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Old 07-01-2009, 01:58 PM
Jack Orion Jack Orion is offline
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Default Problems with guitar teacher/lessons (long)...

Hi,

I'm self-taught, been playing about nine years, mainly electric until a year or so ago when I really started concentrating on acoustic.

Started off by wanting to learn 'Angi' (Bert Jansch's version) and taught myself to play it pretty well. Moved on to some Robert Johnson, 30's style blues and some 60s/70s folkies (John Martyn etc) and was reseaonably happy with my progress and the sounds I was getting.

But... I felt my playing had got as far as it could without some outside help, so I started having guitar lessons.

Initially my teacher seemed impressed by what I'd taught myself, but then he proceeded to 'lecture' me about my hand positioning (both left and right) and then gave me some excercises to correct it. Now i knew this would need some work so I spent a week working on those excercises and made some improvements.

Next lesson he gave me more excercises, without going over the first week's.

Then the next lesson he gave me some more, and some sight-reading to learn, and some flamenco progressions... without going over what we'd already done.

At this point i started to think that he's not the guy for me - I decided to give him two weeks and mention that I was concerned we were not going over anything we'd previously done.

We ended up having a long conversation (that took up all of my lesson) about where the lessons were going (something we'd already discussed in the first session). I felt that I was being given too much to work on, and, also, that I would prefer to make slower progress on the technical side of things, but learn more 'music' as we went along.

He seems dead against this - "I will not ruin a piece of music because of your lack of technique" or words to that affect.

So I'm going to look for someone else.

My question is... am I being unrealistic?

I'm aware that my technique is somewhat flawed (though I've seen great players who are all thumbs over the top and right-knee resters so maybe that's not too much of an issue, I don't know), but I CAN play the guitar pretty well, therefore I don't think it's unreasonable to learn some music as well as excercises.

Ideally I'd like to have a peice to aim towards, that would demand my technique improved simply by the difficulty of the peice... I suggested Bouree in Em but my teacher balked at this, saying it was far too advanced (though, with some tab and a few different recordings, I've made some, albeit small, advances myself).

An interesting point is that the teacher kept informing me that it would take two years at least to get my hands to play in the 'correct' position - he also made a joke about how this was good because it meant more money for him - I think this says a lot about why we weren't reviewing things and he was, IMO, flooding me with too much info (a memorable diversion was a ten minute lecture on the circle of fifths, which ended with 'you don't need to know that')

I'm beginning to ramble a little now so I'll leave it there, suffice to say i just wanted to hear from any teachers/students with similar experiences.
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Old 07-01-2009, 02:06 PM
Brent Hutto Brent Hutto is offline
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What he is saying may in fact be perfectly true and reasonable advice...for some other guitar player. Obviously if the student isn't fully behind the process then it ain't gonna work. It sounds like he is really suited to work with a certain range of students and you fall outside that range because you're not willing to put "music" on the shelf for months or years while you get your "technique" in order, right?

Here's the hard part. What you've got to ask yourself is to what extent you can meet your musical goals without "correcting" (from your teacher's point of view) the self-taught technique quirks that are holding you back. While this guy sounds particularly inflexible, it is possible that what he's telling you is You Can't Get There From Here, to coin a phrase.

He seems to be of the opinion that the stuff he wants to change technique-wise is absolutely, unquestionably necessary before you can advance in the direction you ultimately want to go. He may be full of beans but OTOH he may be at least partly right. If he doesn't fill you with trust in his judgment about this question, then you have to fall back on your own thoughts and instincts. Or get input from another experienced teacher.
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Old 07-01-2009, 02:13 PM
Jack Orion Jack Orion is offline
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I think what he is saying is true - ultimately to be the best guitar player I could be, I need to change my technique...

However, I am what I am. I'm not aiming to be a perfect classical guitarist, I'd just like to turn my hand(s) to a few simple pieces. I don't want to be a virtuoso jazz player, but I'd like to incorporate a little 'jazziness' into my playing... etc etc

He used to teach at a local music school were it was very classsically focused, and people were taking their grades and becoming 'professional' musicians.

I just don't think we're on the same wavelength - I'd like a teacher that goes:

"Oh your right hand technique leaves a little to be desired, so here's some excercises... and, this Blind Willie McTell song would help you learn a bit more control too"
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Old 07-01-2009, 02:19 PM
Brent Hutto Brent Hutto is offline
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I'd think that whole grade-n-levels thing with the exams and who knows what all (pretty foreign to my experience as a adult-beginner in USA) could certainly lead to an unrealistic lack of flexibility if that's a teacher's entire training and experience. It has to be possible to find a teacher capable of accommodating to your desired learning style. It just means going through the whole teacher-search routine which I know is a depressing thing to spend time on.
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Old 07-01-2009, 02:26 PM
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A teacher should always go over the assignment from the previous week to see if satisfactory progress
has been made and if not to figure out what can be done about it from both the teacher and student
aspects. I would find another teacher.
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Old 07-01-2009, 02:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Orion View Post
...We ended up having a long conversation (that took up all of my lesson) about where the lessons were going (something we'd already discussed in the first session). I felt that I was being given too much to work on, and, also, that I would prefer to make slower progress on the technical side of things, but learn more 'music' as we went along.
...He seems dead against this - "I will not ruin a piece of music because of your lack of technique" or words to that affect.
Hi Jack...
I'm a teacher, and if he had said what you reported above, that would have likely been my last lesson (unless I'd paid for more up front). I'd have been polite and would just as politely never returned...

