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Thoughts on guitar lessons...How fun should it be??????

Bayou Bostick

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Jul 5, 2002
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I have been teaching on and off for 5 years (mostly off) until the beginning of this year. I have 15 students. I have tried to make the lessons fun for all, but I feel like I'm not pushing the students hard enough.

In a way, I feel like I should be teaching note reading (instead of tab only) and maybe follow some set curriculum (instead of creating the curriculum for each student as we go).

I had a sharp 13 year kid come in one day and said "I stopped taking lessons because the teacher kept asking me what I wanted to learn. I wish my teachers at school would do that, but they don't. They teach me what I need to know". He was actually pretty good.

What is the best teaching method which keeps students interested and improves their skills?

Any thoughts and suggestions are welcome.
 

Alex_GaTech

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Jan 28, 2003
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I had a teacher that, on the first day, asked me what types of music I liked. He asked me all sorts of other questions too. During every lesson he'd spend a minute or two showing me how to use things like digital reverb units, compressors, etc. He also liked showing off gear, which helped. He'd spend a minute or two showing me whatever guitar he had with him that day if it was one I hadn't seen, which taught me a little bit about what to look for in vintage instruments/amplifiers. At any given time, I was working on a classical-style fingerpicking piece, a flatpicking piece, some sort of blues/jazz type piece to work on chord comping/turn-arounds, and because he knew what type of music I liked, he'd get the sheet music from his archives for songs and make me work them up. That was nice because I was forced to learn songs properly, but I didn't mind because I liked the song/artist. We also worked on improv, which was fun because it was like a 10-minute jam session, but I was learning too.

I guess you should keep it structured, but also teach things that the kids want to learn. If you have someone that absolutely loves country music, teach them about that telecaster/compressor/slapback delay combination, and teach them about chicken-pickin' instead of how to palm mute a detuned 7-string without offsetting the floating bridge. If you have a kid that wants to learn classical guitar, don't make him work on pick speed.

I also found that some of the best things I've gotten from instructors are those exercises that build finger dexterity, picking speed, flexibility, etc. Here's one of my favorites:

The following numbers are finger numbers for your fretting hand. 1=index, 2=middle, 3=ring, 4=pinky. Play each pattern 5 times on one string before moving to the next pattern. Then repeat all the patterns on each of the 6 strings. Use a metronome, and bump the bpm up one beat every week.

1234 | 2134 | 3124 | 4123
1243 | 2143 | 3142 | 4132
1324 | 2314 | 3214 | 4213
1342 | 2341 | 3241 | 4231
1423 | 2413 | 3412 | 4312
1432 | 2431 | 3421 | 4321

Make sure you play down the colums. col 1 first, col 4 last. Use alternating picking, and make sure you pick each note.


Doesn't look hard, but DAMN it hurts after a few strings worth. Takes damn near forever too. Supposed to do it every day, but I find it hard to do it if I'm just goofing around. One of these day's I'll get enough time to seriously practice again, and I'll make it part of my regime.
 

Gtrplyr1

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Jul 23, 2002
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378
I seldom have time to teach but as a favor I will work with a person for 6-8 weeks.

The approach I take is I find out who they want to play like. Then I will help them choose a tab book and begin to work on a song.

While learning the song I will use it as an illustration to teach theory, phrasing and technique along with examples of where the same licks are used in others songs and a lot of people are amazed how it pretty much usual relates back to chuck berry, etc.

If they are the kind of student that just doesn't know where to go or how to build a solo I always have them go through the song "crossroads". You just can't beat it for an example of playing in different positions and learning how to construct a solo.

As far as tab versus standard goes I don't even deal with standard anymore except when disussing rudimentary timing.

Most everyone is playing along with the record and picking up the timing and just using the tab as a roadmap. And besides there is no better way to indicate how something is actually played on guitar. I took lessons back in the late sixties when there wasn't a standard for tablature and people were inventing their own.

Remember the be dangerous on rock guitar columns or the booklet that ed king sold for awhile. You couldn't read it in real time.

Modern tab just cant be beat.

Just my my own opinion, but ya asked. :brow
 

Unmensch

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Jul 19, 2001
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1,035
I've always hated that "what do you want to learn" thing. It seems lazy on the part of the instructor. Knowing what there is to know is half the battle. Guidance is one thing an instructor can give that you don't get from books. While you don't want to cram anyting down the students throat, you should provide the student with some options and demonstrate when you give him/her a choice.
 
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dave michaels

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Aug 28, 2003
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Lessons

I've taken lessons several times and always dropped with the exception of one (who left to play with Clint Black).

I feel it's the teacher's responsibility to give the student a curriculum of some sort - they know what's going to help and what's worthless. When you say, "What do you want to learn?" They're pretty much going to answer with something like, "I want to play xyz song" or "xyz player".

I like the post that mentioned instructing on equipment and the like. I think it's valuable and simple to pass on knowledge about different guitars, their tones, why people want those types, etc. Amps, effects - all of it. That can be part of a lesson, but it makes a big impression when they go out to buy a piece of equipment - they have an idea in their head about what they want.

Also, I hate to say it, but some musical theory - it's so dry, I would never fill a lesson with it, but if you get 'em in the beginning with little bits they can understand and then build on it, I believe it makes a much more well-rounded player.

I also suggest exercises and advice on either chord-building (for songs - like what chords go well together) or soloing areas (depending on the level of the student).

Lastly, it would be doing songs - and that's the "applying" part of the lesson.

I think it makes it a lot harder to teach then, but it's much more rewarding for the students.

Thanks for teaching. It's a big thing no matter how you do it.
 

