Guitar is by far the most popular instrument in the Western World. For that we have rock and roll to thank. It’s a versatile and sexy instrument. You can play chords and melody and with the advent of electric guitar effects, you can play a note with infinite sustain. What’s more it’s portable. So if you’re wanting an easy way to accompany yourself singing your favorite song, you can take this instrument anywhere and enjoy this experience in any virtually any setting.
If you’re a beginner and have the right teacher, you can learn easy versions of chords and be playing your favorite song in a lesson or two. But not all guitar teachers will be willing or be able to do this for you.
Here are some of the things to look for in a guitar teacher who can get you playing your favorite song as soon as possible.
ABILITY TO UNDERSTAND AND HOLD THE VISION OF THE STUDENT
I’ve heard so many stories of adults who took music lessons when they were young and got so discouraged that they quit and never picked up an instrument again. The majority of these unfortunate cases is due to the fact that they were not playing their favorite music but following the vision of a teacher rather than the teacher following the vision of student. I was a Montessori teacher for about 10 years and the chief take away from that experience is to go with the motivation of the student. Motivation is half the battle. If you’re motivated to do something you will persist through all the obstacles along the way to achieve your vision. A teacher who elicits the vision of the student and helps them reach their goal is flowing with the river and facilitates a more enjoyable experience for both the student and teacher.
ASK THIS QUESTION: Are you willing to support my vision of how I see myself as a musician in the future?
A teacher who has had experience teaching many students will be able to spot issues and provide solutions sooner, hence, they will have a more expert strategy and get you to your goal faster. Check to see how much experience your prospective teacher has had teaching your specific age and ability.
ASK THIS QUESTION: How much experience do you have with beginners?
ATTENTION TO THE PROCESS
Some musicians teaching music are really not teachers at all. They are musicians who must supplement their income with students and so they care little for the art of teaching.
Good teachers are attentive to the process of learning. They are empathetic and notice when encouragement is needed and when rigor is required. A good teacher has keen powers of observation and is ability to work at the student’s pace while keeping track of the overall goal. They know how to balance comfort and progress.
ASK THIS QUESTION: Why do you like teaching?
If you are a beginner guitarist you are probably excited to play one of your favorite songs as soon as possible. A good teacher will be able to consider three or so of your favorite songs and choose the one that can best serve as your first song. It is best if your first song can be played with easy chords. What I mean is, on the left hand, paring a chord down to just a finger or two. This enables the student to progress more easily with fingerings and transitions. With this approach, they can learn the song sections quicker and assimilate the arrangement of the song sometimes in one lesson. With practice and the right approach, the student can be playing and singing in very little time.
ASK THIS QUESTION: Do you have experience teaching easy chords?
A good teacher will be able to help you discover your practice schedule, based on the best time of day for you and how long and how often each session should be. Your teacher will give you clear and specific instructions about what to practice and for how long. Transitions are key in music as well as other areas of life. Students often practice a whole song and never give extra attention to the transitions. A good teacher will help you recognize the difficult transitions, I call them “Bottlenecks”, and show you how to “Loop” these transitions so they get the extra attention they need, being the weakest part of the song.
ASK THIS QUESTION: How successful have you been helping your students develop practice schedules?
INNER AND OUTER GAME
A good teacher will know that the process of achieving your musical goal will incorporate not only exercises and comprehension but will also address issues with your inner world such as beliefs. Some teachers may consider these inner issues off limits. However, if a student is to reach their full potential, these issues must be addressed. A good teacher will have the psychological depth and care to help a student with what may be blocking them on the inside.
ASK THIS QUESTION: How will you work with my inner obstacles to playing a song?
In the time of this pandemic it has become a requirement for a guitar teacher to offer online lessons. A teacher with experience in this format will be able to deliver a high quality lesson online and keep the student progressing in the right direction.
ASK THIS QUESTION: How do you deliver a high quality lesson online?
IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING
Make sure your teacher is an experienced musician, has a good knowledge of theory and is a performer themselves. Learning a song is one thing. Being able to perform it for other people is not necessarily the same thing. If it is part of your goal to play your music for other people, having somebody who understands the dynamics of this experience can be an added value.
ASK THESE QUESTIONS: What has been your professional experience playing music? On a scale of one to ten, rate your understanding of musical theory ( beware of anyone who rates themselves with a ten ). Are you currently performing?
People want to play guitar for various reasons but by far the most common reason is to be able to sing your favorite song and accompany yourself on guitar so you can share something of yourself with your friends and family.
Not all guitar teachers will be able to help you with this goal. A good teacher will be able to keep your motivation high while also providing enough rigor for progress to occur. This balance is especially important if you’re a beginner. It takes more than musical skills for a teacher to bring a student to a desired outcome. This is because the process of learning any skill involves both your inner and outer game. Make sure your guitar teacher is responsive to your goals and is flexible in how to achieve them.
DO YOU KNOW ANY GOOD GUITAR TEACHERS?