Originally posted on http://vapourstation.blogware.com/ 19 Jan 2009
Again, my experiences and questions I've been asked recently have led me to assemble a generic answer, to which I can point people in the direction of, if I'm asked this in the future. What is the role of a guitar teacher?
Before moving onto the "role", firstly I would like to express what I feel a guitar teacher (who has adopted this title and role) is actually responsible for:
A guitar teacher is responsible for the quality of a students 'teaching'. Not the quality and rate of the students 'progress'.
Regarding the 'role' of a guitar teacher:
Essentially, a (guitar) teacher’s role is to offer information, guidance and encouragement. This is done by establishing where you already are with your playing, together with where you want your playing to be through assessment, and using that as a basis for structuring a logically progressive path towards where you want to go. This can be done in a number of different ways, both formally and informally, sometimes even consciously or subconsciously, but it's what most teachers do unless they are teaching you what they think you should know. This is a bit more like school or the more formal classical training that you can have on a musical instrument. Both approaches are valid and suit different people according to their outlook/ personality/ needs etc although I think it is a safe enough assumption that most electric guitar players are not likely to wish to surrender all decision making as to what material they cover and how their progress is structured to a classical style, formal training system. Irrespective of this, nobody ever gets any better in a lesson, or because they have lessons. People only get better when they practice but there can sometimes be a large void here in that many people don't actually know how to practice, what it is, how it works, and what it's for in extension of the very vague and general "to get better", or "to improve".
All the information you ever need about playing is on the internet. All the guidance and encouragement anyone may want isn't always necessary if people are sufficiently self-motivated. A lot of the time, if you are considering taking guitar lessons, you have to ask yourself what it is you actually want from a teacher. If you take guitar lessons but are concerned that your teacher isn't giving you what you want, it's worth properly establishing what it is that you wanted from them in the first place. Clearly establish what it is you wanted from them in your mind, and discuss it with them. It's the reason I ask the first questions (of all new students) so that this is formally established before we get on with the learning:
"What do you want to be able to do with the guitar that you can't do now?"
"How do you consider that I may be able to best help you to get there?"
The responses I get to these questions are predictably vague almost every time. It's always "to get better" or similar, so we move onto what "getting better" means to them and establish examples of "better playing" which is simultaneously establishing short, medium, and long term goals for the students (dependant on how complicated the "better" playing examples are). If you don't know where you want to go, how are you going to get there? No matter who is helping you (teaching you), it's just not going to happen.