"Lean your body forward
slightly to support the
guitar against your chest,
for the poetry
of the music
should resound in your heart."
Andres Segovia


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During the Thanksgiving through New Year's Day period, I get more calls than any other time, from well-meaning people who want to surprise a loved one with guitar lessons, as a "gift."There are also calls like these around Mothers' and Fathers' Days and throughout the year, when those unsuspecting loved ones celebrate birthdays.

My advice to all the wonderful, generous people, who want to surprise someone with the gift of private guitar lessons is to heed the recommendation of a seasoned, experienced instructor: Offer to subsidize the lessons, if you wish, but DO NOT ATTEMP TO CHOOSE AN INSTRUCTOR WITHOUT THE INTENDED STUDENT BEING INVOLVED. (If you're looking to surprise a child with guitar lessons, please read my Find a Teacher and the Kids and Guitars pages.)

I know that my definitive statement above may disturb lots of people who think they are planning to do the greatest thing for someone by giving them the gift of guitar lessons. Your motivation is beautiful. The problem in your plan is that you lack understanding about why the intended student MUST be part of the search for an instructor.

Realize, working with an instructor is a long-term proposition. The student and teacher must be compatible, and on rare occasions, that compatibility is lacking.
You may have the potentially greatest guitar student, and an experienced, qualified instructor, but if they can't work well together, whether the cause is chemistry or anything else, the student should find a different instructor. A third party can't really ask the questions or interpret the answers that are integral for a potential student to determine if a particular teacher is qualified to lead them through what they need to become a well-rounded, competent guitarist. Surely, a third party cannot determine how the two might work together. That can only be determined by an informed student and and experienced instructor.

If you are just not buying this advice, you will most assuredly be able to find people willing to sell you a month of lessons or a "6-pack" etc. The highly qualified, skilled instructors I know, will not occupy their scant open lesson times with any proposition as whimsical as "gift"lessons. Their schedules are already tight and good instructors are seeking students who are enthusiastic and who will keep a weekly professional appointment with them and have a longer term outlook than a month or 2. Those who will gladly sell you "gift" lessons fall into two primary categories: the person who can play (maybe even professionally) and figures if they pick up a few students when they have free time, all the better for them OR the inexperienced or not qualified teacher/player who just can't keep their appointment book full because their students don't learn much. Both should be avoided.

If you like a band and approach a guitarist in the band to teach your loved one, you must remember that the skill set needed to play and the skill set needed to teach do not necessarily overlap. All teachers must have a command of the guitar. But it does not necessarily follow that all players can effectively teach what they know. We see this in all aspects of life. Who doesn't know someone who is a great cook? When they are asked how to prepare something, they tell you, and they may even write the recipe, but they use terms like "some olive oil" or
"a little bit of" something. Excellent cooks have training AND are intuitive. A great chef/instructor will help their students develop the intuitive part, but it's not likely your next door neighbor's mother can. She can tell you to throw some raisins in the spaghetti sauce, but you also need someone to explain chemistry to you so you will understand why a quiche is flat and a souffle is full of air (and how to make them that way.) Likewise, if an instructor is teaching someone chord progressions or scales or technique, they must draw on experiences greater than just their own playing to approach the particular discipline in various ways, so as to be the most useful for the student as well as being able to profitably correct the student's mistakes.

Long story short: Don't get involved seeking guitar lessons for your adult loved one. If you're seeking lessons for a child who lives with you, the student and instructor need to meet before you go ahead with lessons. Don't seek lessons for an adult or child who does not live with you. Offer to pay for some lessons. That would be a terrific gift.


Tell a guitarist friend who might also have questions


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Wednesday, November 1, 2017