Whether you’re thinking about taking guitar lessons or you’re already a student, you should consider what your role will be in achieving success with the guitar. If you’ve done your research and selected a teacher with excellent credentials and an agreeable personality then the next step is to learn how to get the most out of your lessons. Here’s a few pointers to increase your chance of success.
Communicate your goals
Find a teacher that you have a good rapport with and communicate your goals with them. Your teacher will likely suggest certain concepts to learn like note reading, rhythmic notation, chord playing, and classical or plectrum picking techniques to meet these goals. If you want to learn a certain rock song or two then don’t be embarrassed to tell your teacher as it gives them a good idea of what you’ll need to learn to achieve this. Some students don’t seem to know what they want to learn, so have an answer for this so your teacher can better serve you and keep your interest.
Record your lessons
Record your lessons with a digital recorder. It’s well worth the investment to buy a digital recorder and then compile your lessons on disc or onto a hard drive. In the excitement of the lesson you’ll forget much of your teacher’s advice and it takes too much of your lesson time for you or your teacher to write everything down. It’s also extremely valuable to hear your teacher play examples of what you’re working on.
Ask your teacher how to practice and for how long. How you practice is more important than how much time you practice, but you still need to spend an adequate amount of time with your instrument to be successful. One of the most common statements teachers hear from students every week is “I didn’t get a chance to practice this week.” If your spending the money on lessons make sure you have the desire and time to give it an honest effort. Everybody has a bad practice week and a good teacher understands that. Just don’t make it every week! It’s like exercise (except much more fun). Once you start doing it, it gets easier and more fun the more you practice.
Your teacher should take part of the responsibility for this but the rest is up to you. This may sound obvious but…listen to music! It’s hard to believe but some people (usually younger students) want to play guitar but don’t really listen to much music. It’s hard to be inspired if there is nothing to aspire to. You need to listen to something that makes you say, “I want to play that!” YouTube videos are great for this, as are the various online radios like Pandora and Rhapsody. Go to concerts and local gigs that interest you. Find out if there’s a guitar society in your area. Depending on their focus, they’ll often have free classical guitar concerts with local artists and for-pay big name artists throughout the year. You’ll want to practice more after watching and listening to excellent players.
Be open minded
Consider learning music that’s outside of what you normally listen to. Many students find new musical interests through playing the guitar as there’s exciting playing across the genres.
Keeping your teacher updated on your interests
It’s not uncommon to discover new interests as you’re learning, so make sure to tell your teacher about your interests as they unfold. Your teacher will be glad to see your interest and will be motivated to help you in your new pursuits. There’s no bigger indicator of success than an excited and motivated student.
Express your frustration to your teacher
If you’re getting frustrated and bored with a certain exercise or piece of music, then let your teacher know. Don’t be too hasty in doing this and start suggesting changing songs every week. This is a bad habit that many students have. If something seems difficult or uninteresting, try to stick it out for a while before throwing in the towel. You’ll only get better through challenging yourself but if you’re really sick of it then speak up before you burn out. It may be something that can be revisited later.
If you become strongly interested in a style that your teacher does not excel in and that you want to spend a significant amount of time on, then consider changing teachers. An honest teacher will tell you that your interest is not their strong suit and they can help you in other areas but that you’re better off with someone else for that technique or style. Also, if your teacher just doesn’t seem to care about your interests then it’s time for a change. If you’ve communicated with your teacher your desires, practiced, and listened well, and they just don’t listen to you or can’t help you with what you want to learn then you’ve done all that you can and should move on.
Being a good student involves discipline, listening well (recording lessons), good communication with your teacher, being open minded, and staying inspired. If you do your part, you’re likely to have a very good experience with guitar lessons and will accomplish your goals. You will probably also develop new interests along the way. Learning the guitar is a life long pursuit so invest yourself into it fully to get the most out of it.