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Is my guitar instructor doing more harm than good?

Question by Alex

I've recently enrolled in music school and I chose to learn to play the guitar.

I've never played the instrument, but it's one I've always dreamed of playing.

Basically we're learning for one semester and at the end of the semester we have to play a song in a recital (I have 10 weeks).

I've been going for two weeks, now during class (which is an hour long) he has us learning things but he moves too quickly. There's another kid in there that is technically a "beginner" but he's more advanced than I am.

My fingers are still trying to get stronger and its still a little hard for me to change chords quickly. But in class I feel like he's going at the other kids pace and not mine, I feel like an idiot in that class compared to the other kid and because my guitar teacher is not stopping to really get into detail.

He already chose a song for us to do in the recital, BUT I feel sooooo unsure about this song. The kid that's in the class with me already picked up the song in like 5 min and I just sat there like an idiot trying to will my fingers to move fast enough. The song has harder chords to play like... B, F#, G#.

I find it hard to do barre chords so this song is super difficult for me. Than I go home and I don't know if I'm practicing right.

Now I'm beginning to feel discouraged, like maybe I'm unteachable.

Is it just me or the guitar instructor? What should I do? I feel like if I ask him to slow down I won't have enough time to learn the song correctly in time for the recital. The entirety of this post is that I feel super overwhelmed... and a little anxious, and an instrument I used to inspire me is slowly starting to become my least inspiring.

The Problem with Group Learning

Alex, it's not you, it's the lesson format that clearly isn't working for you. The teacher may not be to blame in all this because teaching groups of students is always difficult and resources are often spread thinly in such environments.

However, if lessons are to lead toward a recital, I think the student should have some freedom in choosing the song and they should be judged on their ability to apply what they have learned... not what the teacher expects them to have learned.

There is a classic problem with group lessons - some students inevitably move faster than others. That's just the variable nature of learning.

Like many subjects, learning an instrument is best done independently from other students, in my humble opinion.

Obviously there is immense value in playing with other musicians, but in those initial learning stages, you really need all the focus to be on your personal progress, free from distractions such as comparing your progress to that of others.

As you've mentioned, seeing others develop quicker than you can be incredibly disheartening and make you question your potential, although you should always be aware that quick learning alone doesn't necessarily lead to great musicianship in the long run.

It's not all about how quickly you learn, it's about how you apply what you learn.

It's also not your fault you need more time than other students, and there may be aspects of learning that you pick up quicker than the other students. It's not even an issue that you move slower than others.

But ultimately, this kind of learning environment is unlikely to bring out your full potential as a guitarist and musician.

It's especially unhelpful that you are set a deadline for your recital. I just don't see any value in putting pressure on you like this. There's a difference between being pushed (ideally pushing yourself) and saying "you must have X Y Z learned by this date".

You need to go at your own pace and evolve naturally. Even internet lessons provide this more effectively than real-time group lessons. At least with video you can pause and review as much as you want.

If you have the money, I'd always recommend traditional one-one private tuition over group sessions. At least then the teacher's time will be 100% focused on your progress alone.

If you can't afford one-one lessons, try online lessons such as this site or, for something a little more sophisticated and streamlined, sites like Jamplay or Guitar Tricks.

No deadlines, no distractions, just the organic process of developing at your own pace and realising your own goals in your own time.

Something to think about.

All the best with your learning journey, Alex. Keep me updated.

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Group Learning
By: Rishi

Yes, its the instructor's fault. He is obviously favouring the one who has already got lessons/started learning before. But u have enrolled. So face the Fact. So now u can choose to fight back..by not giving up :)..u just have to get the hang of things..hang out with such guitarist buddies like urself who r struggling and play as much as u can..no need to rush. Guitar playing takes time as the muscles in ur fingers take time to develop memory functions..its inevitable.. Don't be upset..its natural in group studies..:)

Practice makes a man perfect
By: Aniruddha

Just chop off the other kids fingers!!! ha ha ha, just kidding. Try to practice more (atleast double the other kids practice time, i.e. 5-6 hrs a day or more). Now for the 1st few months play (act) dumb & don't show your skill to the other kid. I bet he wont increase his practice time due to self satisfaction. Once you are confident unleash your skill infront of that bugger & your teacher. Voila! the other kid will feel like a moron & your teacher will be happy. By the way, don't forget to do finger stretching & warmup exercises before you play. Practice finger strength, dexterity & speed building exercises. Also follow Mr. Mike Beatham's lessons which are among the very best online lessons available cause he shows you "how to play", not "what to play".

teacher's options...
By: Anonymous

there are so many ways for a teacher to solve this problem. i teach groups myself and i always give each student a challenge that is on his/her level.

the teacher has many choices. here are some suggestions:

1: leave out, add or change of melody lines
2: avoid or change difficult chords
3: use capo or use another tuning
4: play easier or more difficult rhythm patterns
5: play easier or more picking patterns
6: change the tempo of the song
7: play every second chord
8: try another guitar
9: try another pick
10: try other strings (for instance nylon vs. steel or another gauge changes the difficulties of bending or playing chords)

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