Sometimes on guitar forums you’ll see someone posting asking for guitar teacher recommendations. They will list their location, musical genres they want to learn, and perhaps also some details about their goals. Using forums in this way is a great idea, because often you will get a list of teachers that you can then research. This research will then often lead to finding a suitable teacher. Yay!
Unfortunately, even if you contact a teacher who has an excellent reputation who has helped many people over the years, there is still a massive unaccounted for variable. And what’s the variable? You!
It’s important to realize that even the best guitar teacher in the world can’t help someone that is not teachable. Improving your playing with the help of a teacher is a team effort. You need to be open to the learning process and willing to do what your teacher says.
I know this seems obvious, but I know from experience that not everyone has a high degree of teachability. Often guitarists will bring their preconceptions into the learning process which makes it hard for me to help them. They will generally be very resistant to what I’m teaching, even though if they did what I said their playing would improve a lot.
Because being teachable is so critical to getting results and value from guitar lessons, I thought I’d talk a little bit about how to become more teachable…
Focus On Your Goals Not The Process
It is very important to focus your energies on deciding what your long-term goals are, and then communicating those goals as clearly as possible to your teacher. It’s then your teacher’s job to decide on the exact strategies and lesson content needed to move you towards those goals. It’s then your job to work as hard as possible at what you’re taught during lessons.
It’s not up to the student to decide on the specific process needed to achieve the long-term goals. If they knew that, then they would already be able to do what they want to learn!
Realise That All Teachers Are Unique
Many times guitarists will compare their current teacher to the previous ones that they have had. It’s a normal thing to do. The trouble is that some guitarists think negatively about the current teacher because they don’t do things the same way as their previous teachers. In other words, these guitar players have a preconception about the way that teachers “should” teach. The problem with this is that just because a teacher uses different methods than what you’re used to, doesn’t mean that those methods won’t help you.
Every single teacher you could go to for lessons is different and unique. And they all have something valuable to offer. For Example: I’ve had lessons from six different guitar teachers in my life and they all had different personalities, musical backgrounds, playing abilities and teaching methods. They all helped my playing in some way. Sure, a couple of teachers helped me more compared to the others. (Mainly because I studied with them for a long time). But that doesn’t mean that the others didn’t help me a lot. They all made it possible for me to progress faster than if I just continued teaching myself.
Learn To Trust Or Quit
Learning to trust your guitar teacher is incredibly important. If you don’t, then you’re unlikely to do what they say. Students who never learn to trust their teacher will gain little value from continuing lessons. They’ll always be argumentative and skeptical about what’s being taught to them.
I’m definitely not saying that you should blindly trust your teacher. It’s important to ask questions, and gain clarification on how what they are teaching you relates to your goals. But it’s also important to realize that you won’t truly understand the importance of what they’re teaching you until you do the work. Once you do the necessary work, you’ll be able to see with your own two eyes just how important it is. For Example: I could explain to a student until I’m blue in the face the importance of ear training. I could also give examples of students who have done ear training and seen massive improvements to their playing as a result. But until they actually do ear training on a regular basis for a long time, they won’t really understand all the benefits.
My advice is this. Ask yourself this simple question…”Do I trust my guitar teacher?”. If you don’t, then find another one. Because until you trust whoever is teaching you, you’re probably wasting your time and money.
At the risk of sounding like a smug git, I need to say here that I’ve always gotten great results from taking guitar lessons. Always. I think that the biggest reason for this is that I’m a very diligent student. I have always taken what the teacher has given me, and done an absurd amount of work on it. I don’t try to overanalyze the merit of what they are teaching me. I just listen to them, ask some questions, and then get stuck in with working hard on it. Here’s an example…
When I first got interested in jazz I got a lesson from a jazz guitarist who was teaching at the same music school as me. During the lesson he noticed that I was having a lot of trouble playing with a decent jazz feel, and one of his recommendations was to start transcribing Wes Montgomery. I asked him what a good album would be to start transcribing. He recommended The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery. (It’s a great album by the way).
So I went out that afternoon and tracked down and bought a copy from a local music store. I then proceeded to transcribe every melody and solo that Wes played on that album. It took me months to do, but it transformed my guitar playing forever. That one bit of advice made an incredible difference to my jazz playing.
Now here’s the thing. I could have easily heard that bit of advice and done nothing. I could have dismissed the advice as not being particularly important or valuable. And how much would have doing that helped my playing? Not one bit.
When you get lessons you need to give it your best effort. Sure, you probably don’t have hours and hours a day to practice. But you should take every bit of advice and information given to seriously. Really seriously. Work as hard as you can with the time that you have available. If you don’t do this, then you’re not really giving your teacher, the lessons, or yourself a fair chance.
Forget What You Already Know
OK, I don’t literally mean forget what you know. 🙂 That’s impossible. What I mean is to try not to let your previous musical knowledge color the learning process too much. If you cling too hard to the beliefs and knowledge that you currently have, then it can make you very resistant to learning new ideas. (Especially if those new ideas contradict what you already know).
A Few Last Words
It was probably a gigantic waste of time writing this article. Why? Because the guitarists who aren’t teachable probably won’t even take the time to read it! They’ll automatically assume that they know best, and that their way of doing things is the “right” way.
Anyway, if you’ve read this article and made it this far…good luck with your guitar learning adventures. Be sure to keep an open mind anytime that you take lessons. And remember, no guitar teacher can help you if you’re not teachable!
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