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What do you look for in a teacher – or in a student?

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

The 'facing the student' issue is something I'd never thought of. Now that I think back, I faced my teachers... but I don't face my students in private lessons. I've never really thought about it, I've just done it differently from the beginning.

I sit to the right of my right-handed students. The chairs are positioned so theirs is about 30º angled from mine. That allows them to look to the right and see my hands in the same position as theirs... and it also lets me look from my music stand to theirs - I can quickly point out in the music where we are if they get lost.

It's also very easy for me to shift my guitar's neck forward so they can see my hand from the peghead... that's important for demonstrating some things to beginners: thumb position, arch of the fingers, not laying the neck on the palm of the hand, etc. I can move about 15º or so and show it clearly - face on, I'd need to turn 90º, which will make my fingers lean back towards the peghead - making it harder to really see what I'm showing.

Lefties I teach head on. Some years ago I had a lefty student who couldn't process what I was showing visually, and I taught him side-by-side, with a mirror in front of us. That helped, but I don't usually set up with a mirror.

In semi-private or group lessons, I'm facing the students... but I'll often get up and turn so they can see my hands from different angles.

For the 'showing off' aspect... my teachers didn't do that, and I don't think I do. In maybe one lesson out of 4-5, I'll be introducing something new, and I'll do a riff that demonstrates how it's used. Those riffs are likely to be beyond the ability of the student... but not way beyond. For instance, if I'm showing the pentatonic scale for the first time, we'll play it up and down in the pattern - and then I may play the start of the solo from ZZ Top's 'La Grange' - which is just triplets in that fingering.

During the average lesson, I'm far more likely to demonstrate the exact piece the student is working on, but played slowly and with exaggerated finger movements. Or if there's a timing issue, I'll play a few bars of the piece at tempo so they can hear how it's supposed to sound - four bars or so is generally plenty. The majority of my playing in lessons is as straight accompaniment.

Dissing a $400 guitar... wow. Never came across that! I've had students come with lousy guitars, or guitars not suited to their needs (the metal student who shows up with Uncle Joe's classical, etc.), and that needs to be addressed. Usually I'll just point out why theirs isn't suitable... last fall, I actually taught a kid's parent to play fretted notes so they could see the difference between my guitar and her son's (and the next week he came with another inexpensive, but totally manageable guitar)... but I'll also talk about what CAN be learned on their guitar - maybe one student in 300 has something really unplayable.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@sin-city-sid)
Prominent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 735
 

Wow, this is a great thread. I'm in the process of finding a teacher that can work into my schedule. Now I have some idea what I need to ask to eliminate the teachers that won't do me any good.


   
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 geoo
(@geoo)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2801
 

One of the things I work on during the week is alot of different chords, so it generally doesnt matter to me if the teacher is facing me or sitting to my right, which btw is what my teacher does. Actually, his position sounds exactly like Noteboat described the way he sits. Now and then, there will be a chord that I find completly unrecognizable and we'll have a tough go at that one.

There was actually one song that he had me working on "Long cool woman" I think it was.. where I went back the following week and told him that I never wanted to see that song again, because I couldnt get the chord patterns down. Now that I have played a bit I may go back on that statement. I think I could do it at this point.

This is a great thread and sorry if I jump in after ever few comments but I am reminded with others posts of situations I have been in.

Ohh and I am mid thirties too. Dang I wish I had been this studious about it about 20 years ago.

Geoo

“The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn” - David Russell (Scottish classical Guitarist. b.1942)


   
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(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5349
 

I think respect is the basis of all. If both the student and teacher feel comfortable and dare to say whats on their mind most other issues can be talked out of the way. Teacher going on and on about relaxing the muscles in your left-ankle? Politely tell them you don't really care. Student not working hard enough? Politely tell him he should do more if he expect to gain anything from the lessons. I really believe most of the 'this irritates me hugely' things are caused because the irritating person simply fails to see irritating it is to the other.


   
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(@darling-damsel)
Active Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 13
 

I would like my guitar teacher to show up!

Amazingly I cannot seem to find a teacher in New York that either shows when we have a lesson or even calls that they are not make it.

Really fustrated, but I have gone through two attempts to find some in NYC ...