Dinosaur David B

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Dec 7, 2001
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193
I've always felt

I've always felt that the best teachers find out -- in the first meeting -- what a student wants to learn (ultimately) and then takes them there by giving them what they need to get there, and by using examples that are meaningful and motivational to the student. (i.e. doen't teach the kid "Michael Row the boat" when he's motivated to learn "Jumping Jack Flash." Don't teach them theory if all they want to do is play SRV songs.)

Unless you're teaching a class, you have to be able to read EACH student and their situation individually. Beginners don't know what they need. They usually have vague goals.

*Assess where they are currently.
*Find out what they want to learn (set goals)
*Develop a plan to get them there
*Use examples that motiviate them to practice (this is vital)

For example, have them bring in a cassette of a song they want to learn and a blank tape. Transcribe the parts for them on the tape. Then look for what the song may be able to teach a student. Break that song down into the the building blocks for them. If the song contains bar chords, teach them bar chords. If the song has the blues scale in it, show them the blues scale.
 

Zhangliqun

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Jul 16, 2001
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5,204
I teach mostly beginners. At that point, the curriculum is pretty much identical for everyone. They will learn the notes, the strings, tab, and -- of course -- how to read music. There really isn't much room for innovation in terms of what you're teaching. HOW you teach is another story.

I took typing years ago (and I use the keyboard a lot for a living) and in the early to intermediate going, they teach you to SAY the letter or character you are typing at the moment you type it. (After a certain point, you're typing too fast to say all the letters but you learn to say them in your head.) The memory of hearing the letter said reinforces your memory of what that character "feels" like, e.g., which hand/which finger, etc. It works.

So I thought -- why not apply that to teaching guitar? So when a student played an E, I would tell them to say "E" when they play it. They would say the entire single note line (that's all beginners do at first) they're playing, which they can do since they're going plenty slow at first. DARNED IF IT DOESN'T WORK. They learn and remember more quickly. I even write "say it when you play it" in their book on the page they're working on so they don't forget when practicing at home.

Even with the sameness of curriculum, I still ask what their ultimate goal of playing is so that further down the line (if they're still with it and with me), I can tailor the course to their needs.

And even in the beginning, I will show them some technical things about the guitar and I'll even demonstrate some advanced techniques just a little bit (can't waste time). This is not to show off, but it seems to keep them motivated. They tend to stay interested in guitar much longer because they begin to believe that they can eventually do it too since they've just seen it done in person -- no recording tricks or gimmicks to make them think it's all studio magic.

One other tip for teachers, especially if you tend to be a noodler like me. Not having a guitar in your own lap most of the time helps you to focus and concentrate on the student rather than fooling around. (I have a hard time NOT playing with a guitar in hand.) If you need to demonstrate something, just take the student's guitar, briefly demonstrate, and give it right back. Sometimes you have to both have to have guitars in hand at the same time for certain things (if you want to accompany the student, etc.), but this is something that helps me give the students the most bang for their buck.
 
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Bayou Bostick

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Which beginner book do you use? I like the Grade 1 Mel Bay book, it has a "fill in the blank" section at the end of each lesson.
 

axepilot

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Sep 8, 2002
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I'm a self taught player of 30 years. Even though I'm playing in a band with steady gigs, I still get lazy from time to time and need that shot of motivation. So, last year I started taking advanced lessons from an incredible instructor. We both laid our cards on the table the first lesson. I told him what I expected - he told me how he planned to get me there.
We kept the atmosphere light, but he challenged me to the edge of my abilities and beyond. One half hour with him sent me scampering to the woodshed to prepare for the next lesson. My work schedule changed and I had to bow out of lessons - a sad day. The 6 months I spent with him opened a huge door for my playing. I want to do that some more!

Without challenge and conquest, there is no growth. So, you instructors go right ahead and take the students to the edge. They might curse you in the beginning, but they'll definitely thank you as they grow.

My hat is off to all of you instructors!!

Axe
 

Cogswell

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Mar 19, 2002
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I have a few students, all at different levels. I try to give them three things each lesson: Something to fun to play (a different way of doing something they already know, maybe), something difficult that they don't know (that will take practice to master), & something to think about (maybe some light theory). I always tell my new students not to bother with lessons if they won't practice. There is nothing I can show them that will make them a better musician without application. It wastes their money & everyones' time.
 

susanodell1

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Oct 14, 2020
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I have been teaching on and off for 5 years (mostly off) until the beginning of this year. I have 15 students. I have tried to make the lessons fun for all, but I feel like I'm not pushing the students hard enough. In a way, I feel like I should be teaching note reading (instead of tab only) and maybe follow some set essaydune curriculum (instead of creating the curriculum for each student as we go).

Please don't! Do not turn to the set curriculum as the whole learning program! In my opinion this approach works only at the beginning to teach basics and then individual approach is defining the further process. The better connection the teacher has with a student the more fun both will have during the lesson:)
 

jrgtr42

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Mar 24, 2005
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1,924
Please don't! Do not turn to the set curriculum as the whole learning program! In my opinion this approach works only at the beginning to teach basics and then individual approach is defining the further process. The better connection the teacher has with a student the more fun both will have during the lesson:)

Considering this is a 17-year old thread, and the OP hasn't been on in a while, |I don't know it's a big deal anymore.
But personally, I think that both methods are useful - the student needs to learn the basics, the scale, notes, etc. but they also need something to keep them engaged. PLaying peices from 1902 over and over isn't going to keep the interest of a learner today (or even 17 years ago.)
So maybe split a lessson into 2 sections - the basics for half, then work on a modern song for the other part.
 
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