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5 Ways to Get More Out of Your Private Lessons

By Bennett Sullivan on Dec 18, 2019

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Do you ever feel uninspired after a lesson, without a sense of how to improve your playing?

Does it feel like your teacher is doing the best he or she can do to share their valuable knowledge but there’s still something missing?

We want to share 5 tips for what you can do to get more out of your private lessons so you can improve faster.

  1. Prepare questions - Teachers love it when there is direction from the student on what they are looking for. The best lessons involve a balance of student questions and feedback from the teacher on how to improve. Bring in 3-4 questions to your teacher each lesson and try to focus on timing, vocabulary, and fretboard exploration issues. For example, ask why this lick is so hard to play with the metronome or how you can substitute one lick for another in a song. Or, how to map out melodies or scales in different parts of the neck. These types of questions will help you more deeply understand music and technique so in time, you’ll start to find the answers yourself.
  2. Learn how to practice - Repertoire is important for being able to survive at jam sessions and for learning technique but developing effective practice skills will take your playing beyond tunes and into a deeper musicality like improv, arranging, and playing the music and not just the notes. Ask your teacher to share ways to practice with the metronome and how to structure your routine so you’re learning repertoire, technique, vocabulary, and theory (such as the Nashville number system). These topics will help you become a well-rounded and musical picker, not just someone that can play the latest tab for Whiskey Before Breakfast. Ask him or her how to more effectively memorize music and how you can start learning to play by ear. Also, coming up with a 1 month, 3 month, and 6 month goal oriented plan isn’t a bad idea either. That way your private lessons can be more structured and you’ll know what to practice to move you forward based on your goals.
  3. Learn how to play by ear - It’s perhaps a daunting skill to learn on your own but if you have a patient teacher this can be a fun and rewarding activity to do in lessons. Ask your teacher to work on simple melodies with you like Mary Had a Little Lamb or Happy Birthday and then move on to popular tunes like Will the Circle Be Unbroken or I’ll Fly Away. Try these songs in a few different keys (G, C, and D) and work out the chords in these keys.
  4. Take notes/Record using your phone - We’re in the age of technology and it’s easier than ever to record audio and video using our phones. Ask your teacher if they’d let you record them talking and playing. Video is a great way to get started learning by ear because you can see what strings and frets are being played.
  5. Practice with your teacher and don’t make it easy - A great way to use your lesson time is to practice with your teacher and let them give you feedback. Tell them to be hard on you. For example, play with the metronome and have them stop you to start over each time you lose the rhythm. If there is a difficult rhythmic passage play it or sing it with your teacher to further internalize the sound of it, then practice with the metronome. Have them quiz you on I, IV, V, IV and II chords in several keys. You should feel like you’ve just left a hard and fulfilling workout. Even 5 minutes of this at the end of a session can help motivate you until your next lesson.
  6. I hope this list has given you some ideas on how to get the most out of your private lessons. Try bringing one of these points to your teacher and let us know how it goes in the comment section!

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