If you’d like to be significantly better at guitar, there is a right and a wrong way to take guitar lessons.
Wrong Way = spending ANY amount of lesson time working on things you could study/research/learn/practice on your own time (with the help of the internet, of course).
Right Way = spending your ENTIRE lesson working on things that absolutely require your teacher’s guidance.
So, here are things that you SHOULDN’T be doing in your lesson:
- learning songs
- waiting for your teacher to transcribe & write out songs/exercises
- talking about music theory UNLESS your time, technique, & note knowledge are fully ready
- exchanging pleasantries, even though you probably genuinely enjoy each other’s company
If you don’t have a rock-solid sense of groove, or your technique is sloppy, those should be your first priority. And those things generally aren’t a lot of fun to work on.
Which is why you should work on them in your lesson. Stop thinking of your teacher as a cool guitarist who’s there to help you understand. Start thinking of your teacher as someone who is paid to torture you.
Playing with perfect time and technique isn’t exciting to work on. Or put differently, you know you’re not going to work on them on your own time. Be honest with yourself.
Taking lessons should be exactly like working out with a personal trainer. In both situations, you pay for these four things:
- A Plan
Accountability is a fringe benefit––you paid for it, so you’re more likely to show up.
The plan will only take you where you want to go if you execute it properly, and avoid the common pitfalls.
Motivation isn’t some high-minded office poster or Anthony Robbins audiobook. It’s someone prodding you to do it again, but slightly better.
Guidance is the last thing you want to try to self-administer.
GUIDANCE IS WHY YOU TAKE LESSONS. Take advantage of it.
“Seek out private instruction. It could take years to figure out what a good teacher could show you quickly.”
– Wynton Marsalis
How To Actually Put This Into Action
There is a 0% chance that the guitar teacher in your town is going to teach you this way. You have to teach your teacher how to teach you.
You need to have a conversation with your current (or prospective) teacher, explaining that you want to devote ALL of your lesson time to improving your technique and time, until further notice. This article would be a good place to start the conversation.
This means playing scales, exercises, strum patterns, and chord changes WITH A METRONOME over and over and over. Each time through, your teacher should be gently shaping your technique and sense of rhythm. This is a long, iterative process, but it’s a hell of a lot faster than trying to figure it out on your own.
This means you need to do your part by showing up a little early, tuning your guitar, and warming up your hands.
This means that you are now in charge of learning new songs outside of lesson time.
It’s your money, so it’s your lesson. Take ownership of it.
Your teacher will be thrilled that you’re this serious, and you’ll be thrilled with the results.