This ‘Learn Music Faster’ series of posts highlights things my best students do that contributes towards their success. There are no secret formulae or magic tricks. Learning to play well still requires hard work, dedication and above all, practice. However, my students who do these things seem to improve quicker than the others.
Take responsibility for your own learning
The students who learn fastest tend to be the ones who come to me and say they want to learn particular songs, styles, techniques, theory or any other aspect of music. They have thought about what they want and then told me what they want. They are taking responsibility for their own learning.
Straight up I should say that this isn’t a one way street. I will also highlight stuff that they need to work on and have my own idea of what I want them to learn and develop. But if I have an idea of what they want I can try to find areas where this overlaps. That way they are learning things that interest them while I’m also pushing them in the right direction overall.
What this means is not passively turning up to lessons and letting your teacher set the agenda every time. Between lessons go out and do your own investigations about the guitar (and other music). Watch YouTube lessons, read magazines and articles, talk to friends and other musicians, read books, watch documentaries and instructional videos, jam with friends, go to open mic nights and jam sessions, go to gigs, play gigs. Absorb knowledge and experiences, come up with questions and take those to your lessons (remember from my earlier post, questions are good).
If you sit back and rely on your teacher as your only source of musical information, you will fall behind anyone who is out there immersing themselves in music. The teacher should be a guide through the musical world, not your only window into it.
This doesn’t mean you can ignore what your teacher tells you to do! If they say you need to focus on something specific even though you are totally inspired by something else at the moment, there’s probably still a good reason why they’re saying that.
If you find yourself in this situation try to find time to work on both areas. But do tell your teacher about the topic that’s inspiring you so that maybe when you’ve finished whatever you’re working on now you can move on to that instead.
So make yourself a list of stuff you are interested in and would like to work on, or at least work towards doing. Then at your next lesson, ask your teacher if you could look at some of that stuff when the time is right. Not right now, but when they think you’re ready. That way lessons become a two way process and you are starting to take responsibility for your own learning.
Postscript for Intermediate to Advanced players:
Taking responsibility for your own learning is more and more important the more advanced you are at your instrument. Once you’ve achieved a reasonable level of competence you will know that there is more to music that you can ever possible learn in a lifetime. If any teacher is going to help you focus on what you need then you need to come to them knowing what you want to work on.
Hopefully you have aims and goals and targets for yourself. See my series of posts about goals if you haven’t already. Share these goals with your teacher while also being receptive to what they suggest you should be working on.
I take lessons with two of London’s top session players. I can’t imagine turning up to a lesson with no idea of what I want to look at in that session. They will always ask me what I’ve been working on at the beginning of the lesson so I’ll tell them and say if there’s anything I’d like to look at. If I’m working on a new score for a show I may have a page full of questions about how to approach aspects of the music. That makes sure I get what I need from the lesson.
Sometimes the teacher will have prepared something to specific to work on in the lesson. In which case I might put my things in hold (unless they are really urgent). That’s fine. But at least I am prepared if I need to be. I’m paying for time with some hugely experienced and talented musicians. I’m going to make sure I get the specific things I want from that, as well as benefitting from their guidance and instruction.
Previously on Learn Music Faster – Know / Believe it’s not about Talent