When we first begin a new project (E.g. guitar) it is likely that we will have unrealistic expectations. Have you been to a movie highly recommended by a friend only to be disappointed? Compare that to a movie by one of your favourite directors with familiar actors a somewhat predictable plot based on a well known formula. The first example while sometimes just a really bad movie recommended by a friend who thinks Elvis movies are cinema classics is really just a movie that did not meet your expectations. When we are told a movie is brilliant we expect our idea of brilliant and anything less is disappointing. Whether we like it or not we have expectations about almost everything in life and in some cases those expectations are met and in other cases they are not but our expectations often affect our decisions. When it comes to learning guitar your expectations play a major role in whether or not you decide to continue learning or give up especially in the early stages.
Where did my student go?
I have seen guitar students who role up for their first lesson with their brand new $1500 Maton guitar, half a dozen books on how to play guitar with the excitement of a 6 year old on Christmas morning. Then within a few weeks they disappear. In my early years of teaching this would surprise me but over the years it became an all too familiar pattern which I learned to recognise early. It was simply that their expectations were not being met. I knew in order to keep these students from throwing in the towel too early it was important to set them straight from the outset. Their expectations were way too high and they were expecting too much too soon.
Hope for the best but expect the worst
It is true that some students are better at focusing and putting first things first and there are also students who walk into their first lesson with a musical history so therefore have a head start but over the long term the above differences tend to even out. A good teacher will help the student to prioritise, the less focused student learns to focus and any musical history tends to be less and less relevant. The important fact here is staying in the game. Staying in the game is about understanding your own expectations. If you expect to be playing the entire Beatles collection within a few months you will be disappointed whereas if stringing a few chords together in time is enough you will likely be pleased with your progress. This should not be confused with goals. Its good to aim high but just don’t expect too much. The old saying ‘Hope for the best but expect the worst’ will serve you well.
Parents – Do you think your child has realistic expectations?
Most guitar teachers are familiar with parents who when inquiring about lessons for their child say something like the following; “Is it possible to borrow or hire a guitar for a few weeks just to see how she/he goes?” I understand of course that some parents don’t want to spend $100 on a new guitar only to find out a few weeks later that their child’s interest has waned. The problem with this approach though is it sends the message that the parent perhaps does not have faith in their child’s ability to learn guitar. But here’s the thing, questioning your child’s ability to follow through is not actually a bad thing. Most parents know their child extremely well so their instincts should not be ignored. If you are a parent and know your child is unlikely to follow through it is better to address the reasons why before they start. Even if your instincts are telling you they are 80% likely to follow through then address the 20%. Talk to your child about what will be involved with learning guitar. Daily practice, weekly lessons, initially sore fingers, good days and bad days, boring exercises at times and so on. As a parent you know your child so as much as possible laid it all out for them so there are no surprises.
Good teachers address your expectations early
A good guitar teacher knows that your expectations must be met if you are to continue long term. Unmet expectations soon wear us down. Unless your teacher has some kind of magical powers your pace of learning is quite predictable based on the amount of practice you do on a consistent basis. Basically practice equals progress. A good teacher might be able to get you to practice more than you would otherwise or focus more of the essential skills and therefore help you to progress quicker but ultimately if your expectations are not met you will still be disappointed. The teacher’s goal therefore is to evaluate your expectations and then ensure they are realistic and inline with what is reasonable given your average practice times. This is one of the many reasons why you should be using the *Practice Log. Your teacher needs to know how much you are practicing to know what you should be expecting in terms of progress.
*Practice Log is available in the G4 Guitar Method Kit.