What to Expect (and Not Expect) from Guitar Lessons With Charlotte
My students often comment on how different their lesson experience is with me from the experiences they have had with previous teachers. If you are considering either local (Central Texas) or long-distance (Skype) lessons, you might want to read about my mission and teaching style.
My Philosophy and Approach
The first thing you are likely to experience with me is less pressure than you may have felt with teachers in the past or, if you have never taken lessons, than you may have imagined you would feel from a teacher. In addition to the fact that I don’t have arbitrary expectations or requirements regarding practice, the lessons I teach are less performance-oriented and more learning-oriented. I trust my students and assume that since they have committed to lessons, they are likewise committed to investing the time it takes to reach their goals. Each student is unique in his or her musical goals and lifestyle, so the amount of practice time required from one student to the next will vary. That said, I am happy to help with practice schedules and habits.
Students can find it very stressful to perform for a teacher and I do what I can to relieve that stress. I realize that it is highly unlikely that you will play as well at your lesson as you did during your practice time at home. Regardless of how you may judge your performance at a lesson, I am able to discern what you accomplished since our last meeting and determine what I need to do to help you move forward. With time, you may find that you actually perform better at a lesson than at home!
The Overall Plan
When you sign up for lessons, I like to hear about your history with the guitar, as well as your short-term and long-term goals and your taste in music. That information will not only create a starting point for your lessons, it will also remain in the front of my mental file as I choose the course of each individual lesson.
The first thing I will ask you when we meet for a lesson (after “How are you?”) will probably be “What did you do on your guitar this week?” I want to meet you where you are, as opposed to where either of us might think you “should” be. A lot of teachers are very critical of other instructors who don’t adhere to a strict lesson plan, but I don’t feel that a rigid plan can serve real people in an authentic way. I will, of course, always stay in touch with your long-term goals, as well as the goals I have for you, but within that long-term plan, I feel that there should be room to pause or interrupt in order to clarify or review things that you may have missed, forgotten or need to brush up on.
The Guitar Student as a Whole Person
There also needs to be room in the plan to honor you as a whole person who is living a real life, which may include overtime or stresses at work or school, occasional illness, travel, relationship issues, or just plain emotional funk. When “real life” is pulling you away from your normal practice routine, I want to help you to continue learning and enjoying guitar, as a means to emotional nourishment and comfort during distracting or difficult times. I have often had students tell me that they want to skip their lesson because they haven’t practiced and “don’t want to waste my time.” In such a situation, I always strongly encourage them to come to the lesson and when they do, they always leave wiser and happier guitar players than they arrived.
There are countless things that you can learn at your lessons without having practiced. I teach music as a whole topic, as opposed to only teaching songs or pieces in sequential order. (We will still work on songs, of course, but I consider learning songs a vehicle to musical expansion, in addition to being a lot of fun!) That means we can work on ear training (using voice or another instrument), rhythm (bang on some drums!), theory (learn or practice constructing chords and see how to create your own voicings on the fretboard) – all without even picking up a guitar. If you do want to pick up your guitar after a week of little or no practice, we can work on technique, dynamics, new ideas for strumming or picking patterns, and more – all without referring to the previous lesson.
In short, I approach my students as whole beings and my mission is to help them to integrate studying and playing the guitar into their lives and to consequently grow as individuals.
Now that we’ve covered the basic philosophy and taken some of the pressure off, let’s look further into what your guitar lesson will be like.
When we begin the lesson with your description of what you did since the last lesson, I will want to know what questions or concerns came up for you and we will then decide what to work on first. (There are no wrong answers, here, so your report on your guitar work may even be “nothing!”) After I listen to you play what you practiced, I will diagnose, troubleshoot, and create exercises or impart information to help you repair or improve the piece or exercise. (Remember, you are not supposed to always perform perfectly, as that would put me out of a job!) When we have exhausted your questions and both of our observations, I will introduce the next thing that I feel is important to address in your playing, knowledge or approach. (This is where I rely on my experience and employ my powers of observation and intuition, as opposed to referring to the next item on a lesson plan.)
In addition to learning songs of your choice (chords, melody, strumming or picking patterns, etc.), we may work on one or more of the following in any given lesson: understanding and remembering tunes, playing leads or adding fills or riffs to songs you like, arranging songs to suit your personal taste, singing along with your playing, expression, music literacy, rhythm, improvisation, ear training and more. I will choose the “extras” based on your requests and where you are in your playing, as well as your musical goals and preferences.
You, the Individual
In summary, your guitar lesson is designed, start to finish, with you, the individual, in mind – But, come to think of it, teaching this way is a little selfish, too, as in every lesson I get to do my favorite things: be in service to others, practice and honor attunement and intuition, exercise my problem-solving skills and express creatively. I call that a win/win!
Private guitar lessons vary in length and are scheduled to accommodate the needs of the individual. Live video lessons by webcam (using Skype) are a great solution for those who would like private lessons, but live too far away to make the trip to my studio in Wimberley, Texas. To read more about both or to learn about times, prices and scheduling, please go to this page.