You need to find a teacher who will work with you, not just force you into a mold against your will at a speed that is improbable for you to keep up with...

This is surface judgement without hearing his side of the issue, but from a student standpoint, you sure need someone who will periodically assess and monitor how you are doing, and then feed back that info to you.
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Old 07-01-2009, 02:52 PM
Jack Orion Jack Orion is offline
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The thing is, I have made progress...

I'm typing this sat next to my guitar and, between checking posts and emails etc, I picked it up and really concentrated on the one excercise I've been given which is 'musical' - a version of 'Bafta Hindi' (a traditional middle-eastern tune apparently) - and I can play it a lot better than I did when it was first given to me, and I can keep my hand positioning correct, and get a nice tone, and use the correct fingering etc etc

So there's still a bit of me that wonders if it might be worthwhile in the long run sticking with this guy - he clearly knows his stuff and I'm not knocking his ability or knowledge - it's the approach I'm not so sure about.
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Old 07-01-2009, 03:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Orion View Post
...So there's still a bit of me that wonders if it might be worthwhile in the long run sticking with this guy - he clearly knows his stuff and I'm not knocking his ability or knowledge - it's the approach I'm not so sure about.
Hey Jack...
Only you will be able to make that decision...

I have a very low tolerance for arrogance, or narrowness that if offensive. I'm pretty relationally driven so I'd be looking for teachers who I get along with and who listen to me (and I them).

It's good you have learned...that should never change no matter who's teaching you...
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Old 07-01-2009, 03:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Orion View Post
...I just don't think we're on the same wavelength ...
This is the crucial issue, I think. Yes you may be learning, but it doesn't sound like fun and it doesn't sound as if you're learning what you necessarily want to.

I had a teacher like that for a very short while - I've since found one who understands what level I'm at and where I want to get to, and who listens to me if I say something isn't working or isn't what I want to learn at that stage. I've learned a lot since I started with my new teacher

I think you need to find a teacher who is on your wavelength. It might be worth continuing with your present teacher while you search, though, if you feel you are getting something worthwhile from the lessons. Perhaps a reduction in the frequency of lessons might help?

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Old 07-01-2009, 05:07 PM
Jack Orion Jack Orion is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Orion View Post
The thing is, I have made progress...

I'm typing this sat next to my guitar and, between checking posts and emails etc, I picked it up and really concentrated on the one excercise I've been given which is 'musical' - a version of 'Bafta Hindi' (a traditional middle-eastern tune apparently) - and I can play it a lot better than I did when it was first given to me, and I can keep my hand positioning correct, and get a nice tone, and use the correct fingering etc etc

So there's still a bit of me that wonders if it might be worthwhile in the long run sticking with this guy - he clearly knows his stuff and I'm not knocking his ability or knowledge - it's the approach I'm not so sure about.
Then again... Decided to have a little rest from 'lesson stuff' earlier and sat down with my copy of 'Robert Johnson - The New Transcriptions' and my thumb pick (the first thing my 'teacher' told me to stop using) and learnt a (to my ear) pretty authentic sounding version of Malted Milk, bad technique and all...

I think I'm going to limit the lessons to every other week whilst I search for another teacher, and make a point of learning a new song for myself every week.

My cousin's a professional player, but he lives in London. I might get him to go through a few things next time I'm up there...

thanks for the advice guys
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Old 07-01-2009, 05:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Orion View Post
Next lesson he gave me more excercises, without going over the first week's.

Then the next lesson he gave me some more, and some sight-reading to learn, and some flamenco progressions... without going over what we'd already done.
Even based on that alone, I think it's a good idea for you to find a different teacher.
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Old 07-01-2009, 05:41 PM
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You're clearly a person who can direct his own learning; you wouldn't have got as far as you have if that weren't the case. In view of this, I would set out clearly in your mind, or even better on paper, exactly what you want a teacher for: what do you want to learn and how do you want to learn?
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Old 07-02-2009, 08:23 AM
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"Am I being unrealistic?"

Well, let me play the devil's advocate for a while here (or the teacher's advocate if you like...)
let's see, you have been playing the guitar 9 years or more, and mostly electric. You have gone to, what sounds like a classical guitar teacher (for the most part) to learn just a few technique tips, but not the full-on classical guitar technique (maybe you are not even using a classical guitar?), and you want to play Blind Willie McTell in these classical lessons. ???????

