One of the hardest things I have to do as a guitar teacher is to set realistic expectations for my pupils. This is especially true for beginners and even more so, in my experience, for adult beginners. Most people starting to learn the guitar usually have in mind a song, or an artist, or genre that they’d like to emulate. Experienced players make it look easy so how hard can it really be? The truth is there is no shortcut to years of study, practice and playing. This can seem daunting and perhaps unachievable to the beginner. The teacher’s job is to help to map out the journey to becoming a better player and musician in a way that is manageable, highlights the progress made and is enjoyable.
With my pupils I set out a series of goals that can be achieved in a relatively short time frame and allow the student to get a tangible feel for the progress they are making. Where I can I look for quick wins, even if they are small; they usually are small but it all adds up. If, from one lesson to the next, the student is able to play something new or better they’ll get an immediate sense that they are making progress. With absolute beginners I spend time with them on how to hold the guitar and adopting the best hand positions. For self taught beginners with some playing ability this is usually a revelation. Achieving and acknowledging the ‘wins’ really does help to quickly consolidate technique.
I also strongly encourage my students to keep a notebook that not only serves as means for recording lesson notes but also demonstrates, as a historical record, the progress that they have made. By focussing jointly on areas of technique and musicianship my pupils improve not only their technical facility but also develop their sense of what it means to play musically. Without this guidance from an experienced teacher beginners can get tied up in knots, developing a poor technique and not using their practice time efficiently. As in most endeavours if you keep doing the same thing incorrectly, no matter how many times you do it, you are very unlikely to improve.
So motivation is key and it comes from i) having patience ii) tackling guitar technique in small, achievable chunks and acknowledging progress iii) enjoying the journey! iv) developing as a musician not just as a guitar player v) having the oversight and encouragement of an experienced teacher.