What should I look for in a guitar teacher?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Yossi, Apr 7, 2005.

  1. Yossi

    Yossi Member

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    I've been playing guitar for 30 years. I love the instrument. It's been part of my life. I don't think, or feel that I've progressed over the entire span of my playing. It's been the same stuff repeated over and over. In the past couple of years I discoverd TAB and since then I've aquired dozens of books and have picked up a lot of stuf that I never knew before. I've purchased DVDs or checked out instructional videos from the library.
    So, it's not like I'm learning on my own since I am being exposed to a wealth of information.

    I neglected to study music theory much and I don't consider myself a musican as much as a guitarist. My goals are to continue progressing and enjoying it along the way. Perhaps to get into writing music etc.

    I know that I have to be more specific about what I want. That's partly my delema. I really don't know what else I should be looking for so to just hook up with any teacher and pay alot of money. It has to be worth it.

    Any of you in my situation or have some thoughts on taking lessons when I know how to play already?

    Yossi
     
  2. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    Hi,

    As you alluded to, you need to get more specific with your goals. As you noted, there is often quite the difference between the guitarist and the musician, and for that matter, the same analogy applies between writer and arranger. I personally feel that being a great songwriter is so much more a lofty and unobtainable goal than is being a great player. Perhaps that has to do with my own weaknesses. Very few can deliver on each level with equal aplomb; Buddy Miller and Richard Thompson come quickly to mind.

    As for choosing a teacher - a good teacher should be able to provide insight into the following: reading of standard notation and tablature; ear training and interval recognition; harmony and theory; technique; styles and practical application. A good teacher also gets to know the student, has some patience, and will refer students to a more suitable teacher, as required (much as a Podiatrist will not accept clients that are better suited to a Brain Surgeon).

    I personally feel that, for the somewhat floundering / slightly aimless player, the teacher with a broad background of stylistic influence is the best choice. That said, if you know exactly what you seek, don't go to the chord melody specialist for chicken pickin', and don't hire the ShredMeister if your focus is on acoustic blues.

    Regardless of how you learn it, learn every note on the board, learn how to construct any chord, and learn how to harmonize a scale.

    Don't hesitate to interview a teacher (happens to me all the time) before making a decision, but have your ducks in a row in advance. Sit down and make a list of what you'd like to accomplish, and what you're willing to endure to get there.

    If you are actually a working player, other than one in a cover band, the best advice I could offer is to make sure that you are always hooked up with a strong writer, as music is otherwise useless, in my opinion.
     
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  3. Yossi

    Yossi Member

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    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for your informative answer. You mentioned that I should

    "learn every note on the board, learn how to construct any chord, and learn how to harmonize a scale".


    Sit down and make a list of what you'd like to accomplish, and what you're willing to endure to get there.


    You found my weak spot. That aspect that keeps me from being a musician and instead just a guitarist. The two paths you can go by. One is associated with the word "endure" implying labor and hard work. The other is fun, enjoyment, getting in the zone, etc.

    I ask. Is it worth it? To learn the musican aspect?

    Yossi
     
  4. Mark C

    Mark C Member

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    Pick out some music that inspires you, then find a teacher who can help you learn to play in that style. A good teacher should know how to help you learn to use a metronome, do some basic ear training drills and help you learn to understand the layout of the fretboard in relation to chords and scales.
     
  5. meterman

    meterman Member

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    The fact that you have posted this thread, means that the answer is YES! :cool:

    I too was largely self taught for the first 15 years, learning out of books and magazines and never really quite sure what the hell was going on, but when I found my groove in a familiar context I could rock out. Then I played with some jazz & fusion guys who sent me home with my tail between my legs, it was a BAD feeling and after some soul searching about what I wanted from my musical life I started taking some jazz lessons from a good teacher. I immersed myself in it for about two years, absorbed about 5% of it....Several years later I am still doing what I originally did, blues/rock/funk etc., but I have been slowly incorporating some of the jazz elements I learned into my playing, which was my personal goal (one of em anyway).

    My point is that I learned more in a year of monthly lessons than in 15 years of magazine columns, etc. It really helps to have someone explain something, play it, play it again, explain it again in a different way, etc. The main thing I got from these lessons was that I finally understood modes, chords, "target tones", basic harmony, altered tones, etc, and this freed me up in my improvising in a big way. I can now play in any key anywhere on the neck (not that well, but hey!), and learning the neck like I'm trying to do takes alot of the mystery out of the guitar.....well some of it anyway ;)

    Plus, yes it is "work" in a way, but I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from learning something new on the guitar, and even more when I can actually use it in a jam or gig situation. The subconscious mind is powerful too, I find that when I apply myself and study something, that in time it begins to show up naturally and I surprise myself sometimes which is awesome.....

    One thing, see if you can find a teacher that is cool with you recording the lessons. I used to just run a tape and my teacher would go for an hour and cover all sorts of stuff. I would never have remembered most of it but I have all the tapes and even now 5 years later I still listen to them sometimes and relearn something I'd forgotten or have something click that I missed before.....

    Good luck and have fun!!!
     
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  6. Yossi

    Yossi Member

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    Thanks for the encouragement Meterman,
    I like the point that you made about the subconscious mind, at least on a subconscious level. Also, I wouldn't have thought about recording the lessions. That's a good idea.

    You said that you took lessons on a monthly basis. Was that for cost, time or other practical reasons?

