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  #16  
Old 12-08-2017, 02:16 PM
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Todd Tipton Todd Tipton is offline
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Finding a good teacher is trial and error. There are world class performers who are better at attracting students than they are at teaching. There are players with relatively modest abilities that have a knack for teaching. There are people with advanced prestigious degrees or even sitting in those universities who can't teach. Some of the finest teachers have no degrees. Look at colleges and universities. Look to the local guitar community. Look at music schools. Look at music stores. In all of these places you will find some of the best and worst teachers. So, you can't really judge a teacher by either where they teach or what pieces of paper they hold in their hands.

On the other side of the coin, you can't really judge a teacher by their students either. Some teachers are very good at attracting lots of students. Some places and teachers attract lots of advanced students, some of which might not even remember exactly how they learned to play. I actually kind of disagree with my own statement here. Perhaps you can learn something from the students. I wouldn't pay much attention to the best students. Rather, I would focus on the weakest students. Looking at the weakest students, you should see lots of consistency. You should see students who have good tone that are developing good slow and careful practice and study habits. You should see students playing very simple music with security and confidence rather than struggling with music too difficult for them.

And then there is the problem of teacher and student. The teacher is the one that is supposed to have the knowledge. How can a student (without the knowledge yet) effectively evaluate a good teacher?

In the most simple way, if you are working and making progress, then you are getting something good from the teacher. That is a good place to start. I will tell you something I repeat many times to my own students: I may ask you to do things that are difficult. But you should rarely be confused. If you are confused, then I am the one that is at fault. I mean, it isn't like you are sitting in a classroom, and I am having to teach to the "middle student."

A good teacher will frequently talk about the importance of habits in lessons. It will be more than just lip service. It will be more than just assigning you material. It will involve getting in the trenches, and working on the material with you. A good teacher will show you how to work more effectively and efficiently. And the role of habits in all of this will be emphasized frequently and often. This is why some of my best lessons as a student myself happened when I went to a lesson the least prepared.

And further, a good teacher will be able to develop trust with you, to motivate you to do what they want you to do. But it is far more than them just getting you to do what they want you to do. It is about them developing enough trust in order to develop a conscious change in how you approach everything.

A good teacher will also be able to show the pay off. Of course a long term pay off is important, but that isn't only what I mean. I mean very short term, clear specific examples. For example, they might insist that you play a very easy exercise with more of an arch in your right wrist and repeatedly insist that P needs to separate from the hand more. In addition, they also need to show you a piece that is pretty close to your current abilities, but uses lots of M, and A. They will be able to show you how that, if you work the way they want you to work, it will build a foundation to allow you to play a particular piece very soon, and many others just like it. This type of showing the pay off isn't absolutely necessary. But it can be very important in the beginning of the relationship to help develop trust.

A good teacher will ask you to make changes. It might be the right hand. It might be the left hand. It might be the 4th finger. It might be your seated position. It could be anything. It should be something. But they need to give you something in return. In at least some limited way, you need to be made to understand the purpose of the change.

Tone. A good teacher will help you get an amazingly wonderful tone almost immediately. They will help you to understand how to get it and why it works.

Too many times, the most motivated students may choose to spend many hours a day in the practice room. And there will be no shortage of teachers keeping them busy with assignment after assignment. A good teacher would quickly hone in on the situation and insist that you two practice together. They will show you how to make good use of your time. And right then and there in the lesson, you will learn to play a section of music well. You will learn to play it very well because they guided your practice. They may apologize for not getting to sit with you every single day, but they will remind you to go home and do your best to work in the same way you worked in the lesson so that you can get more of those excellent results they just helped you to see that you are capable of.

A good teacher will revolutionize you work. They won't insist on X amount of hours. Contrary, they may tell you just the opposite. Regardless, they will assure you that you are learning to work in an effective and efficient way. Because of this, you learn to get a lot done in a very short amount of time. They will remind you that it feels just the opposite as the mind learns to work in a new way. They will tell you that, even after a few minutes of working in this new way, you might get bored or tired. Your mind might wander, you might start repeatedly making sill mistakes. Your wheels will start to spin. Instead of insisting on my more practice, they will insist that you respect the fatigue and move on to something else or even set the guitar aside. They will even assure that by respecting the fatigue, it is the key to learning how to concentrate for longer and longer periods of time.

After a short while, you will begin learning to play easier music with a high level of security and confidence. You will gradually begin making some of your goals and a lot more.

When you find a teacher that does these things, you have found something golden. And keep it simple. If you start working with someone and you get some read flags, trust your instincts. On the other hand, if you immediately hear some of what I have written above, hang on for a while and see what happens. After a while, if you aren't making progress, but are putting in the work, then it is time to find someone else.

