What's a "good" guitar teacher?
I've taken guitar lessons for about a year now and I'm having a hard time finding a "good" teacher. Either that, or I don't have the right expectations...
When I first started taking lessons, my first teacher was fine... we went through a beginner book... I learned a bunch of stuff: chords, strum patterns, fingerpicking, simple songs, some scales. However, once we finished the beginner book, it seemed like things just became directionless. I would just bring in a song I wanted to work on, and we'd just go through it. But that was something that I could just as easily do on my own.
Since then, I've tried out a few different teachers, but it seems like none of them are very structured. What should I be looking for in a good teacher? I mean, at this point, I think I have most of the basics down... learning new songs is basically just a matter of practice. In terms of techniques, I know the correct way to do them, and again, it's just a matter of practice to get them polished.
So really, the only area that I think a teacher can help me now is music theory. Is there any other reason to be taking guitar lessons? What should a "good" teacher be teaching me at this point?
I've gone through a couple so I know how you feel and I still feel somewhat the same way. My lessons have basically broken down to two sections. First we work on a technical exercise, this week it was incorporating double riffs based off the 1st position pent scale. The second part is we work on a song (sometimes I think this is a bit of a waste but if I were only doing technical exercises I'd feel the same way)
But lately as the songs I try to play get harder there is usaully some part of the song that I have difficulty with so it's good to have the teacher to talk about hand psition, what fingers etc.
"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!
I've struggled with this also.
I somehow knew that "I" needed to determine good expectations for myself and in doing so I had to take quite an inventory and ask some honest questions of myself.
The one most glaring was.." Do I expect him (or her) to be my 'Jam' buddy?"
It was a long time coming to that answer. Now I approach my lessons with things I don't know. Like Reading real sheet music, albeit its still tabbed (along with standard notation). I struggle with the all the extraneous notation, the CODA's and the REPEATS and sections, bridges etc. Most sheet music isn't so Linear in its layout.
Another thing I go to him for is when I struggle with certain parts of a song. I'll ask for guidance or a "show me" this kind of thing.
A fun thing he's been doing for me is showing me how to use a scale over a chord progression. Songs I grew up with but really have no idea what key its in...yet... I'm getting there, but he'll say, where's the B minor pent? Ok, Work that..... then he'll do a progression and its like magic to me how good it all sounds.
However I still need to do my part and that's practice, practice my drills and exercises and keep practicing my songs. Remeber, those performers that play them well have played them hundreds and hundreds of times to get it just right. Unlike me, I've only attempted to play 'this' song or 'that' song maybe a few dozen times.
Another honest thing I did was just ask him. What are my weakness' and how can I improve. A few weeks and my strength grew in a few of those areas.
<shrug> just my random thoughts on the subject :)
Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. - Wernher Von Braun (1912-1977)
I, too, had the very same problem. The first year or so of lessons was great and I progressed well, then I took Classical guitar lessons from him and it was the same thing, but after a while we just started doing random things and it seemed like we were only jamming. There even came a point where he told me that there wasn't too much more he could show me, I soon quit taking lessons.
Thanks for the advice guys. Yeah, I can definitely see it being helpful for a teacher to show me tips on how to play a tricky passage and such... but unfortunately, that doesn't quite fill up a half hour of lessons every week.
I think I would like to find a teacher that gave specific homework each week... something like, by next week learn to play this passage at 120bpm, get this other chord progression to 100bpm cleanly, memorize the notes on the D-string, etc. I think that would help give me specific focus each week, as well as very easily trackable progress. But it doesn't seem like any guitar teachers are this methodical. All of the ones I've taken lessons from just seem to wing it.
So, part of me is tempted to quit lessons... but I worry that it'll slow my progress if I do quit. I don't want to not take lessons for a year and then realize that if I had taken lessons over that year, I would've been a lot farther along.
But it doesn't seem like any guitar teachers are this methodical. All of the ones I've taken lessons from just seem to wing it.
I think alot of that is because they are the creative types instead of the logical ones. I agree with you, I would love to have lessons where it was very clearly defined what I should know by the next lesson.
I think the best thing you can do is communicate that to your teacher and see if he/she can do that. Really communication is a great thing between a teacher and student.
“The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn” - David Russell (Scottish classical Guitarist. b.1942)
why not try getting hold of an RGT exam book at or around your level, bringing it to lessons with you and explaining to the teacher that this is the level you want to achieve
it should cover all elements of your playing - chords, scales, rhythm and improvising a solo as well as oral and aural sections (i think)
might be a good way of helping both yourself and your teacher to focus on common goals
best of luck
This is my signature. Fear it.
I understand where you are coming from but I think we are all putting alittle to much responsibility on the teacher.
