Common Student Question: How Long Should I Be Taking Lessons.
A new student recently asked me:
“How long do you recommend to take lessons at that rate?”
She asked that question after she had told me, that she planned to meet 2-3 times a week for lessons. She wondered, meeting that frequently, how long it would take her to “become really good at guitar”.
There’s a couple of problems with that question.
- What does “really good at guitar” mean?
Does that mean “Kurt Cobain good”, or “Jimi Hendrix good”, or “Guthrie Govan good”?
You get the point: “good” is highly subjective. It means many different things for many different people.
There are also many different kinds of “good”.
- The question suggest the assumption that there is an ending point in time.
Music is an art form, that is so vast in study, that you could never possibly master everything.
All my teachers, and I studied with some truly amazing people, are still now all practicing, studying, experimenting.
So am I.
It never ends. There is always more to learn.
So my take on this, is that there are 3 ways you can look at this.
Here’s I how I would respond to that question.
Till Your Musical Goals Have Been Reached.
This all depends on how far you want to push things in your musicianship and on what your musical (and educational) goals and dreams are.
The cool thing about private instruction: unlike a classroom based music schools, is that you have the freedom and flexibility to take as many or as few classes a week as you see fit or want to.
You can switch it up, more one week, lesser lessons another week.
So it is more a question of:
1) What does “really good” mean to you?
2) How far do you want to progress?
3) How far do you want to push things in your musicianship?
4) How good do you really want to get?
5) How soon do you want to achieve your musical goals?
and so on.
So this (above) response is one way of looking at things and one way of answering that question.
You establish an overall projected big picture vision, and then keep going till the vision has become reality.
A Decision Based On Specific Accomplishments & Deadlines
There is also another way of answering that question: where I give very concrete examples of some of the things that are possible under my instruction.
This option would be based on having a very specific goal you set to achieve at a specific date, and then you give it all you can to achieve that goal by that set deadline.
- I’ve had students, who went from complete beginner only knowing a couple of chords when they started out with me, to having their own teaching business teaching guitar to 40+ students a week in 3 years.
- I’ve prepared artists with relatively poor guitar skills, who had a top level session guitarist on their latest CD, and who, before the CD release, wanted to learn all the guitar parts on their album note for note so they could play them live.
When I say “poor guitar skills” in this case: I mean that these artists knew about 15-25 chords, had kind a ok rhythm playing, and some ok sense of at least 1 pentatonic scale fingering. I always get these artists to play guitar confidently live, playing the parts of a top session guy, pretty much as on the album, in 8-12 weeks.
- I’ve had students who come in for lesson not even knowing how to hold a guitar, who in no more than THREE weeks time mastered Smoke on The Water and Highway to Hell note for note, able to play along the song exactly as on the album… in addition to also knowing bar chords, the location of the notes on the fretboard, etc… in only 3 weeks time.
Instead of working from an overall projected big picture vision you work towards (long term), you in this case here, go for a goal oriented approach. (shorter term).
You set deadlines by which you want to achieve certain specific stepping stones.
You can at any given time decide that enough stepping stones have been taken, and terminate things at will based on an in the moment assessment that you are content at the time with where you have gotten to.
A Specifically Chosen Length of Time
A 3rd way of answering that question: is with specific time tables.
In this case you choose a specific time based plan, 1 years, 2 years, 4-year degree level program… and you try to get whatever you can get out of that chosen time based curriculum.
This is the system that music schools operate on.
Using the music school approach: YOU choose a very specific plan for yourself and then very diligently keep to a specific number of lesson hours a week for a planned/chosen time period.
For example: meeting 8 hours a week for a 10 week period (a quarter), with a 2-3 week break in between, for 2 quarters only (or for 4 quarters, or 8…).
Or you can choose 15 week semesters, which is what Berklee College of Music does.
Or you can choose to experience the progress and growth that “Degree” students experience who study a Degree Program.
In that case you would choose something like: eight 15-week semesters (a 4-year program, 2 semesters a year) or twelve 10 week quarters.
You could also choose to have a full year of weekly lessons, meeting x number of hours a week, with for example a full month break at the end of the year for Xmas and NewYear, or with a 1 month break for summer, or both.
These are choices you want to make, based on your goals, budget, and the factors discussed above.
That flexibility is one of the great advantages to private instruction based guitar lessons.
You can organize your education any way you want, and everything can constantly be custom tailored towards each individual student.
If ever you ask yourself the same question or wonder about the same thing: I hope that the above thoughts might be helpful.
Any thoughts or comments? Hit me up in the comments section below.
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