You will probably be very excited to begin your guitar lessons. Your teacher is also excited to meet you and learn more about you so that she/he can adapt to your learning style and help you reach your goals. At your first lesson, your teacher will most likely take inventory of your current playing level and experience, talk about your daily practice routine, and help you with your posture and hand position.
If you have never played an instrument before, you will be given a lot of information during the first lesson. Don’t feel bad if you can’t understand everything, and remember that this is your lesson: It’s okay to ask questions.
If you have been playing the guitar for a while, your teacher may ask you to play something for her/him. This is just to give your teacher an idea of your strengths and weaknesses. Keep in mind that you are taking lessons to improve, so just do your best and don’t stress out. 🙂 Your teacher may also quiz you to figure out what you know and where you need improvement. Be honest if you don’t understand something so your teacher can help you.
At your first lesson, your teacher will discuss your daily practice routine. It is crucial, especially at the beginning, that you practice every single day. You will need a quiet place where you can practice each day for 10-60 minutes. Some teachers will have you record your daily practice if they feel that it will help you see your progress and improve specific weaknesses.
One of the most important aspects of playing the guitar that your teacher can address with you is your posture. There is not just one correct way to hold the guitar and position your hands on the guitar that works in all situations. To keep your hands healthy, you need to position your body and hands differently in order to play certain notes and chords. Your teacher will show you specifically how to move your shoulders and elbows to accommodate the different positions as you progress.
If your first lesson is a trial lesson, which is my recommendation, be sure to ask your teacher when she/he needs to hear back from you if you decide to sign-up for regular lessons. Evaluate your teacher’s professionalism, knowledge, understandability, and the overall vibe. If it felt like a good fit, go for it. If it didn’t feel like a good fit, let your teacher know as soon as possible. Good teachers know that they are not the best fit for everyone, and good teachers will encourage you to find a better teacher for you.
The Student’s Responsibility
When students walk into my studio, I have a responsibility to provide them with an excellent guitar lesson. Specifically, that means that I need to listen carefully to the past week’s assignment, provide feedback and applications for the concepts, and then assign new material that will help them reach their long-term goals.
But students also need to contribute to the lessons in order for the lessons to be effective. It is not enough for students to be on time and talk enthusiastically about the guitar. Students need to make sure they understand their teacher’s expectations and they have good time management skills so they can get the most out of each lesson.
At the end of each guitar lesson, I ask my students to agree to a specific assignment that works with their learning style and practice time they have that week. I remind them that the quality of their daily practice determines how well they will accomplish their goals. While I do hope to inspire my students to practice and reach their goals, there are limitations to the inspiration I can provide for them each week.
Guitar lessons are successful when both the teacher and the student understand their roles. Teachers need to listen to their students and have a plan for their students, and students need to follow that plan and ask questions along the way. When there are clear expectations, it becomes easy for students to reach their goals, or if they are not reaching their goals, they can easily see who is not taking responsibility for their share of the work.
Susan Palmer teaches jazz, blues, and rock guitar styles in Seattle and via webcam. Since 2006, she has been the guitar instructor at Seattle University. Palmer created and taught, “The Rock Project” at Cornish College of the Arts from 2010-15, and she was music instructor at Seattle Girls School for the 2016-17 school year. Palmer is the author of, The Guitar Lesson Companion Method Book Series which is used by teachers and students in over 10 countries, including faculty at Berklee College of Music. Her extensive collection of lesson videos and jam tracks are available for free on YouTube. Palmer’s current and former students perform regularly throughout the country, including these Seattle venues: The Comet, The High Dive, Skylark, Neumos, The Hard Rock Cafe, Chop Suey, The Tractor Tavern, The Rendezvous, The Sorrento Hotel, The Crocodile, The Mix, Cafe Racer, The Edgewater Hotel, The Sunset, and other private events.