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Thread: Lesson Structure / Approach

  1. #1

    Default Lesson Structure / Approach

    I've taken lessons from two teachers.

    With the first, it was in person and we were basically working through Greg Horne's "The Complete Mandolin Method" week by week with a song here and there that the instructor would throw in. I was just a beginner but didn't feel like I was getting much feedback on my playing. I wasn't that good, and worse when I had to play for another person (the pressure!), but mostly the feedback was "alright" and "groovy" no matter how good or bad I actually played. I stopped after awhile.

    I'm better now but not great and decided to try live online lessons. I've had a few lessons but I haven't played the mandolin live for the instructor so far. At first I was kind of relieved, because of the nerves, but then it has just continued like that. We basically talk for 45 minutes about theory and tips, with some demo from him. I started sending videos ahead of the lesson and getting feedback in the lesson on the video, and he has created some videos for me after some lessons, but I haven't brought up the obvious question. I have learned a few new things, but this also doesn't feel like the best lesson approach.

    Both instructors were nice and great players, and were/are open to basically anything I suggested, but I'm wondering...

    • Does anyone have a good structure for lesson and what should happen in it?
    • Should the instructor listen to the goals of the student and then plan everything themselves going forward? Or is it a give and take with the student's feedback?
    • What makes a good instructor and what do they do that sets them apart?
    • How do you set achievable goals between lessons? Work on one thing intensely? Work on a few things here and there?
    • How do you communicated feedback as lessons progress about what's working and not?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Lesson Structure / Approach

    Not an instructor, but I've played a while...which probably counts for little, but...anyway, here's my advice. You need to be a bit more assertive in terms of what you're expecting. Yes, it is a give and take. Every student is different, so in general, a teacher will likely lay back and wait for you to say what the goals are you are trying to achieve. If you don't play for them and just shoot the shit with them for an hour each week, then for all they know, that's what you want, so they'll sit there, take your money, and just talk. And the thing is, that's not their fault - you're giving them the impression that that is what you're cool with and they're not mind readers. You need to play in front of the teacher for them to have some idea of what you should be working on, and for them to propose some goals. Part of the reason you take lessons is for an experienced player to see things you can't see yourself. You can teach yourself a ton of musical theory from books and YouTube. You can teach yourself a ton of breaks from books and videos. It's the little things that a teacher can help you with that justify the expenses. Maybe you're actually pretty sloppy at crossing strings. You might not know it but a good teacher can see that kind of thing and say, "Okay...here's what we're doing. Here's six string-crossing exercises. Here's how they work. Here's how I know you're ready for more. Keep practicing until you reach that goal, otherwise, we're not going to do much else." Or, maybe you want to learn a break you can't find anywhere and the teacher will say, "Okay, I'll transcribe it, note-for-note, and we'll look at what's happening in this solo and really break it apart." Maybe it has tremolo and you suck at that and the teacher goes, "Okay...your tremolo needs some help. We're going to really focus on that. Learning the break is going to go on hold for a while until we can get you a decent tremolo."

    Also, to get back to the nerves of playing in front of a teacher - I get it. I took a few months of lessons about twelve years ago, when I was just starting, and I was so intimidated, though the guy gave me no reason to be...he was actually a really laid-back dude. However, I was just so nervous about playing in front of someone better than me - I'd be drenched in sweat at having to play a simple fiddle tune. Like you, I didn't put much of myself into those lessons. It evolved into 45 minutes of small talk and a handful of exercises to work on. Looking back, I think a really good teacher would have been a bit more assertive, but for all that guy knew, I was fine with how things were going. A few years later I took a few months of lessons with another guy who was a very well-known local picker with a rep for being a bit of a jerk with students. However, we got along great because by then I was not so scared about playing in front of someone and I knew exactly what I wanted him to work with me on...and that's what he did. No small talk, no pleasantries...just sit down for a hour and work. Supposedly that was how he really liked to teach, and a lot of people I know who took lessons with him complained because he didn't do the pleasant small talk thing and got frustrated at people who showed up and just talked and didn't play. However, that "no BS" mindset was exactly what I wanted from a teacher. His time wasn't cheap and I didn't want to waste my money, and honestly, I think he felt similarly. Point being...you've got to play for them and give them a good idea about what you want. It took me a looooong time to get over being nervous about playing in front of people, especially people who were better than me. Seriously...it took me many, MANY years. But one of the ways you do it is to just sweat it out, butterflies and all, and just do it. It gradually becomes a much more normal thing, and once it becomes more normal, it's not nearly so nerve-wracking.

  3. #3
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lesson Structure / Approach

    I have been teaching full time over 40 years and I’ll attempt to answer. Keep in mind I don’t believe there are any “right’ answers to any of the questions, take everything with a healthy grain of salt...


    Does anyone have a good structure for lesson and what should happen in it?

    I don’t structure lessons at all unless someone is a complete beginner, then only a few lessons. Because everyone learns at different rates, has different things they want to learn, has different natural abilities, different goals, different amounts of time they want to/can practice, etc. SO, no two people are equal. To me a structured set of lessons will not work in situations like this. It might work for a few, but not for most (my opinion of course).

    I view it as my job to determine what this students can handle and how they work at stuff before determining what to give them. I also ask them to tell me their goals at the start, then every few months after this. It takes me a few lessons to get on to how they do things and I’m sure it takes a few lessons for them to get used to how I do things.




    Should the instructor listen to the goals of the student and then plan everything themselves going forward?

    Definitely yes on the listen, but to be honest, many people’s stated goals are beyond how they practice, so what they actually do needs to be incorporated as much if not more.




    Or is it a give and take with the student's feedback?

    Yes, see above answers.




    What makes a good instructor and what do they do that sets them apart?

    Whether they give you what you need/want.



    How do you set achievable goals between lessons?

    After the instructor adapts to you, a good teacher will know how much to give you each lesson. Not too much or too little. Sometimes nothing new if you need more work on something previously assigned, but should give you insight on how to learn if it you are having difficulty.




    Work on one thing intensely? Work on a few things here and there?

    Sometimes each is warranted, depends on that individual and on that assignment.




    How do you communicated feedback as lessons progress about what's working and not?

    The same way you communicate with anyone. The student should be comfortable enough with the teacher to ask questions and tell the teacher what they want and/or tell them if it is working for the student or not. A good teacher can sense if a student is progressing and is happy or not. If not, the teacher have to be comfortable enough to ask for students feedback positive or negative.

    Before accepting any new student, I talk to them for between a half hour and n hour asking what they want and telling them how I do things. I tell them it takes 3 or 4 lessons for each party to adjust to how the others work. I also have them watch a few of my YouTube videos as that gives an idea of how I do things. I also tell them there is no “ right way’ and not every student-teacher combo works.

    Hope these answers help you out.
    -----------
    Pete Martin
    www.PeteMartin.info
    Instruction books, videos, articles: Bluegrass, Jazz, improvisation, ergonomics
    Private lessons in Seattle, online live lessons to anywhere
    Pete Martin Plays Wes Montgomery free download

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Lesson Structure / Approach

    I am doing the Artistworks lessons because I have variable amounts of time in my life, and I cannot commit to weekly lessons. When I get some time, I will do 3 or 4 lessons in a sitting, then I may not get back for months (as in, summer is busy for me and I haven't taken a lesson since about May, but I plan to do several this weekend.) With adult learners, a good instructor will approach it very differently than they do for children, and definitely should take the student's goals into consideration.

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