How To Be A Great Guitar Student

There are some very special teachers in the world. We know this because every now and again we hear about them in the news or perhaps a Hollywood script based on a true story like the movie ‘Music of the heart’. The truth is such teachers are extremely rare and in some cases the stories are exaggerated. Great teachers who can miraculously take anyone and turn them into an A grade students are not rule but the exception. Most, dare I say 99% of great teachers and coaches with exceptional track records practice what I call ‘filter and nurture’. A book I read earlier this year was entitled ‘The Pumpkin Plan’. What I liked about the book was its simple yet, powerful message. He describes the process behind growing massive pumpkins. The kind you see winning state fairs. The author points out that you can’t grow award winning pumpkins by starting with a ‘garden variety’ pumpkin seed. It takes a very special seed, usually sourced from one supplier based in Canada. Once the seed is planted its a case of nurture. This same idea can be applied to guitar players as I will describe.

Great teachers filter

Now let me state for the record, I am not saying that great teachers necessarily pick and choose their students like our pumpkin growing friends above. What they do do is filter usually based on attitude. For example take practice. Great teachers know that students who are not prepare to put in a certain amount of practice minutes per week are unlikely to reach any real level of proficiency on guitar. Making this clear from day one, expected practice minimums will act as a filter. Students who don’t want to adhere to those minimums will not enroll. We often hear about great teachers in one area or another and our instinct is to attribute their success to their exceptional teaching strategies. Other teachers will look to them to learn their secrets never realising that, its not just their teaching skills but, its the combination of their filters and their teaching ability. Its the filter and nurture combination at work.

Filtering for great teachers

This is where you come in. If you don’t fit the profile of a great student you will be filtered out by great teachers. Lets continue with the above example of practice. If you don’t want to be practicing more than a few days a week, you are likely to dismiss any teacher who expects daily practice. But even more important is the fact that you won’t be filtering for great teachers. What do I mean exactly? You will also be filtering. Firstly you will be filtering out great teachers because their expectations might seem unreasonable to you and secondly, you won’t be filtering average or below average teachers because you have no filter in place for detecting them. Your filter eliminates great teachers but not average and below average teachers.  Being a great student means having the same high standards as a great teacher by aligning your filters.

The attributes of a great guitar student

Without going into great detail the main attributes of a great guitar student I believe are as follows;

  1. They are consistent. Consistency means you attend every lesson except in case of serious illness or very special occasion. Funerals & weddings. It also means daily focused practice, no excuses, no mood swings and generally following the plan.  Note that a consistent student would expect a consistent teacher. Great teachers are therefore consistent.
  2. They have a growth mindset. A growth mindset means to see any skill as something that needs to be learned. The opposite is a fixed mindset where the person views skill as innate. A great student knows anything is possible with enough commitment and practice.
  3. They are patient and think longterm. A sure sign of a student who is likely to quit soon is impatience.  Great students don’t expect immediate results and they know everything takes time. They understand implicitly that the rewards come later. Sometimes years later.
  4. They follow instructions. Great teachers have a plan for you. If you are not the kind of student who likes to follow instructions you are unlikely to work well with a great teacher. You, or they, or likely both, will filter each other out. Sure its possible that a not so great teacher might have a plan for you as well but by being open to the teacher’s plan and giving it time you will discover whether it will work for you. What we do know is average teachers generally don’t have plans. Their only plan is to keep you paying money.
  5. They take full responsibility. At the end of the day great students take full responsibility for their ultimate success. They appreciate the advice and guidance of their teachers but know teachers can only guide us. Teachers do not have all the answers and are in no way responsible for their students reaching their personal goals. As a student you must decide what you want and seek out great teachers who can help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to reach your goals.

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