   
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(@anonymous)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 8184
 

My teacher sits to the right.
I have never taught but I will go out on a limb and make a broad claim about a what makes a GOOD STUDENT.
A good student is a student that pays for his or her own lessons.
This eliminates the kids that are pushed into learning and really have no interest.
Everyone else wants to learn, thats why they dish out the money and show up for lessons.
Some are more challenging than others but as long as a student has the desire to learn they are a good student.
Just my opinion.


   
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(@rockerman)
Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 219
 

chris, great topic, at first i thought my teacher was a little to strict
now i realize, he truly cares about his students, and their progress, like noteboat , he knows exactley where we left off each week, and always
shows me cuurtsey , and not only is he agreat teacher, he has turned out to be a great freind, i am very lucky i did not have to go through a lot of teachers before i met and started learning from him :D


   
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(@chris-c)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 3454
Topic starter  

Thanks for some great replies.

After reading NoteBoat's posts I think I'm going to have to move to Illinois.... :)

I have mixed feelings about the "showing off" thing. I tried one guy who did far too much of it, and one hardly did it all.

When I first started I was terrified of trying to play in front of the teacher at all! I'd try all sorts of tricks to delay the moments of truth. I'd ask him to show me stuff, and I'd talk and talk about music - anything to avoid having to make those awful fumbling noises... :shock:

But he was a wise and patient man, with 20 years teaching experience, and he'd just gently lead me back to putting my fingers on the guitar and trying again. :)

Now I'm comfortable with a balanced amount of demonstrations that will both teach me and 'inspire' me, as Geoo mentioned. I guess I just like it in short digestible chunks.


   
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(@sweet-chan)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 12
 

i agree with missileman about students who have the desire to learn and are not learning it because their parents force them to. I took piano for about 6 years but during that time i gave up on music and i wasnt practicing. Ended up quiting for almost 2 years, now i'm taking piano lessons again because i want to and taking guitar lessons.

i dont like the current teacher i have because... he wants me to play classical but the reason i started taking guitar was because i want to learn modern pop/rock. then i finally said i want to play rock, and now i think he thinks i'm weird. :P
oh and how happy is girl when told at the first lesson, "most girls end up playing classical guitar because it doesn't hurt their fingers." very encouraging... seriously... :(
i'm finding a new teacher as soon as i can... my mom wont find me a new one because she thinks this one is good, so i have to look for one myself... somehow...


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

Run away from that teacher, Sweet-chan.

My female students - and I've taught a bunch of them - play all styles of music. However, about half show up for a first lesson with a classical guitar because that's what they (or their parents, more often) have been sold, not because it's what they want to play. The students I have who come asking for classical guitar lessons are the ones who like the way classical gutar music sounds... and the gender split there is exactly 50/50.

The reality is, guitar hurts the fingers of guys too in the beginning. Anyone who thinks women are too delicate to deal with the pain of tender fingers has obviously never seen a childbirth.

The only time a classical guitar is 'better' for starting out is if you're really young (I'm talking 6 or so) because they're available in half sizes, and nylon strings aren't as frustrating for young kids with short attention spans.

And you know, although gender stereotypes aren't fair, I can tell you from experience:

- I've never had a female student show up with 'attitude'

- When I ask a new student what they listen to, there's a broad range of responses. In students under about 20 though, boys listen to metal or classic rock, with just a handful naming other genres... girls listen to everything - 60s bubblegum or traditional celtic music is just as likely to be named as Beatles

- Most girls want to get it right. Most boys want to get it fast.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@alangreen)
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Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

My experience of female students is not good, even though it's based on just the one. I won't mention her name, but she was a screaming prima donna who had drama lessons (God only knows why; she was a natural talent) on the Saturday morning and guitar lessons in the afternoon and used the combination of proper school, stage school and guitar lessons as some kind of leverage against her parents - they ran around after her like skivvies. I got some good choccy biccies during lessons though.

Eventually, her dad started playing her own game against her; I got a call from him one Saturday that said "she's not been doing her homework, so I've said if she won't do the school stuff she doesn't like then she won't get the lesson stuff she does like." A couple of weeks later I got a call from her mum which went "I don't know what's been going on but she's not taking any interest in anything right now" and lessons were cancelled until further notice.