I'm not sure i want my teacher to say play this at 120 BPM by next week. Somethings are going to take longer than a week and you won't see alot of progress for awhile, and unless you are doing something technically wrong what is the teacher supposed to do, keep giving you more things that you can't do in a week. After a while I think that would be counter productive and you would be frustrated.
I truly beleive a teacher is not going to make you a good player, he may facilitate you getting there but it really comes down to you as the student.
Don't get me wrong I do feel frustrated alot of times with my teacher but when I think about it I think most of it is me.
There are an infinite amount of things you can do on your own that you don't need to have a teacher tell you to do. Anything that you can't do now is worth practicing.
One of the things I want to be able to do is to improv "good" solos and play cover songs including the solos (note for note). Now when we do a new song it may take 2-3 lessons to tab it all out including the solo and there are very few up to now that I have been able to play the solos note for note. All the songs I can play the rhythm so should I wait until I get the solos down to get another song. If I did that I'd be waiting for ever to learn a new song.
Mean while I keep working my scales and practicing the parts in the solos I don't know yet, plus the technical exercise and it's enough to keep me busy all week.
"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!
I am irritated because my teacher just teaches me songs. Which he may think I want to do, but I want to learn how to make a decent chord progression, or a scale or two.
A good teacher will unlock and open a door for you. Thing is, you can't expect them to go through the door with you; niether can you expect them to be waiting on the other side or even to unlock further doors.
Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.
If you are observant enough, you'll see how the teacher unlocked the first door, and that is literally the 'key' to go on. A good teacher won't simply make you learn, or cause you to learn or help you to learn; a good teacher will give you the gift of learning how to learn.
That may sound like some mystical load of stuff, but if you're given the basic skillset and are competent and careful and keep up the practice and drills, a weekly schedule of lessons tends to drop off in importance after a certain point. You could go with monthly lessons or perhaps attend master classes if there are any in your area. If you've 'learned how to learn' then you'll know how to experiment, find the same notes in different patterns, chords in different places, rhythm within rhythms, overall shapes and feelings; the outside edges of music and the inside contours. You can start looking for teachers who discuss concepts--not just theory--that might open other doors you haven't considered.
One of my teachers showed me odd meters and that has always stuck. It has also pushed me in other, however slight, directions.
Another opened the door to atonal composition; another the simple fact of how much focus must be put into playing each note on the piano in its correct volume--bringing out inner voicings through technique.
And I don't play the piano.
Other teachers have shown me the example of classical/symphonic music being like a pencil, and rock 'n roll being a snapping of that pencil in two jagged-edged pieces.
The teacher eventually becomes You, though you can still be open to other, more advanced 'You's' you may encounter over the years. One might simply say, "Try that same thing, but in an open tuning...." or "Sing that vibrato; don't just shake your finger and expect it to say anything!"
And you come away with these things, these hints and tiny secrets and as you practice them, if you focus just like you did on that first teacher, you teach yourself that technique or secret or hint or concept or idea. And it's not really an accomplishment but more of an 'adding' to yourself, and you keep adding, but with no rushing or agenda because even time constraints (or impatience) and destination can be obstructions, and at a certain point you may find yourself saying, to someone else "Yah--no; put that finger there, and that finger there, and remember about your thumb...okay, strum the thing...."
Hmm, maybe the ultimate teacher is the ultimate student?
The teacher eventually becomes You
How very Zen, I like it :D
I suppose it's easy for the student to criticize the teacher (I'm in college right now, so I hear it in every class about how this student doesn't like this teacher).
Good point about "learning how to learn", lately I've been trying to learn the solo to "What is and what should never be", it's pretty simple but it's using a slide which makes even simple things hard to sound right. But the way I learn is by repeating one measure until it's smooth, then after going through each phrase individually i try the whole solo in time. I think I am getting better (I've only been practicing it for a couple days). I mention this because when I took classical lessons playing in time and practicing measure for measure was something that really helped me and I continue to use it to practice. Sometimes we forget how much we learn.
I suppose you just know, I can kind of feel that my teachers good, he can answer all the questions I've got and he's good at teaching stuff. I would however wish a bit more theory, and more things to do at home, that must sound very strange to want Homework and theory, but I enjoy it :P
I don't hate my guitar teacher, quite the opposite, he's a really nice guy and I always have a laugh, but I never learn anything more than a small riff.
EDIT: Henrik, you have every right to enjoy learning and practice, it's just a fun instrument(though I often forget that, but all is good by the next day)
Why don't you guys mention this to your teachers? How else is he supposed to know?
Well my practice won't start until autumn and haven't really though about it that much until the classes was over, so I suppose I'll tell him next semester, and it isn't a big problem.
EDIT: I know what you mean Triple C, I can get so angry when I fail with timing stuff, but then I think about and when I don't think it's funny I just put away the guitar.