The True Teacher

I want to tell you what I have learned about The True Teacher, and what True Teaching is, whether teaching guitar, or anything else.

0
I am now going to write about something for which I feel the utmost passion. If I could only get across one message, and for some reason wasn't allowed to say anything else, this is what I would want to say. I want to tell you what I have learned about The True Teacher, and what True Teaching is, whether teaching guitar, or anything else. The reason this message is so important, is because a widespread understanding of it would lead to a radical change in the experience and development of the aspiring guitarist, and most importantly, a radical change, for the better, of the level of achievement of the average guitar student. And if by some reason you disagree with me at the end of the discussion, and that is certainly your right, you won't be able to invalidate my conviction that my own experience and development as a guitarist and musician would have benefited immensely from having these things understood and practiced by the many people who served as my teachers. And I want to make clear that some of these were understood and practiced by some of my teachers, and I was eternally grateful when they were, and damaged when they weren't.

Empowerment

First, let's talk about the True Goal of the Teacher. It is empowerment. Empowerment of the student. The True Teachers utmost desire is to aid, guide, and do whatever it takes to bring the student to their place of happiness and fulfillment as a musician and guitarist. The student may not have a clear idea of what this place is, and certainly not where it is. The teacher may not know either, but he knows more than the student, and he must help the student feel their way if necessary. The True Teacher knows that if this person is destined to be a musician, (which is another way of saying if they really want it bad enough), then their place of happiness and fulfillment does exist, and can be found. And the true teacher resolves to do whatever it takes to make that come about. For the guitar student, empowerment means the Confidence and Certainty that you have the Understanding and Knowledge you need to fulfill any desires you may have now, or will have later, concerning playing the guitar. For me, it meant knowing that I can do anything I want on the guitar, and if I can't, I find out how, and by Correct Practicing, learn to do whatever it was I wanted. As I began to have this feeling of confidence and empowerment, it was a wonderful thing. And for so long, I didn't have this feeling. And needing to play the Classical Guitar, it was particularly necessary to feel equal to the challenges. Classical guitar is one of the more difficult styles, you know. The urgent need, the necessity to have the student become "powerful", and "get it", every step of the way, is the hallmark of the True Teacher. The need to see results, progress, happiness and fulfillment on the part of the student, makes The True Teacher try one way, then another, then another, no matter how long it takes or how creative or unorthodox he or she must become.

