View Full Version : Frustrations of a guitar student.
03-19-2006, 12:01 AM
I am someone who has played on again and off again for many years. Unfortunately the offs happen a lot more. So my playing hasn't really progressed past strugling through whatever song, and knowing a few scales and chords.
The biggest problem I have with teachers is a lack of structure. The guy I was going to up until recently is a terrific player, and we meshed well both musically and socially. I looked long and hard for him and he came as one of the top 5 recommended teachers in Atlanta.
The problem however is just like every other teacher I've ever gone too I walk in and he says "what do you feel like doing today?" In truth, if I knew the answer to that question, I wouldn't need the lessons. I just don't see the value in sitting for 30 minutes while some guy writes out tab to a song I can buy the tab book for out front. I know a few scales, I know CAGED and a handful of other chords. I have some of the building blocks down, but I can't just play. I don't see the path. I guess the disconnect is I'm not asking the right questions. But at this point in my playing I feel like I don't know what questions to ask. I realize that I am at best a poor student with a demanding work schedule, a young child and a pregnant wife that all contribute to less than optimal practice time. On top of that when it comes to playing other peoples songs I lose interest wuickly and can't practice it for long periods, even the stuff I love to listen too.
I'm not looking for a jazz nazi who is completely structured and cares not what interests me. I've been to a few of those types "today you will play mary had a little lamb....begin". It would be nice to find someone who is a happy medium, consideres what I am into and what my goals are and then sets a path. "This is how you should practice, this is what you should learn this week, show me what you learned, OMG what was that crap here is how you do it right, here is what you need to do next week." I realize structure and musicians might be a stretch but is it that hard to find? It would seem as hard as finding someone who equallyenjoys Johnny Winter, Chris Duarte, Blackfoot, John Mayer, Brad Paisley, Lamb of God and Slayer.
03-19-2006, 04:47 AM
I think a lot of times that there are two schools of guitar teachers. Those who just want to teach you how to play a song and those who want to show you how to understand music. If your going into the lessons not really knowing exactly what you want to learn, it may be hard for your instructor to know what to do with you. I understand it's frustrating, but I also think you need to clearly define what you want to work on.
I'm kind of in the same boat as you are. I've been playing 20 plus years. I know my major open chords, some scales, most of the modes, but I generally play by ear and know little of what I'm actually doing. I've thought about lessons, but from past experiences I realize the teachers in this area are either the hardcore 'jazz nazi's' or the type that want to teach me how to play my new favorite song. My solution? I sought out the UK's Guitar Techniques magazine with excellent results. A broad span of music styles intelligently compiled with explanation and CD audio examples and backing tracks. Honestly, I've gotten more out of a few issues of GT than I have out of years worth of subscriptions to the mags we get here in the USA.
03-19-2006, 07:31 AM
Both of you raise some pretty common concerns. And, you stated them well. Let me look at it from the teachers point of view for you and see if I can actually help...
I've found that since there are so many different kind of students whether its the level they are playing at, the music they listen to, their objectives for coming to lessons, etc...that it's hard to use one method of teaching for each of them and still teach them ALL the same things they need to/should know...stuff they are going to want to know, but just don't know it yet.
So, as a teacher it's important to engage the student in things that will keep their hands on the fretboard day after day, but also thing that allow them to keep their head in the game too.
So, back when I was giving lessons to just any kid off the street I would bend the method according to them, but also interject the the "information" they should be learning from a teacher. This way it accomplished my goal of keeping them interested but also keeping them learning.
It wasn't always easy, let me tell you. But, over the years I learned a few ways I would approach it EVERYTIME. The student always drove the direction of how/what they wanted to learn/play but, but I narrowed down the "information" side to AT LEAST teaching the student "the lingo" of music.
Through teaching the "lingo" I found that students really ended up getting a great foundation in many important TOOLS of music theory or music knowledge.
So, even is a student said "I don't want to waste my time of that theory crap, I just want to play", the student ended up "just playing" but also came out with enough theory to understand some basic concepts, be able to talk to other musician about music in a fairly mature way, and had the basic tools to move onto deep music concepts if they desidered down the road.
This method worked GREAT, especially with the students who stuck with playing...as at some point they begin to wonder "why/how/what".
And, when they did, I already had them primed for moving directly into the "why/how/what"...because I already built the "lingo" with them. Teaching the fundamentals with students is the hard part as they have to get their heads around it and something has to "click"...this is more frustrating for the student when they want to learn it than it is when they are learning it and not knowing it.
So, through my process I was killing a lot of bird with one stone. And, the student just happily played guitar parts he wanted to, then when he was ready to learn more, he ALREADY had a basic understanding :)
Now a days, a lot of guitarist go to the web to learn theory. This can be overwhelming, and frustrating as a lot of sites (not all but a lot) assume you can jump right in the middle of something. Few sites show you only the "ground up" approach to learning the basic/important material. You end up more confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed as ever, to the point where it seems hopeless and endless to get a grasp on "everything".
Once you have the "lingo" part down, all of these lessons start looking the same and are accessible as you can read INTO them instead of OVER them.
