Table of Contents for Getting More
- Getting More out of Your Guitar Lessons
- Getting More from a Master Class
In our last installment, we discussed how to get more out of your practice time. Next, we’ll discuss how to get more out of your guitar lessons. While lessons can be expensive, they can also move your playing forward much more quickly than if you study on your own. This post will cover how to get more for your money. Also, I’ll briefly cover supplemental forms of study that the Kritzer Studio provides which will work as a substitute for those who can’t afford private lessons.
Schedule Regular Lesson Times
As discussed in the last installment, consistency in practice is an important factor in your improvement. Consistency of lessons is also important. Make sure you have a regularly scheduled lesson and that you keep them, even if you don’t feel prepared. Some of my best lessons were the ones where I came in with my tail between my legs.
And remember, just because you don’t feel prepared doesn’t mean you haven’t made important progress. In fact, it’s very hard to monitor your own progress—but your teacher can. It’s like watching your lawn grow. It does so in-discernibly, but in a week, it’s time to mow the lawn! And if you truly aren’t prepared, your teacher can help you with a ‘restart.’
So, the bottom line is don’t miss your lesson!
Before your lesson, take a little time to review your week and preview what you’d like to accomplish in the lesson. Is there a piece that’s given you special difficulty? Is there a question that you’ve been meaning to ask?
Often a teacher will ask a student what he or she would like to start with. Do you have a couple of pieces or technical exercises picked out, ready to go?
Arrive a few minutes early so that you can check that you’re tuned to A=440 and that your nails are nicely buffed. Also, have your check filled out and hand it to your teacher upon entering; you’ll more likely receive the ‘velvet glove’ treatment.
When you sit down, take a little time to make sure that your sitting position represents the one you use at home. In my studio I offer three different-sized benches, as well as fixed and adjustable footstools. So, get yourself comfortable.
Start slowly—make sure you start playing slower than you think you do in practice. Often you don’t realize that you are nervous until you miss a few notes, the rhythm feels rushed, and you don’t feel that you are playing at your best. Well, you’re not. If you want to be judged on your best playing, take a few breaths, and keep your tempos a bit on the slow side.
Make it a habit to bring all your music to your lesson. Many of my students copy their music from books and carry it in a folder to save space. Also, don’t forget to take your music home with you!
If You Think of It, Write It Down
As you practice, questions and ideas will arise. It’s natural. Keep pencil and paper handy and jot them down. Often, by the time you arrive at class, you will have forgotten them, so keep a small journal with you and bring it to class. Sometimes the best learning comes from asking the hardest questions. Don’t miss an opportunity to stretch your creative learning even farther.
Don’t Trust the Memory! Record Your Lessons
When listening, the brain tends to filter out some details, and some of these can be very important instructions! You hear about 60% of what your teacher says and retain about 40% of that. Recording your lesson is a simple way of retaining 100% of your lesson. First, ask your guitar teacher if you can record your lesson. My students listen while driving home from the lesson, while working out, or even as they drop off to sleep. I think the best way is to take notes while listening. If your time is short, you can use a practice session to accomplish this important task. You can archive the notes and thereby revisit the lessons.
Here’s another benefit: recording your lesson keeps your teacher on his or her toes! (C’mon, we’re only human!)
Ask your Teacher to Recap
Ask your teacher to help you recap your lesson. Asking the teacher what he or she expects to see at the next lesson is a good starting point. If you need clarity, ask how best to achieve those expectations, including how often you should practice and for how long. I send my students home with a detailed practice log, one that they use daily, and that I use to review our previous lesson. This keeps us both on track!
Alternative Forms of Learning
Lessons can be expensive. I like to offer students an alternative through my Phases. These are designed to allow the student to learn progressively, beginning with technique, then continuing on to tone production, expressive elements, how to learn music, practice directives and practice management, and finally, how to deal with performance anxiety. I send written and videotaped instruction to the student, who then responds with his or her own video. I then comment and add the next step!
If you’d like to learn a specific subject, such as technique or performance skills then you can take one of my six week courses. Its great for those who don’t want to lay out the time and money for regular lessons but do want to improve their skill sets. To learn more about my workshops go to Workshops. Some of the most popular ones are listed and include Technique, Performance Anxiety Rehab and How to Learn Music. These workshops can be taken by the local as well as remote student.
If you are currently looking for a teacher, I want to invite you to take a look at the Kritzer Studio. Lessons (in person or remotely), PAR PODS (free performance-anxiety-rehab meetings), Ensembles, and Master Classes will keep you active with the classical guitar. And if you want to put it all together, in one intense week, I’d highly recommend that you join me for my Classical Guitar Immersion.