    Yossi
     
  7. meterman

    meterman Member

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    Yeah, the guy I studied with was pretty intense, and even in a month I didn't get around to practicing, transcribing etc all the stuff he covered in an hour lesson. Plus cost, work, etc....you need time to absorb stuff, rather than piling it on until you eventually get overwhelmed and give up. Of course it's different if you can practice 4-5 hours a day or more like some guys can, in that case I'd think weekly or bi-weekly lessons would be worth it.

    Recording the lessons was the best move I could have made. If I was relying only on memory it would have been money out the window by now....
     
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  8. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

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    Taking lessons is probably the quickest least confusing way to get better (you will still have to work at though). I have been playing for about 25 years and have taught as well but I still take lessons.

    When I was younger I took guitar lessons from a studio musician for 2 years straight learning all the theory and music reading stuff (Real Book, Berklee Melodic Rhythms etc...). Now when I go in, "for my tune up" the stuff I learn is not the type of thing that I learn in a couple weeks like the old days, actually, it's more like 5 to 10 years. I still gain some new insights every time I go back for a refresher.
     
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  9. Yossi

    Yossi Member

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    I am thinking that I should get a lesson a month. I don't have that much time to play each day. Not 4-5 hours!

    What I've been doing is either Jammin with my brother who plays bass. This is during lunch break or after work for a half hour.Or at home where I'll lay out a track on my Boss BR Recorder and then play lead to it. Or I'll jam to one of the tracks on my Boss Dr Rythm drum machine'

    One thing that has kept me from taking lessons has been my schedule and lack of time for real practice.

    The monthly idea makes sense.

    Yossi
     
  10. Claptone

    Claptone Member

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    Someone with a mullet!
     
  11. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    I can give you my perspective on this as a teacher - for me, the easiest students to teach are the ones that come in with lots of questions. The hardest ones are the ones who don't really know what they want or what to do next but they're unhappy in general.

    Not that I haven't been in both positions myself at one time or another as a student, but, my advice - if you already know how to play some and you want a teacher to help push you up to the next level, wait until you have a good list of several specific questions to get the ball rolling. A good teacher should know how to take it from there. If you can't come up with specific questions and still want to do this, I would work up something that you feel showcases the best of what you have together, then go to the teacher and say, "I don't know what I need next, but I'd like to play for you and I'm interested to hear what you think I should do to improve or expand". Like I said, from a teacher's perspective, this makes my job much easier.

    As for the question of how much should you invest in the more academic stuff, that depends on your goals as a player.
     
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  12. Yossi

    Yossi Member

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    I should have done that when I met with this teacher for a one time tryout.
    He gave me some finger excercises to do that don't requre a fret board. I still cant isolate the movement of each finger. I have good chops though. So I don't know what that was supposed to accomplish. He only asked me to play one song and I played one that I was only in the process of learning (Mood for a Day) and I don't think he was impressed. Nor should he be for that matter. The point was he really didn't spend much time hearing where I am as a player. Should we have jammed first before moving forward? So far that was our only meeting.

    Yossi
     
  13. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    My own personal take, based on 35 years of playing, and as both a working player and a teacher, is that strength/stretching/independence exercises for the hand away from the fretboard are completely useless for improving your playing. (A case can be made that certain types of stretching exercises can be beneficial for tendonitis/numbness issues, etc. but obviously that's something different)

    A teacher should spend a little time assessing what it is you already know and what you don't know. Going in with some specific questions or with a good prepared example of where you are just helps expedite that. (If the student hasn't done that, I just have him play a blues in A with me, first soloing, them comping for me, for about 3 or 4 minutes. In that time, I can usually get a handle on their sense of time, how comfortable they are navigating the fingerboard melodically, what their chord knowledge is like, how well they can follow a set form, and a lot of other more intangible 'style' things that might be helpful. If they don't know a 12-bar blues form, or what the "key of A" means, then I already have somewhere to start)

    I think you should try someone else with this in mind. Or, if you're interested in learning Mood For A Day, call around and ask the teacher if he knows it, then let him know ahead of time that's what you'd like to work on.
     
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  14. KHK

    KHK Silver Supporting Member

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    When I had a student that really didn't know what they wanted, we focused on what they liked to play and what I thought they should study based on their skill level... always focusing on what they liked to play. Find someone whose approach will get your interest up and keep it up. If you don't like what you are studying, you won't get any value out of it.

    I think the trick in your case will be to work with someone who will get you to hear different chord voicings and related scales in a song that you are familiar with so that you are able to hear the possibilities that exist. There are many ways to interpret the same old song and you can acquire a wealth of knowledge in the process.

    Most importantly, I would look inward and try and determine why you have been stuck in your self described rut for so long. You will have to be of the mind to receive the information that your teacher will be sharing or you will be wasting your money. You need to realize that your brain is the enabler...there really aren't physical limitations that will prevent you from playing well or improving. Don't equate hard to do with impossible. If you listen carefully, you will start to hear in your head how to do things that you once considered impossible. IMO, hearing is the nucleus of good technique.

    I agree with KRosser in that it is hard to visualize how finger excercises sans fingerboard could help. I used to suggest that my students practice their scales and excercises to music when possible and to a metronome when not. I found that most people improved more rapidly when this stuff was put in context.
     
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  15. nemp

    nemp Member

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    Full figured and playfull.:D
     
  16. tambokgt

    tambokgt Member

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    not a bum and a druggy.
     

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