So, maybe here's how I can help...
I've been putting together a Series on my website (hhtp://lessons.mikedodge.com) that is nothing more than teaching you "the lingo" in a structured and organized way.
Just follow the link at my site for the "Beginner to Advanced Series". This will start you with nothing but the fundamentals...
Intervals, Scales, and Chord Constrution.
It'll start out as a Beginner but leave you with a thorough understanding of them...an Advanced understanding.
Everything in Music Theory really stems from these basic elements. And, you don't have to work too hard to have these elements "click" for you. Especially if you are shown them from the ground up.
With these tutorials you'll get the important pieces, but you'll also have the tools to move onto other resources (websites, books, teachers, etc..) and comprehend the material...get something out of it. That's the basis of my lessons as they stand right now...to give a beginner an advanced understanding of the essentials.
I've been teaching this exactly verbatim for about 20 years now.
There's also some other "On Topic" tutorials at the site that might interest you, with a lot of playing, and explanation.
Enjoy, good luck, they're free and to the point!!!
The problem however is just like every other teacher I've ever gone too I walk in and he says "what do you feel like doing today?" In truth, if I knew the answer to that question, I wouldn't need the lessons.
I guess the disconnect is I'm not asking the right questions. But at this point in my playing I feel like I don't know what questions to ask. I realize that I am at best a poor student with a demanding work schedule, a young child and a pregnant wife that all contribute to less than optimal practice time.
On top of that when it comes to playing other peoples songs I lose interest wuickly and can't practice it for long periods, even the stuff I love to listen too.
Sounds like you know the answer, you just are not sharing it with your teacher. Read your own words. You want to write original music. Therefore, you need to begin learning basic music theory. While you can experiment and find chord combinations that work together, understanding the harmony would make the process much easier. First you must understand the chords derived from the major scale. Once you have that information solid, you can begin to incorporate chords outside of those seven. How or where you bring in new chords is where the learning curve grows.
Since you probably shared all of your life's struggles with the teacher, he may have taken those and translated it to "slacker" in his mind. When he attempts to push you a bit so you get more out of the lessons, you claim ignorance. I think you go back to the teacher and you start over from scratch. You tell him you have finally figured out what it is you want and you see if he can help you acheive it.
03-19-2006, 07:54 AM
Copy your post and hand it to every prospective teacher you are considering.
I think it is important to work backwards when you are taking lessons. What is it that you really want to accomplish? Play around the campfire? Wail Stevie Ray Vaughn? Play the Bach Cello Suites? Fine, start playing them. Oh you can't? Why not? Don't have the facility?, theory got you dizzy?, single note runs too fast for your slow fingers?, Zero in on your difficulties and start there. After a while you will start seeing the finish line.
03-19-2006, 09:14 AM
I think a teacher with a full roster (who also doesn't have his students bring in a notebook he can write in to track lesson plans and the student's progress) will often forget what you were working on, at least until you've been coming a long time and he can't help but remember. So that's probably where the "what do you want to do today?" thing comes in. No judgment, it's just how some people work.
I'm studying improvising right now with a really good teacher who works playing/recording improvised music aside from teaching. He knows that I know a lot of theory and know my scales and arpeggios and stuff, so he will go pretty abstract while discussing how he might play over a tune or a chord/chord progression I'm working on. But he can also get pretty simplistic when I make it clear that I understand the underlying theory but still have trouble making music out of it. Since he's not an ultra-regimented teacher, it's up to me to steer the lessons and custom fit them to my needs. I think a teacher like this is ideal for anyone but the most mindless person who just needs a lesson plan, a set of exercises and a metronome counter to track progress.
So, customized lessons help ease the drudgery and monotony of a formal approach, which is terrific especially for adults with experience who are trying to further their education. But those types of lessons can be a double-edged sword if you use the ease of customization to avoid doing any real work (and then blame the teacher because you're not getting anywhere). That's why I'll echo what others have said and advise to just keep reminding your teacher (and yourself) of what your goals are and what you've been getting/not getting out of the lessons. If he's a good teacher he'll accommodate your needs.
03-19-2006, 10:50 AM
Mike, thanks for your fine post. Going to check your site out right now.
03-20-2006, 04:28 PM
Mike, thanks for your fine post. Going to check your site out right now.
Hey Shnook, I hope they are of some help. Let me know what you think.
It sounds like you've been playing a while now too, so check out some of those "On Topic" tutorials. They might be of interest to you also.
03-20-2006, 05:19 PM
I did check out your site and I started with a refresher course of simple stuff I use to know but forgot due to the lack of continuing to work on it.
The good thing is that it makes a lot more sense this time around. Basic re-learning of the Whole Step Half Step rule opened up the fretboard, and now I'm able to quickly know where I'm at. Like I said earlier, I've been playing for 20 plus years by ear. It sounds decent, but I really have little idea of even what key I'm in. I'm going to continue visiting your site and working on my understanding the 'mysterious fretboard.' Awesome site! Thank you for directing me there.
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