Even though I was never a great guitarist, I was always a great student. I remember pointing out to the guitar faculty during my conservatory audition that I needed a lot of help (as if they couldn’t already tell while I was busy butchering my audition performance). In retrospect, it’s probably the main reason that I was accepted. What teacher wouldn’t want to teach someone who knows he needs help?
I always had the utmost respect for my teachers (still do, in fact), but my recent self-propelled improvement has me thinking… was I too deferential? I arrived at the conservatory humbled by my audition experience, in awe of some of the other students, and fully prepared to assume the role of “clay to be molded.” I did lots of smiling and nodding, accepted everything that was taught to me, and eagerly went home after each guitar lesson to assimilate what I had learned that day. It always felt like something was missing, though, and I think what was missing was… me. I became so deferential to the various elements of the conservatory that I basically disappeared behind it all.
By putting too much stock in what the conservatory was capable of teaching me, I actually took myself further away from my goal of being a professional musician. I did get better, but in some ways I became dependent on teachers, classes, books and homework. I thought the conservatory would teach me how to be a great musician, but I was wrong. The conservatory could only refine the musician I already was. My teachers were not responsible for my improvement. Nor were the method books, nor my peers. I was responsible for my improvement. I needed to own it, and I didn’t at the time.
Now I have no teacher that I see each week. I do still have the knowledge imparted during my conservatory days (for which I am forever grateful) which helps me to guide myself, but the most important thing that I did to jump-start my improvement was to start doing things the way that I wanted to do them. I no longer care about what a teacher would say about my improvement methods, because they’re mine, and the work for me.
Many of you are probably chuckling to yourselves if you’ve noticed the apparent hypocrisy of a guy with a guitar lessons website who is now telling you that you don’t need a teacher… but that’s not what I’m saying. Teachers are great and can be very helpful if you understand what they are and what role they play. Even the term “guitar teacher,” for that matter, is somewhat misleading. A guitar teacher doesn’t really teach you how to play guitar. A guitar teacher helps you to teach yourself how to play the guitar. Think about it… if you take a lesson each week for an hour, even if you only practice for an hour each day, you’re still spending almost 90% of your time on your own. If you don’t own your improvement, nobody does.
This site is not intended to be my way of telling you how you have to do things. It’s more of a set of examples of what’s worked for me that you might want to think about… or alter… or refute. My goal is to get you actively thinking about how to improve so you can… own it.