Teaching Guitar Requires No patience At All!


Learning to play the guitar takes a little patience but teaching it requres only understanding. Understanding and patience are two completely different things.

I have (almost) no patience (you can ask my wife?). I will not even queue for beer and I like beer (again you can ask my wife?). If we decide that we need a new sofa I refuse to entertain the notion that the bloke in the furniture shop has to drum up a special order from a factory on the other side of the planet and that once nailed together my stuff must be loaded onto a ship and dragged halfway around the globe before I can sit on it and drink a beer (did I mention that I like beer?). I want the one in the window and I want it to be delivered tomorrow and If I can’t have it I’ll go to the shop next door and buy a different one.

Patience, in my book is in no way a virtue, it’s a way of justifying inactivity. So how come I get to make my living teaching people to play the guitar, an activity that most people think requires industrial quantities of patience?

Let’s take a look at this whole opatience thing? It is understandable (and desirable) for a guitar player to be impatient to get better. It is a disaster if the teacher shares this impatience.

If you spend an entire lesson willing your student to be able to play the thing that you have just shown to them then you (and they) will achieve nothing. Looking at another person’s fingers while they try to play music that is (at the moment) beyond them and investing any great emotion into it will hurl you headlong into an early grave.

Staring bug eyed at someone elses hands trying to do things that they are not  capable of doing because they have not yet had the time to work on it will lead to you to a life of wearing odd socks, weeping uncontrollably and shouting at traffic!
Allright, maybe I’m laying it on with a trowel here but you get the picture?

The point of a guitar lesson is not that the student goes away from it able to play something that they could not when they walked into the room an hour earlier. The objective is that they go away with something to practice which will mean that they are better when they next walk into the room. Understand that and you will see that (for the teacher anyway) patience plays no part in the process.

If students find everything that you show them easy don’t kid youself that it’s because you are a fantastic guitar teacher. Your guitar teaching most probably (to use the modern vernacular) sucks? Why should somebody pay you to show them things that they can do already (they already have tribes of internet tab monkeys for that)?

If however, at the end of a lesson with you they go away with a few things to work on that they understand and can almost play then you are doing it right. If they then return able to play those things then they are doing it right (remember that teaching is about learning and that the most important role in the process is that of the learner and not that of the teacher).

The job of teaching guitar is largely about three things

  1. Developing Technical Ability
  2. Helping the student to develop a workable theoretical framework
  3. Developing Repertoire

If you spend an hour paying attention to those three areas you won’t need to watch your students practicing (I love teaching guitar but I refuse to waste my life and other peoples money watching someone practice it – once they understand what they need to practice by themselves it’s time to move on with the lesson).

Our guitar students do not pay us for our patience, they pay us for a plan. I’m off to lie down on my sofa (possibly via the fridge?)

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