*******************

Oops, I didn't answer the question: How did I find MY first great teacher? It was a TOTAL accident. I actually initially dropped out of college the first time due to an incompetent teacher. Discouraged by my hard work and lack of progress, I almost made ANOTHER mistake: I made the false assumption that a teacher must be good just because they wrote a book. Haha. Turns out that man was great, but NOT because he wrote a book. It was a happy accident. I auditioned for a very particular music school headed by this man. I failed the audition miserably! Desperate to find a competent teacher, I dropped out of school, packed everything I owned into my car and drove to the city of the school where I just failed my audition. I saw an apartment complex with an office, gave them my money and got an apartment. With all my belongings still in the car, I hooked my phone up, borrowed a phone book (this was back in the day), and called the guy asking for help. He recommended my first great teacher to me. I called my new teacher, got my first lesson set up, and then I went to unload my car. Honest to God true story.
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Last edited by Todd Tipton; 12-08-2017 at 02:43 PM.
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  #17  
Old 12-08-2017, 05:55 PM
colchar colchar is offline
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That's a superb post up above.

Perhaps in addition to figuring out how to find a teacher, there should also be some discussion of what should be taught or how it should be taught. Should you be shown scales, exercises, techniques, etc.? Should you be taught how to play songs, and by playing them also learn techniques?

Another thing that you should think about is practice, specifically how to practice. I wish I had been taught how to practice properly and/or effectively as my practice routines are still sorely lacking. All the best teaching in the world won't help if you are not practicing in an efficient manner.
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  #18  
Old Yesterday, 09:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colchar View Post
That's a superb post up above.

Perhaps in addition to figuring out how to find a teacher, there should also be some discussion of what should be taught or how it should be taught. .
This can be a very loaded question. There are many fine teachers who have many ways of doing things. One of my favorite quotes was told to me by Jeffrey Van:

"A good teacher will teach well regardless of the theory he suffers from"
-- John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor

What I can tell you is some of what I do and why I do it. A significant portion of my students are strictly classical. But over half of my students "cross train." It isn't so much about learning particular styles of music. Rather, it is about learning how to work. How to use the body. The mind. Everything is comprehensive.

Personally, I am frustrated with some classical teachers who pretend no other styles of music exist, or pretend other styles of music have nothing to teach them. Hopefully, this idea will continue to go away. On the other hand, I am personally frustrated with what is sometimes a lack of structure in other styles of music. That too is beginning to go away.

In my studio, I fully bridge the gap to the best of my ability? Why? For many reasons:

1. We are learning how to use our bodies, our arms, hands, and fingers. Understanding good default positions gives us the freedom to explore many other positions on many types of instruments as we seek the music that interests us.

2. We are learning how to work. It doesn't matter if it is a new student repeatedly confusing a G for a B or if you are trying to learn an advanced solo tablature. The principles of knowing how to practice is the key from just starting a piece to actually completing the piece, and ultimately learning to perform it with security and confidence.

3. Our tastes will evolve. We probably can't predict how this will happen. But when we start making significant progress on our instrument, it will begin to start making unexpected changes in what we choose to listen to, and what we desire to play.

For those reasons, I develop a good strong foundation with all of beginning students regardless of what type of music they are interested in. I also use the material as needed with students in need of remedial work, or where basic foundations are lack. The process takes a few weeks, or a couple of months. Everyone is different.

A rank beginner with me first learns a good default seated position, a rough glance at how the entire arms of both hands work, and how we find a compromise in order to allow optimum potential with both hands working together. One of the first things I do is shape the right hand and have a student focus on tone and accuracy with P (thumb). Reading isn't a problem because we only focus on two notes and two rhythms. Very gradually, and most thoughtfully, we learn a new note or two also teaching a new fundamental for each hand.

At the very beginning, students are usually able to sight read the material. That is, they are able to play it correctly the first time they see it. Soon though, there comes a time when the student hesitates. This is a key moment, where we begin learning how to practice by isolated the passage in a very particular way.

After a few weeks (everyone is different), a rank beginner has made many accomplishments that will save them time for the rest of their lives. They have learned to read the 17 basic notes in open position with a few accidentals. They have established a good right hand foundation with both rest and free strokes. They are playing repertoire and exercises that utilizes all of the right hand fingers, P, I, M, A (well, maybe not C yet).

After a few weeks, they have established a good left hand foundation for maximum leverage using the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Left hand finger independence and dexterity has gradually unfolded and developed. A few scale patterns have already been learned. A good tone has been developed. Students have established a respectful amount of control over dynamics. Students are able to achieve various tone colors.

Strong practice skills have been developed with me in the trenches working with them. Repeatedly, students have quickly gotten results in the practice chair, during the lesson with my reinforcing that I am merely showing them how I want them to try to work when they are home.

With a rank beginner, I work with some of Aaron Shearer's Learning the Classic Guitar" Part Two. This is the primary book that allows the left and right hand fundamentals to gradually unfold in a logical way. After a week or two, I use Julio Sagreras Guitar lessons, Book 1, lessons 1-37 in a very particular way in order to assist in the reading and speed up the process.

