It all starts with practice…

Richards Rock Academy on July 27, 2011

I have had many students in my 12 years as a guitar teacher who believe that taking guitar lessons will make them be able to play guitar.  This is FALSE.  I had one student – a very nice and personable 15 year-old girl – who took lessons for 3+ years.  By the time I finally fired her, she still could not play a song if someone asked her to – unbelievable.  I did all of the inspiring, pep talks, kick-ass demonstrations, rationalizing, fun lessons, fun songs, and everything else I could think of to try to get her to pick up her guitar at home.  In the end, the only time she played was during her 30-minute lesson once per week.  I finally fired her because I couldn’t steal her parents’ money any longer.

Some might say I am a bad teacher after reading the above paragraph.  Where I think my track record of students going on to college, successful bands, careers in music, etc. speaks for itself, there are some students who are just BAD STUDENTS!!!  They blame the teacher for not performing magic or divine intervention and suddenly the student can play a dozen songs with clean perfection.  The teacher’s job is to inspire (no doubt about it), but the most important thing the teacher does is prescribe the most effective method for each individual to achieve goals, succeed in their musical endeavors, open them up to new ideas and knowledge, and guide the student beyond their own expectations. 

Think of a nutritionist.  The nutritionist supplies a diet and exercise plan for the overweight client and has a meeting once per week.  If the client gets all pumped up and positive during the session, but eats fast food and watches TV the rest of the week, the person is a bad client!  This is a person who takes zero accountability for their own success.  The plan might be backed by hundreds of studies, a master’s degree, and decades of experience – but it has no worth without action.  The plan is just a piece of scrap paper unless it becomes visible in motion – a lifestyle.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking the teacher should work harder or care more about your success than you do – it is not fair, and completely ineffective.

The work is done AT HOME.  The improvement is done in daily practice.  The songs are perfected in the student’s bedroom in front of the imaginary arena of screaming fans.  The riffs and solos are worked out, counted out, written out, fingering- and picking-studied, listened to, simulated, slowed-down, sped-up, metronome-drilled until imaculate.  The lessons the teacher provides are repeated, studied, and memorized week-to-week.  The technique is drilled and drilled and drilled in countless hours of daily exercises until the student’s performance becomes not only music, but visual art.  I once had someone say to me, “You are so lucky that you can play guitar.”  My response is that I have practiced literally tens of thousands of hours, taken 15 years of private lessons, studied music theory formally for close to a decade, completed two undergraduate degrees in music (with a minor), and studied countless hours independently.  There is no luck involved – just planning, implementing, practicing, staying inspired and focused, and having a blast while doing it.  Nope – no luck here.

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