I had three students yesterday, and this is what we worked on.
Student #1: This gentleman worked on a song that he will perform at his own wedding. The tune is Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song.” He is fingerpicking the chords and singing. He was one of my early students from when I began teaching in mid-aughts. He’s not an ongoing student but has returned to help him polish up this particular song for his nuptials.
Student #2: We worked on advanced intervals, as both ear training and in order to play them as shapes on the guitar. We focused on the weird ones like minor sixths and flat fifths, and also discussed how even the weird ones show up frequently in chords.
Student #3: With this young man, we worked on jazz improv skills. He’s adept at simple minor pentatonic work, so we practiced adding other notes into the scale. We also discussed and practiced how voices might move within the jazz chords he’s learned for his high school jazz band.
It’s really cool to get to help people move forward in their music. It goes beyond simply giving a guitar lesson and into the realms of mentorship. This obviously takes an investment of time, patience, and maintenance, from myself AND from the students. These rewards we’re reaping together are the gratification that comes from sticking with it for a LONG period of time, and building the skills one by one.
These students from yesterday, by the way, did not necessarily start out very impressively. One was already a middle aged man who was just beginning to learn guitar, and had terrible rhythm, but now he’s fingerpicking Travis-style, and likes to play folk and country songs. The second student held his pick wrong for about a year, had it the point facing back upwards instead of keeping the pick parallel to the floor. It took a lot of correction, but now he’s as solid a rhythm guitarist as I know of. He also plays bass and drums, and writes songs and sings. The third student had a somewhat poor attitude towards his practice and didn’t begin really loving our work until about 4 years into it. Now he’s doing jazz band in high school, as well as playing acoustic folk-pop songs like those of Cat Stevens and Jack Johnson. So yeah, I tend to think that ANYONE can learn, because I’ve seen that those that continue to TRY to play will always eventually break through to higher levels of musicality. So nobody out there should feel totally hopeless! Just keep trying stuff, even if you have a rough go if it.