This is a somewhat detailed, and somewhat rough snapshot of those first crucial few weeks. I've no doubt left things out. As you can see, it is no short list of accomplishments. After a few weeks, a student has a good foundation to begin venturing out on their own.

At this point, I shift most of my attention on repertoire, and various exercises gradually unfold. This is where things start to become different depending on the students' goals. For classical repertoire, I start with The Bridges Royal Conservatory of music series. Specifically, the preparatory book. The title is misleading as this really is a second level of work. (The later Book 1 is really a third level). All students, regardless of interests, are in love with the carefully handpicked modern pieces we begin working on! The more of this I can get them to enthusiastically do, the stronger the foundation. The repertoire is a delight to learn how to play, and it is a delight to play for others.

Assuming someone was a rank beginner and is a cross trainer, this is where we branch out and begin learning other things guided by a student's interest. For many, this is where the pay off really begins. Students begin approaching the various types of music that interest them, with my guidance. Students begin building more foundations as begin exploring the easiest of the music they love so much. Students begin seeing more chord diagrams, scale forms, tablature, song books, etc. The things that they may have already been somewhat familiar with are suddenly approached again in a far more effective and intelligent way due to the past building of basic foundations. Many of my students learn differnet things from various fingerstyle to death metal...LOL

Again, this is what I do in MY studio, and it is some of what I do specifically with a rank beginner, someone needing remedial training, or just quickly reinforcing some forgotten or never taught foundations.

More important, if someone only remembers one thing, it might be this right here: Their wheels might spin at home. But when they get in the lesson, the teacher and the student actually work together. The teacher shows the student how to get great results almost immediately. Significant progress is made right then and there in the lesson (sort of the opposite of "just keep working and you will eventually get it"). What I mean exactly is, a teacher has guided a student in a very particular way isolating small passages, and putting them together with the teacher as the guide. The student, in the lesson after working for several minutes, learns to play a section of a piece of music well. Very well. The teacher reminds the student to try to use what has been learned every day at home. Not the work, but how the work is done. If a teacher does that, you have something very precious. Not only is the student learning how to practice, they are accidentally nominating themselves as band leader in the near future...LOL
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Last edited by Todd Tipton; Yesterday at 09:12 PM.
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Old Yesterday, 09:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colchar View Post
wish I had been taught how to practice properly and/or effectively as my practice routines are still sorely lacking. All the best teaching in the world won't help if you are not practicing in an efficient manner.
Short answer. I promise!

A gem of a book is Ricardo Iznaola on Practicing: A Manual for Students of Guitar. It is smaller than a comic book and has lots of very useful information. The title is misleading as most of the information is extremely helpful for anyone.
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Old Today, 01:06 AM
tonyo tonyo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vindibona1 View Post
Not to digress, but in terms of frequency, I always found it interesting (if not appalling) that serious sports guys are expected to get coaching every day, while we musician (especially developing musician) feel that once a week is considered "frequent". Heck, a beginning skier would go to a resort and have lessons every day for a week (or more). Where did we ever come up with our concept of lesson frequency?
I certainly consider once a week lessons too frequent for me. To practice and incorporate what's covered in a half or hour long lesson will take me longer than a week.
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Old Today, 05:20 AM
AX17609 AX17609 is offline
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I found people whose playing I liked, and I pestered them to give me lessons.
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Old Today, 08:07 AM
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Great question, and a lot of great responses.

Hereís my take: Its much easier to find fabulous musicians who teach than it is to find fabulous teachers who can play. As an example, Iíve now spoken with several guitarists who studied with Joe Pass the legendary jazz guitarist. Both of his students described him as a lousy teacher. They both quit after taking enough lessons to be able to put ĎIíve studied with Joe Passí on their resumes.

So how do you determine if their passion for teaching rivals their passion for playing? Start with interviewing them on their teaching method. Do they get really excited when talking about their teaching techniques? What is their approach to learning the instrument and learning music? Judge their passion for the teaching profession.

Iíve noticed that teachers fall into two categories: ďTell me what you want to learn and Iíll teach thatĒ. OR. ďThis is what you must know if you want to play a certain way.Ē Letís call these two styles: Song vs. Method teaching style. Itís been my experience that the method approach is more suitable for the more advanced students, those who are after a certain type of mastery of the instrument.

Iíve had both types of teachers after many decades of taking lessons. For example, I was on an extended 6 month business trip, went to the local music store got a teacher and told him I wanted to learn some Beatles tunes. Bingo! He had prepared music and lessons that was exactly what I wanted.

My current teacher I picked because I wanted to learn to improvise over key changes, and get a more complete knowledge of the fretboard, reading charts and knowledge of music. For the long haul, this teacher is the one I want to study with. Heís written several Ďmethodí books, is working on a third text, and is also a gigging musician playing in both a rock/pop cover band, as well as a 1940ís type big band.
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Old Today, 09:12 AM
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My current Skype teacher is the author of the fingerstyle course I was working through. He offered Skype lessons so I decided to give it a try and it has worked out extremely well. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him.
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