Hopefully, the next one won't be anything like that.

Best,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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(@b0ttleneck)
Active Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 11
 

I want the teacher to pick up his guitar only if it is necessary to demonstrate something. I don't wish to pay to watch someone else show off.

As others have said, I don't think picking up the guitar is bad. Each week my teacher and I jam for about 15 minutes. I'll play one of the blues rhythms I've learned and he'll play some licks over it. This has really helped me in a few ways. At first I would get lost and confused, but over time I was able to play in synch with him. This has also helped 'train my brain' I guess to do more than just play. As I got better at jamming and having to listen and work with my teacher as we played, it seemed to help with singing while playing on my own. Before I could never sing and play. Now it's much easier. I think just getting used to playing and concentrating on more than one thing at a time has helped a lot. I actually wish my teacher would pick up his guitar more, and jam longer. It's honestly my favorite part of our one hour lesson.


   
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(@chris-c)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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Topic starter  

As others have said, I don't think picking up the guitar is bad. Each week my teacher and I jam for about 15 minutes. ..SNIP>>. It's honestly my favorite part of our one hour lesson.

I know what you mean, and I don't think it's bad either. It's a matter of how much it's done in relation to the degree of skill of the student. :)

As a rank beginner I have very little ability to follow, understand or remember what the teacher is doing. So I need a minimum of watching him play, because it simply doesn't teach me anything except how good he is compared to me.

By far the most effective way of teaching anything is to lead the student through the process of doing something THEMSELF. Showing comes second, and just talking comes a distant third.

As I progress, it gets easier to relate to what a teacher is doing, so I can handle more demonstrating. I'm sure that in a masterclass situation the master can spend a much greater amount of time playing, as the students will be expected to have a fairly high degree of skill and understanding already.

I would LOVE to be able to jam along with the teacher for 15 minutes and I look forward very much to that day. :D Until then I need my demonstrations to be in small SLOW chunks that I can actually follow. :wink:


   
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(@alangreen)
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Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

It's honestly my favorite part of our one hour lesson.

Yep - figures. It's the time you both get to do your own thing without the restriction of it being a lesson where you're paying to learn something. The trouble comes if the jam section drags on for too long, cos then you're paying him to jam with you and that's not what it's about.

I got called up by an old student last week, who wanted to restart lessons, and went to see him last night. He showed me what he'd been working on for the last 12 months and where he'd got to skillwise (bear in mind this guy's now 64 will ya). He'd bought a new guitar - a Yamaha classical which was easier for him to work with because he can stop three strings with one finger on his steel string, he'd been practising strumming using a thumb pick, he'd made a start on working with barre chords, and he'd made a start on House Of The Rising Sun.

I spent most of the hour scribbling things in my diary about how he was playing, physically moving his fingers about the neck, and writing up the tab for "House". Then I went to work on his sitting and playing position. I guess I strummed about a dozen chords last night - I barely picked up my guitar for anything else except to tune up. This is how it shoud be, methinks.

Best,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


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

For the most part, I'm with Alan.

Jamming with a student has its place - if the student is learning to improvise, and that's the focus of the lesson. Otherwise, it's just paying the teacher to have fun.

If I've just shown you the pentatonic scale, I'll play a chorus of rhythm while you experiment. I'll watch what you're doing, and after the one chorus I'll make suggestions - on the rhythms you're using for the notes, on patterns you might try to make it flow smoother, etc. Then we do another chorus. If that went well, I'll talk about introducing techniques, maybe sliding into notes to start phrases. I'll show what I mean by playing one phrase, then I'm back on rhythm for a chorus. That sort of thing fits into a lesson plan.

The only lesson plan that allows for a 15 minute improvisation is if the student is working on how to structure a solo chorus. Then we might do 4-8 choruses straight through, and jointly critique what's been done.

The only lesson plans that have me playing lead in a jam situation are to demonstrate a technique - which I usually do in 1-2 measures, show structuring a chorus (I'll just do one chorus), or if we're working on call-and-response playing.

So if you're jamming for 15 minutes, make sure that fits a learning goal. If it doesn't, drop the jam part, spend the time learning, and find cheaper folks to jam with :)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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