Teaching The Way You Were Taught

I contend most teachers begin by teaching the way they were taught. They begin using some approach that perhaps worked for them Often it only worked partially, and there are still a lot of gaps in the teachers own Understanding and Knowledge. (The True Teacher is also the Good Student, always learning and expanding, and being open). But guess what! Once you start teaching lots of people, that one approach is NOT going to work for a lot of your students. When I was 17, I had been playing for three or four years, and studied Classical Guitar for only one year at a little Community Music School that had a lot of fine teachers. I was extremely grateful that I had found a "real" classical guitarist there, who corrected so many of the harmful things I had done trying to teach myself classical. (I had no choice, since it was very difficult to even find a classical teacher back then). He equipped me, that is empowered me as best he could, but we both knew when he had reached his limits, and when I would have only continued to make, what I called in my first essay, Horizontal Growth, not a true raising of my level as a guitarist and musician, or Vertical Growth. Even though I had far to go in my own development, the school asked me to teach there. Believe me, in that little fish pond, everybody thought I was a pretty big fish. The average person thought I played pretty well, impressive in fact, because the average person is impressed if you can play anything that sounds "classical". Thank God I knew better! When I started teaching, forget it! I couldn't get results from most people. Later on I would understand why. I would understand that I had a fair amount of what is called "natural talent", and I also practiced all the time. So I learned real fast. I quickly learned how to make a decent showing with some rather complicated pieces in the classical repertoire, but many of my students were struggling with the simplest things, and I couldn't get them to "get it", to play at least somewhat like I could. I was also, in my ignorance often giving students pieces that were far beyond them, that would do them harm to try to play, because they would be acquiring many bad habits in trying to cope with the technical demands of these pieces. I would also see later on that this was and is a common occurrence. It was so frustrating, I felt like a thief taking their money, so I quit my teaching gig. (I don't recommend this. I'd often wished later I didn't, but I tend to be impulsive sometimes). When I went back to teaching a few years later, it was with a renewed sense of commitment to always searching for the answer for every student I encountered, to always figure out what it was this person wanted, and what they needed to get it. It is because of this constant orientation that I developed "The Principles of Correct Practice for Guitar", those fundamentals of playing and practicing that are always true, no matter what style or what level of player you are. These are the things good players are doing, whether they know it or not. And most of these things are things they are doing when they practice, not when they play. But I digress. I just thought it would be helpful to describe myself in the position of being The Bad Teacher, really The Ignorant Teacher. If I would have let it continue I would have become "The Lazy Teacher". I have met some of those. They could also be called the "Hey I don't care THAT much, after all, I can play, if you can't it must be your fault, and anyway I'm getting paid either way, Teacher". I was once talking to a fellow teacher, and he said "God forbid I should be judged by my students". I thought, "God forbid anyone who really wants to play and is willing to work should ever be your student". I mean, how else SHOULD a teacher be judged? By how well THEY play? No, that's how we should judge them as players. Teaching is a whole different thing. Understand this. You can be a great player and a lousy teacher. Often, great players are lousy teachers. Segovia is an example. Just listen to John Williams or many other of his "students" describe his teaching. It was how Chopin taught. Do it like this, like I do". If you were supremely talented, you could come up with something acceptable. If not, you got the boot! Guess which one happened most often. Great players often don't know why they're great. Always try to find one that does, or is interested in finding out, and communicating it to you. And then notice whether they ARE communicating it you. Are you making Vertical or Horizontal Growth? I have a rule in teaching...... If the student is not learning, it's my fault. Assuming the student has desire, and is doing what I am telling them, if they are not making real progress, then I'm not telling them the right thing to do. Or I'm not telling them anything to do! So I need to pay attention, and keep trying new things, or put it in a different order, or whatever, until something WORKS for them. My last essay was on Aggressive Practicing, you could call this Aggressive Teaching. I guess that is why I'm writing this now, because if you are not being taught this way, you are being short changed in your training to DO Aggressive Practicing, and you should know this. Also understand, no teacher is perfect. Being a True Teacher is not a state you attain, it is a PROCESS you engage in. A Good Student tries to help the teacher be true by always letting them know when they don't "get" something. Always keep asking questions when you don't understand something, unless your teacher wisely lets you know you cannot have full understanding of something, but you can have enough to use it, and allow your understanding to grow. It is often this way. But you must never feel like you are totally CONFUSED, that is, feel CLUELESS. You must feel like you have some kind of handle on something. Keep asking questions till you do. Beware of teachers who get irritated when you don't get something. That is a warning sign. You are making them feel inadequate. And they want to put the blame on you! (Unless you are not paying attention and trying your hardest, in which case, you should be blamed).They don't want to examine their approach. Have you ever seen the situation where someone is trying to talk to someone else, and then discovers that that person doesn't understand English, or whatever language they are speaking? The first thing they do, and it's kind of natural, is start talking louder, even shouting at them. As if that would make them understand! How many times did I have a teacher who wasn't paying enough attention to notice I had no idea what they were talking about! I used to have a voice teacher shout at me all the time "Space, give me space". I was clueless. My head is on backwards when it comes to singing. I need it broken down to the molecular level. I think I made him mad. I'm sure it worked with lots of people. Not me. The True Teacher is always concerned with what the student is hearing, not what they, the teacher are saying. The True Teacher is always concerned with what the student is hearing, not what they, the teacher are saying. Often, for whatever reason, even though the student is listening, he or she isn't 'hearing" anything. Let me close by saying this. True Teaching is Love. For guitarists, it is intense love of the guitar and intense desire to share that love with someone who desires it also. And what is Love? It's simple, to love means to "be with". That's all. The True Teacher loves the student, and loves the desire in the student that is the same as his own desire. The True Teacher is always trying to be inside, or "with" the student, knowing what they are thinking, feeling, and how they are experiencing this process of 'learning the guitar".

I Have To Teach, It's The Only Way I Can Learn!

And for teachers, here is the most important and wonderful fact. When you engage the process of True Teaching, and are truly "with" the student, your own insight and growth will be accelerated! You will come to an awareness and understanding of your own areas of confusion, and you will be shown the light by your honest attempts to show it to someone else. And again, I have found this to be true as a teacher of guitar, and as a parent, which is another name for "Teacher". In the movie The Crow, (starring the son of the great Master Bruce Lee) the main character says something I have always remembered. He is talking to a drug addict mother who is abusing her child. He says "Mother is the name of God on the lips of children". He is trying to make her see her real responsibility and position. To the child, the Parent IS God. The parent can, and will create a wonderful empowered being, or a partially or completely crippled person. I know this from personal experience as both a parent and a child. I am also a student and a teacher. When it comes to music, "Teacher is the name of God on the lips of the student". The teacher has the power, especially in the beginning. The True Teachers job is to strive to transfer and share that power with the student. The True Teachers fondest desire should be that the deserving student takes everything, uses it, and surpasses the Teacher. Let us all be the best we can be. Copyright by Jamie Andreas. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission. www.guitarprinciples.com Learn how to get the most out of your practice time!

