme or reason nor are they progressively getting harder.

If we run into a technique I haven't come across we will go over that while he is transcribing it so I get the concept. Tjen I'll work on it at home. Sometimes i will need to go over it again with him to get the concept or the actual technique down but ususally it's just a matter of me going home and practicing it.

Right now I'd describe myself as the jukebox player you described and really want to move on to being more of guitar player if not a musician and soemtimes I'm not sure who I should guestion myself or the teacher.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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(@kingpatzer)
Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2171
 

While I'm really just floating in and out of the forum these days, I thought I'd tackle this question a bit.

Like Note, my approach depends on the students desires, goals, age, and attitude. One thing I never do is just work on a song -- even if the student only wants to do that. At the very least I'll talk to them about harmonic structure, chord voicing, or anything else theory-wise I can bring to the table. I want the student to understand the song even if all they want to do is play the exact notes on the CD.

Students who want to play something over their heads get one of two responses from me. If they're the trusting type, I'll simply explain that we're not ready for that. If they're close, I'll give them a timeline on when I think we can start. If they're no where near close I'll suggest we simplify the song as part of our lessons, and if that isn't acceptable to them, I'll just tell them we aren't ready and can't do it yet. I've lost a student or two that way, but I honestly feel I'd be wasting their time and money and doing them a dis-service any other way. I explain that too, but now and again it hasn't mattered to them.

For the most part though, it doesn't matter to the student as long as they can play something along with the record that sounds great. And often there are some fantastic compromises to be had. I had one student who came in wanting to play "Under the Bridge," particularly the solo. But they weren't capable of playing a bar chord yet and were no where close to having the speed and precision to play the solo. I suggested that we do "Californication" instead, which has no bar chords and has a fairly easy solo but works on vibrato, bends and hammer-on/pull-offs. They were very happy with that and were able to master the song in a couple of weeks. A month or two later we were to the point where bar chords where being learned, and at that point we started learning parts of "Under the Bridge." A win-win for everyone.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


   
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(@corbind)
Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1735
 

Oh my.......I laughed really hard when I first read that. I read it and visualized what you said. I'm sure you'll be fine what you are doing. Forget them. I'm still chuckling as I'm typing this. :D

"Nothing...can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts."


   
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(@bkangel)
Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 118
 

Little fish in a very little pond.

Ignore them (or pity them, if you are feeling inclined). If they don't understand the desire to learn "completely", then that is their shortcoming, not yours.

What I lack in talent and natural ability, I will have to make up with stubborness.


   
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(@wooddog)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 11
 

Guys who work teaching from shops are often (not always) but often wannabe rock stars with an attitude of an actual rock star. My advice would be to seek out an individual teacher and not from a backyard guitar school that's attached to a music shop.

If you have a love for singing learn to play guitar and sing at the same time.


   
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