The Importance of Having a Good Guitar Teacher and How to Assess Them: Part III

By James Flood

In Part II I discussed how to go about finding a good teacher. In Part III I will discuss how to assess whether or not to stick with the teacher once you’ve begun lessons.

Positive signs

-The teacher is fully engaged.

-He or she appears determined that you be successful in learning the guitar and/or becoming a better guitarist.

– If you are a beginner, his or her emphasis is on proper technique, i.e., how to hold the guitar, how to position both hands, arms and fingers, and the proper movements of these.

– If you are a beginner, rather than rushing to play songs you happen to like, the teacher emphasizes the basics, or fundamentals, not only of guitar, but of music in general. This should include how to read music and how rhythm works. Songs that you play at the beginning are not based on the criterion of what you want to play, but rather songs that will best function to help you gain basic guitar skills in a step by step fashion. Only after you attain certain basic skills does the teacher begin to select music based in part on what you simply want to play.

-The teacher’s approach appears well thought out, organized and methodical. Skills seem to be introduced in a logical step-by-step fashion.

– The teacher introduces new material, new songs, new skills only after you’ve achieved a certain level of competence on the songs and skills that you have been working on. Only a certain number of skills can be learned at a time, and new skills cannot be properly attained if the preceding skills are not properly learned.

– While the teacher may be challenging, they assign songs and skills that are within your reach, and avoid assigning things that are beyond your skill level.

Negative signs

-The teacher appears either bored or disengaged as if they would rather be doing something else rather than teaching you, or teaching at all.

– The teacher acts as if you’re taking up their time or is even a little rude, even though it is within the time you are paying them for.

– He or she doesn’t seem to care much about your success in learning the guitar.

– If you are at the beginning level, the teacher may be nice but fails to go into detail about technique, that is, positioning of body, hands, and fingers as well as how all of these should move.

-He or she seems to have a haphazard and disorganized approach. Last week it was something, and then the following week there is no follow up with what was discussed the previous week and you’re onto something new.

-The skills taught do not seem to be progressing in a logical step-by step fashion.

– He or she often shows annoyance or impatience though you’ve done your reasonable best to practice.

-If you are a beginner, the teacher immediately starts giving you songs simply based on what you want to play, rather than songs that act as building blocks.

-He or she can’t seem to come up with solutions to the problems you are having.

– He or she spends a lot of lesson time simply playing rather than teaching, as if they’re more interested in showing off.

– Before you’ve learned to play a song or songs well, the teacher drops them and starts assigning new songs.

– He or she assigns songs and/or exercises that are simply impossible for you to do well. They are beyond your level.

– You’ve been taking for a number of months and you’re not seeing progress, but the teacher doesn’t seem to care.

One other thing that needs to be mentioned is the right fit. It is possible that a teacher is a truly good teacher but is not the right fit for you. This could be because they are not competent enough in a certain area of guitar. For instance, you may want to learn classical, but while the teacher plays classical it is not an area that they have committed years of serious study to. Classical is a different beast that demands years of single-minded study as well as good training before one can teach it to others. The same can be said more or less said of jazz. But it may be that someone who is very competent in classical or jazz doesn’t have the competency level enough for another style like say blues.

It could also be that a teacher is one who pushes their students hard. This is a very good trait, but if you are in 30s, 40s or 50s, and learning the guitar is merely a hobby to enjoy amidst your busy schedule, you may want a more relaxed approach. Likewise, if you are young and talented and are thinking about guitar as a possible career, your teacher may be good, but you need someone who will push you harder.

The point is, you have a goal in mind for either yourself or your child and personal monetary resources as well as time are being expended. You should make sure that the teacher is a good one and the right one for you.

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