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Guitar Instructor's Corner: Customizing Your Lessons

By: Steve Booke

My approach to teaching guitar is twofold. I have my own set of ideas about what I want to teach regarding technique, music theory, and an overall approach to music and guitar. The student, on the other hand, will hopefully have his/her own set of goals they want to accomplish. This is, fundamentally, why they chose to take lessons. As with most things that we encounter when we first start on a new endeavor, such as learning an instrument, there are challenges that we don't even realize exist until we begin to dive into it.

Many times though, other teachers will present every student with the same exact lessons for the first few months. Of course, the first couple of lessons should be include basic technical exercises and basic chords in order to build up initial hand strength and coordination. After these basic chords are learned and simple coordination between the two hands has been established, the student should then receive customized lessons catering to their initial goals as a player.

Many students, especially younger ones, will get turned off and bored very quickly if they feel that their desires are not being acknowledged, and they do not see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as their goals are concerned with playing the instrument.

A student's progress is based on 4 initial factors:

1) How much time they put into practicing

2) Their natural abilities

3) Their ability to grasp new, sometimes abstract concepts

4) Feeling a sense of accomplishment that will hopefully inspire them to practice more

With the above points in mind, fitting every student into the same cookie cutter learning mold would be very much like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Some of your students may completely understand and jive with your teaching method, while others may get lost and/or begin to quickly lose interest in the instrument, and possibly music in general.

Keeping in mind that everyone learns and grasps concepts at different rates, it's a good idea to have alternate plans to present certain concepts if they don't seem to be taking hold with the student. I believe that there is always a way for it to get through. Sometimes we just need to be creative in how we convey the idea.