42 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    epiphone_sg
    every1 has taken classes specially if ure in a band u learn how to syncronize with ur band mates or ur rhythm/lead guitarist u learn new shit all the time even when ure like in skool or listening to music or wutever u get something new u get more skill u butholes tht wus an awesome article and u say its long n uve been all prolly been wating like a ear waiting for nolan whyte to write a new chapter of in the road on comeback (includes me) also my teacher is true teacher since ive never picked up any bad habit like most ppl dont' do alternate picking or wutevver im proud of him now lol
    RevolverX
    I'm self-taught, and I've gone through HUNDREDS of bad habits - ie. anchoring my pinky on the pickguard, picking from the arm instead of the wrist, resting my hand lightly on the bridge/strings. Having a teacher, I could have avoided almost all of them and saved a ton of time and grief. But, I'm the first to say, if it works, do it. Some bad habits cater to certain styles, especially metal - and it's all gravy until you try mixing it up. I remember how long it took for me to master the blues shuffle in SRV's "Pride and Joy" because I rested my hand on the guitar to help palm mute a ton of pedal notes. I'd say, then, that bad habits can work, but they'll make the learning process harder, and potentially hazardous to your ... uhm. "hand-health". But, look at Michael Angelo Batio. The guy's technique is god AWFUL, but he's still a formidable player. Just an opinion, of course ...
    bass_gtarace
    powerpiker wrote: you wrote all of that to explain your retarded
    What a dick! Get a life and write your own damn article!
    bluesblaster
    Lord_Xian wrote: Well, all your students are going to sound like less good versions of you. Teachers are for fools, the best guitarists sat down on their own for ours and worked out their fretboard. Herman Li is completely self taught, go tell him he has picked up 'bad habits'
    buddy, bad habits get picked up by everyone who is self taught, they just iron them out later i.e. go ask Herman Li if he has ever had RMS (repetitive movement syndrome) or, in your terms, carpal tunnel, that is caused by bad habits
    niuguitarman
    powerpiker wrote: you wrote all of that to explain your retarded
    i just want to say well done and i agree... however... yeah, it was a little long. but, great anyway. oh, and i think the supposed non-retard would be able to use the correct spelling of "you're" when it is needed. this person is obviously an arrogant prick with poor grammer who can't teach. kudos.
    Roybordom
    dude, you sounded like you were out of one of those old japanese movies like "believe in your inner peace" and all that stuff, bottom line though, you made a good point
    Lord_Xian
    Well, all your students are going to sound like less good versions of you. Teachers are for fools, the best guitarists sat down on their own for ours and worked out their fretboard. Herman Li is completely self taught, go tell him he has picked up 'bad habits'
    hardcoreatheist
    excellent 10/10. Beautifully written, people who say it's too long must have short attention spans or something.
    pitbull510
    didnt they teach you in school to make articles interesting. Seriously though, I was bored outta my mind, like two paragraphs into it. Lame. I'll bet its a good article, and I agree with you, but spice it up, plz!
    Skyboy4788
    Lord_Xian wrote: Well, all your students are going to sound like less good versions of you. Teachers are for fools, the best guitarists sat down on their own for ours and worked out their fretboard. Herman Li is completely self taught, go tell him he has picked up 'bad habits'
    True, there are countless of the top guitarists in the field who are self taught, but to be that good, one will learn the good habits that are described in this essay later on in their guitar ventures.. Techniques are consistent whether they are teacher-taught or self-learned. I don't see anything wrong with a teacher starting a student off on the right foot and teaching students the basics of the instrument. I know I am reiterating this, but it is an important point.
    neoamir
    Lord_Xian wrote: Well, all your students are going to sound like less good versions of you. Teachers are for fools, the best guitarists sat down on their own for ours and worked out their fretboard. Herman Li is completely self taught, go tell him he has picked up 'bad habits'
    well, i gotta tell, you , that i self taught myself for over a year, so i know chords almost perfect, but i hardly know Scales, and Notes.
    BigBall
    This is a truly a great article, i can recognize my own experinces, both as student and teacher.
    Chiefwiddler
    I think this was written BY a teacher FOR teachers. I found it pointless. You should know if your teacher is any good...its quite obvious...a basic grasp of mood, the english language, and a brain cell is more than adequate!
    God of All
    I enjoyed the majority of this column because I myself am a guitar teacher. The introductory paragraph was a little weak,
    I am now going to write about something for which I feel the utmost passion. If I could only get across one message, and for some reason wasnt allowed to say anything else, this is what I would want to say. I want to tell you...