Unrealistic? Well, on this little bit of info it certainly sounds like quite a mis-match. With a fuller story, I think the teacher's remarks could be forgiven: for example, after the circle of fifths incident, was he saying "you don't NEED to know that." Or was he saying "YOU don't need to know that." meaning he thought you were full bottle on the circle of fifths (let's face it, in his head you have been doing this for 9 plus years.)

And as for not reviewing the past lessons, yes, unforgiveable if you were a student NEW to the guitar, but after 9 years and being able to play Anji, maybe the teacher doesn't want to be patronizing to you, i.e. he assumes someone with your background is not going to have trouble with the tunes, and if you do, you will speak up. If you don't speak up, all is well, let's move on and give you your money's worth. This doesn't work for new or struggling students, but maybe he sees you differently with your background, and he IS trying to concentrate on "technique" right now rather than "learning" songs.

It just sounds like a lack of real communication between you two, and he actually may be a fine, even excellent, CLASSICAL guitar teacher who can take newbies all the way through to proper, expert classical playing. YOU have come from a different direction, so some chats and adjustments between you two need to happen.

Having said ALL that, two points:

1) other posts are very right in that if you aren't happy (or you can't work it out with some talk) then you have to move on. It has to be fun for YOU, not the teacher.

2) and this I feel is very important given the info you presented, I really wonder about the 'wisdom' of re-learning technique as you say you do. You have been playing for over 9 years - that is a lot of 'habits' for your brain to change and adjust. To what end? What additional guitar play are you seeking that you can't develop on the track you are on? I can understand if you want to convert to classical and be concert grade, but you didn't mention that. Guitar has to be fun for you; do you want to spend 2 years re-training your hands? Or just build up more chops and lines and play different styles. Look how far Wes Montgomery took the guitar with mostly the right thumb. I mean, with all you now know, and how far you have come, I just find it curious you want to change technique. Think carefully if this is the road you want to take. Maybe a non classical teacher for you who will work with the technique you already have, rather than make you re-learn?

Maybe some veteran guitar teachers on the Forum can chime in on the ease or difficulty of changing technique after 9 years.

All well, my 2 cents have long since expired....
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Old 07-02-2009, 12:40 PM
Jack Orion Jack Orion is offline
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Sordello:

You raise some good points, things I have thought myself.

I'm not playing a classical guitar, nor do I wish to. I guess you could say I'm aiming for a combination of 'folk baroque' ala Davey Graham, Bert Jansch et al. and Robert Johnson - mainly blues/folk but with a few different things thrown in now and then for a change.

My teacher is aware of this, and advertises as teaching all styles.

The 'Circle of Fifths' incident was a strange one as it started as an explanation for a generic ragtime progression, before getting more and more 'exotic'. The 'C of F's' as applied to chord sequences I get, but how it applies to reading medieaval tablulature whilst the G string is tuned to F# (and why this means all tab is bad) I found a little hard to follow.

Regarding my technique: I don't want to change it as such, I just wanted someone who could point out habits that might lead to future problems and help me adjust accordingly. For my own songs and my own versions of other peoples I actually like the way I play - I'd just like to be better, and I thought a little extra help wouldn't do any harm.

I think my main problem is that I tend to learn best when I have something to aim for ie. 'I want to be able to play Angi, therefore i need to learn how to fingerpick' (a little OT, but I have learnt soooo much just from studying that one piece!) - MY current situation makes me feel a little 'wishy-washy', there's a lack of direction.

My main concern is that I'm being a little arrogant, and getting ahead of myself - from my teacher's point of view it is obvious he thinks I've a lot to learn and, perhaps, have 'wasted' my time with bad technique - whereas I tend to see it as 'I've learnt a lot already, I'd like you to help me learn more'.

I don't know, I'm going over a lot of the same ground here - I think my gut feeling is that this guy is not for me, that I'd rather something a little less formal - guitar has been, since day one, a release and a pleasure for me, I'd hate to end up not wanting to 'practice those **** scales!!'
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Old 07-02-2009, 12:46 PM
ewalling ewalling is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Orion View Post
Sordello:
I think my main problem is that I tend to learn best when I have something to aim for ie. 'I want to be able to play Angi, therefore i need to learn how to fingerpick' (a little OT, but I have learnt soooo much just from studying that one piece!) - MY current situation makes me feel a little 'wishy-washy', there's a lack of direction.
This strikes a chord for me (?). I've always approached guitar playing from the point of view of wanting to learn a piece, and any technique I acquire along the way is secondary. I don't know if that's putting the cart before the horse or taking short cuts, but I don't think I would have the patience to go through study drills or the like if they were not directly related to some music I wanted learn.
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