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Question for Guitar Teachers

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Estimable Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 127
Topic starter  

hey guys,

so I finally bit the bullet and am going for guitar lessons, got my first one this tuesday.
my question is, what would you expect a student to have prepared ?
I know it's a pretty difficult question to answer specifically, but in terms of songs/scales what would you expect from someone who's been playing for a while ?
Also, any other tips or hints to impress would be good :)


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Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973

If it's the first meeting, I wouldn't expect anything to be prepared. I want to know the student's TRUE level of ability and knowledge. Try to resist the very understandable temptation to impress. Don't try to hide your weaknesses from the teacher. Show them. The more accurately the teacher determines your true level, (warts and all) the more efficiently he or she can address those problems, help you fix them and take you to a higher level. That's why you're there - to improve, not impress.

Estimable Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 127
Topic starter  

i think impress was the wrong word for what i wanted to say there
anyway, im thinking of having 3 songs - one classic rock riffer, a fingerpicked piece and a strummy number
are there any pieces that as a teacher you would like to see played because they contain all the techniques/ideas that each particular style requires.
i think that's what im getting at.

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Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 5342

You have to be able to show your new teacher where you are right now with your playing. If he's teaching you from ground zero that's fine, but if you've been playing for a while and have learned something then show him what you can do.

By all means, practice before the first lesson. If you can play a whole song slowly for your new teacher, it's 1000% better than being able to play the intro to Enter Sandman at almost full speed but have to stop because you never learned the rest of the song.

I just started lessons with a guy through my employer's sponsorship association with the London Symphony Orchestra. At our first meeting I said "ok - fix my technique" and played a couple of my Grade 5 Exam pieces. You go from there.


A :-)

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Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

It's an assessment, not an audition.

The teacher will be looking for what you can play, and what problems you have in playing it. If I ask a new student to play something, and they do it perfectly - I'll ask them to play something else. What the second piece is depends on the first for genre, and on what I didn't see for techique... if you play a simple rhythm piece, I'll ask for a syncopated one; if you improvised a pentatonic scale solo, I'll ask for one using a major scale; if you brought standard notation and played a piece in D using triplets, I'll put a piece on the stand in Ab using dotted eights and sixteenths.

If a student plays something that's clearly beyond their ability - fumbling through some tune - I'll ask for a simpler song. What can you play well? That'll tell me how far back we need to go to correct the current flaws. (I've had self-taught students bring in a method book and play something badly from the last page, when the last thing they can play perfectly is on page 3 - we end up starting at page 4 to fix all the things that went wrong)

Now there are a few teachers out there who actually audition students. You'll find them more in orchestral instruments than guitar, but these are the folks EVERYONE wants as a teacher, and they get to pick and choose the few students they teach (I'm talking the level of Joe Pass, not Joe Guitar Teacher). If that's the case, you'll probably have an interview first... and they'll assign the audition pieces at the interview.

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Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2171

As a teacher I am right there with Noteboat.

What can you really play.

I'll start our asking some basic questions "can you read music?" "At what level do you think you can read well?" "Can you read a chord chart?" "What genres do you play well?" "What do you want to achieve?"

I'll spend maybe 15 minutes of the first 30min lesson just talking. Then we'll start playing a few things based on those answers.

I'll be looking for technique and actual skill level (as oppossed to where the student thinks they are -- which they usually over-estimate their skills, though I've had a few who grossly under-estimated themselves). Etc.

I'm also trying to figure out if I will be the right teacher for this student and if I want this student as a student.

Do your interests line up with what I can teach well? Or are you most interested in things I am not well qualified to teach? Is there enough wrong with your playing that I am a good teacher to correct, or would you need to be moving up to a master mentor in 3-6 months anyway? How is your attitude towards my teaching style? Do you seem like a willing student or is every correction/suggestion a battle?

And honestly, that evaluation takes more than one lesson. Usually the first 3-4 lessons with a teacher are mostly about building rapport and developing the comfort level and communication bridges necessary.

I usually don't ask the student to play something they prepared. A student can hide a lot of general flaws behind one specific prepared piece. Rather, I'll put something in front of them and say "What can you do with this one?"

Now, I have had a teacher who would only take students who passed an audition. And that as interesting on a whole new level. But that kind of teacher you know it going in . . . it's generally someone who teaches master classes and only takes a few students at a time . . .etc.

"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