Ramblings From The Teaching Side

date: 05/16/2011 category: features
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Those that can: do, those that can't: teach There is some validity to that statement. I came to the conclusion years ago, that you do not have to be an outstanding musician to be an outstanding teacher. That said, if I am demonstrating a piece of music or technique to a student, I had better be able to execute it myself. Nothing worse than stumbling through something while they roll their eyes, fidget and look around the room. If I have not played something for a long while, I try to spend some time relearning the piece before I have to teach it. Fortunately, most songs come back to me quickly. I am always amazed at how confident I am playing in front of my students as opposed to playing for my peers or an audience at a gig. Years of teaching has allowed me to relax in this situation. There seems to be no show me what you can do pressure, although they are hanging on every note, chord and word that comes out. Equally amazing to me, is how easy it is come up with something while you are doing a lesson. Whether its simplifying a song or composing a solo, it always seems to be much easier with the student present. I don't mean that I am getting feedback from the student. They usually have that what the hell is he doing look on their face. I am not putting myself in their place either. Creativity just seems to flow. On my own, I can sit there for hours and come up empty handed. I don't know if it happens to other teachers, but it does to me. Over the years, I have learned not to be so hard on myself. I used to beat myself up over every student that called it quits, thinking that it must be my fault. People leave for many different reasons: lack of funds, lack of time, hockey, soccer, baseball, etc, etc, etc. Seem to me that music lessons hold last place in the pecking order. As I gained experience teaching, I learned how to read students. If they could not get a handle on something, I would take another route. Anything to get and hold their interest. It's not catering to them, its creating an enjoyable experience. If they don't enjoy it, they won't come back. When I started teaching full time, I made a commitment to put everything I could into it. I didn't go with the standard: 10 minutes to tune up, 20 minutes to work out a song from the recording and scribble down an indecipherable tab.This practice has definitely given the guitar teaching profession a bad name. In a recent interview, Johnny Lang stated that he took one guitar lesson. The teacher asked him what song he wanted to learn. He said he didn't want to learn a song, he wanted to learn how to play guitar. Exactly. Also, I found that students could not maintain an interest in the beginning method books on the market, and they still can't. How the hell can you seriously look at a 15 year old with a spiked up blue mohawk, and tell him this week we are working on Three Blind Mice. I spent a lot of prep time arranging lessons and transcribing songs by hand, then later on a computer with a professional transcription program. I had each student's name on a divider in binders. Each week I would fill up their slots in the binder with the lessons that they were to work on. I went above and beyond the call of duty. Not once did I subscribe to the my time is money attitude. All this work was very tedious at the beginning, but has paid off. Those lessons are now arranged in a progressive order in book form. These methods have proven to be extremely effective, and of course, I know them inside out, since I created them. In recent years, internet tab has become a teacher's nightmare. I know of schools that use nothing but these tabs as a basis of study for their students. Many of these tabs are written by beginners, and it shows. Incorrect notes, incorrect chords, sometimes they sound nothing like the song at all. Many of these sites have been pulled due to copyright infringement. Good riddance. I have lost students to the internet, thinking that they do not need face to face instruction. Nothing replaces the guidance and knowledge that comes from a competent teacher. Learning to play is much easier when there is someone to demonstrate the right techniques and answer any questions that may arise. TOP 10 WAYS YOU WILL KNOW YOU ARE AN AGING GUITAR TEACHER: #10 You wonder if Stairway To Heaven will ever go away. #9 You now believe that your parents were right, Jimi Hendrix was just to damned loud. #8 Students ask you for an up-to-date song. You bring in Smoke On The Water. #7 Watching MTV to stay on top of things lasts about two minutes. #6 It seems like only yesterday you could whack a G7sus4 and everyone knew it was the chord at the beginning of a Hard Day's Night. #5 You are the only one who doesn't ask for the guitar while sitting around a campfire. #4 Everyone raves about your phrasing. Not a word about your speed. #3 Your car stereo is constantly tuned to an all news station. #2 When students mention scream-o music, you think they are talking about James Brown. #1 You are doing what you love, and still waiting for the money to come.
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