    One should not start any piece of writing with "I am now going to write about..." because it just makes for a lame first sentence. Also, the repetitiveness of "I want to say..." and "I will tell you..." is a little bit tedious. But other than that, I found this to be a pretty good column and I will be sure to recommend it to some of my co-workers to read! Keep on rockin' in the moderately free world! \m/
    Renfordoggz
    this is a good article better than the guy who wrote that stupid metal review of 2006. That was just a bunch of what can only be described as crap written by a ego-filled dude. But at least he's a mucsian and so is this guy he's got better articles on other guitar websites and they help like hell.....
    metallicat420
    psycho78 wrote: for some reason, whenever i got to the bolded words & terms, i pictured dr. evil doing the quote thing with his hands.
    same here :S it was a good read though
    lady_brandy_198
    Excellent Article 10/10 All of those with the negative comments obviously are pretty immature and don't understand why the article was written in such a way. Too bad for those guys!
    guitarfreak123
    I really liked it and i agree with many things that u talked aout. I'd give you 10 stars for it but it made one of my eyes bleed so i'll give u 9/10.
    Angelus Mortem
    My first teacher was a stack of KISS records I liked this article a lot since i have tried to teach several new players, most of them not really getting the results i had hoped for, and one that exceeded my expectations. I think i learned ( at least a little ) from my failed attempts. I really don't understand how UG ended up with all these "Attitude Trolls" that have to post something negative about every column a user writes, but hey, if the trolls could do better, i guess thye wouldn't be trolling would they?
    Glen'sHeroicAct
    wow, im glad im probably not going to be a teacher so i won't have to read that. actually i probly will become a teacher. but i still won't read that.
    merrill_howard
    wow..this is amazing...ive been waiting for someone to do this...im in high school...and my music teacher is pathetic...he is the exact opposite of a TRUE TEACHER...he tries to get around things so much...i take bass lessons and have been for 2 years...and my bass teacher is an amazing teacher...although i havent been the best student...but im being more honest with him now...cuz i wasnt so much for a long time...i really didnt enjoy theory and the like....i dunno...ive changed...im really into it now...i like pushing myself...although i have so much work to do...so much to do..so little time...anyways...i really like this article...congrats on writing it...almost everyone else was rude about it...but i think it was amazing...10 out of 10
    cerveza
    psycho78 wrote: for some reason, whenever i got to the bolded words & terms, i pictured dr. evil doing the quote thing with his hands.
    **** dude that's wierd, so did i cheers
    rifftnstrings
    Thanks for that, dude. I think there was some truth in the things you talked about, however, I'm a human being, so therefore I cannot Understand. But anyways, if more teachers adhered to this basic goal/belief, we as students would generally be far better off.
    cokeisbetter
    ^Haha, I tried that. I laughed my head off. And yes, this was a load of crap that could have easily been condensed into one or two paragraphs.
    captain_bunker
    its alot of words describing something simple. you really didnt need to write that much about it the subject isnt that broad when your explaining only one way. thats alot of opinion too its not really factual
    psycho78
    for some reason, whenever i got to the bolded words & terms, i pictured dr. evil doing the quote thing with his hands.
    z4twenny
    i'd give it a 10 too, i've been playing for 12 years and consider myself pretty freakin' good (i never fail to draw a crowd), but i'll be taking lessons in the next week or so and now have a good idea as to what to look for in the teacher which is great
    JD Red LP
    i really liked this article, I can descirbe my first teacher as a "lazy teacher", my second one (myself) as an 'ignorant teacher", and my thrid one as an almost perfect teacher.
    wanna_lick_me?
    I'll be forever grateful i had a good teacher to get me started. too bad i wadnt such a good student... ****. joe kiernan, where art thou?
    _angry_again
    I think all the negative comments about this might reflect 'those' students that will never really 'get it'. EXCEPT the one that said: "you wrote all of that to explain your retarded"--> I laughed my head off about that one. but seriously, the only reason the author turned something that could be said in ten words into like fifteen paragraphs is to convey its importance. maybe a little drawn out, but still 10/10. this article is right on the money.
    SethMegadefan
    powerpiker wrote: you wrote all of that to explain your retarded
    Why has this post not been deleted yet? By the way, great article. Though I'm just a student myself, you did a great job of explaining the job of the teacher. I didn't think you over-explained, it was well-paced, and overall a pretty solid article. 10/10, because the idea of it coupled with how you wrote it is phenomenal.
    HellBent1337
    Another article of yours that I don't like.... However I respect that you're doing a lot of work (that's a longass article) for charity.