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Picking (or Picking On) Your Classical Guitar Teacher

What should you look for when considering classical guitar lessons? What should you hope for? What might you have to settle for?

Every teacher has something valuable to teach, and no-one is perfect. But here are some possible teaching styles or situations that can show up as you look for and try out teachers, along with some of the pros and cons that I can see for each.

In the comment section, please let me know if you agree, disagree, and if you want to nominate some other types of teaching that you have run into.

1. I Am The Maestro
The old-school approach, a player who is probably quite accomplished (or once was) and has some pretty set ideas on how to do things, perhaps even some old-fashioned, somewhat authoritarian ideas about a teacher-student relationship.
Pros: Is a maestro. If you are able to follow their instructions, if you appreciate the “traditional ways” of learning, and if  your basic comfort or talent level coming in is high enough, you will learn something, quite possibly a lot.
Cons: Just because someone is a good or great player doesn’t make them a great teacher. There will probably be a few students that are suited to the teacher’s style and many more that fall into various instructional cracks and aren’t really learning, but remain because they are in awe of the teacher’s credentials.

2. Um….sure I can teach classical….sort of.
This is someone who is probably not fully qualified to teach you unless you are interested in …sort of playing classical guitar. If you are serious about playing classical guitar, you’ll look for some proof that your teacher is not just adding classical chops as an extra.
Pros: if you are more interested in other aspects of guitar playing: strumming chords, accompanying, song-writing, perhaps jazz guitar…then someone who knows a few classical guitar basics might be what you’re looking for
Cons: pretty obvious. They will not have refined their classical guitar technique or knowledge. If you stick with them for long, you could develop some bad habits that might be difficult habits to get over.

3. I’m Fresh from College…at a Budget Price
This is a fresh-faced youngster with a lot of enthusiasm and not so much experience as a teacher. We’ve all been there.
Pros: Usually cheaper to study with than someone who’s paid their free-lance teaching dues. Probably knows how to play. They’ll be able to help you with the basics and, if your lucky, quite a bit more, while they learn, themselves, how to help you.
Cons: Music School doesn’t teach you how to teach. That is something you learn on over time. If you want to get refined judgement and seasoned experience, chances are you won’t find it here.

4. I Shall Not Stray From the Prescribed Method
This is someone who has one way of doing things: the biggest difference between them and The Maestro is that they might follow a method but might not be the greatest example of it themselves.
Pros: There is something to be said for towing the party line: every teaching method has some truth in it, and you will learn something from it:
Cons: One-size-fits-all does not fit all! In fact, it often causes a lot of tension, limitation, small-mindedness, overly technical focus.

These are a few possibilities. Putting up with them and other similarly limited teaching styles is not worth it if you know what is truly possible

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