Day to day month to month and year to year, the relationships. Lessons mentor-ship change over time.
I have a student Johnathan, been a guitar student for quite a number of years. 8 or 9 I believe. When he started he was a very small little guy, only 6 years old! Now he’s 15! Old enough to decide for himself how much time to devote to the extra things in life that clamor for his attention.
Yesterday we had a great lesson. He’s now starting to take practicing more seriously and it’s giving him the confidence to practice harder with more focus. We are specifically working on some of the licks in Aerosmith’s “Dream on” so he can perform it with a full band at a year end show this coming June. So far, he has about 80% of the parts learned, but not totally in memory. Our lesson time is usually addressing that. We review certain spots that need some attention, and make sure all the coordination and correct technique is there. We then try to connect that section to the next, building a big ol’ house one brick at a time.
There are 3 or 4 sections in this song that I would put in the ‘tougher’ than normal category. A few solo licks here and there, with specific patterns and bends, and well as a lick later on that traverses the neck fairly fast. For this particular student, most of his experience is playing 1st position chords, with the occasional riff based tune thrown in to keep things balanced.
These particular licks are outside this students wheelhouse. Meaning, they won’t be a super easy walk in the park. We slowly go through the minutiae of bending the note to pitch, the release, the coordination of both hands and how to play it so the release of the bend is NOT heard. Using your thumb for leverage, using your other fingers to help out. And of course, moving your body and making a crazy face, because that’s the only way you can actually bend notes right?
Watching him go over this again and again, it becomes more obvious than ever that he took time on his own to practice these licks. There is a easiness in how he plays them, but not with the intensity he needs to. He tends to pick lightly, carefully, doesn’t use enough “English”, or attitude to really get the idea across. What is missing is confidence, that’s all. I pull out my litany of one liners and start throwing them his way, helping him understand what I want, but not being insulting to him. “You gotta smash the tar outta that string! It can’t take it! Don’t be afraid.”
I over play the same lick, making the motions and the aggression shown in gigantic movements. After a few back and forth’s, he nails it. Not only can he play it, he can play it with confidence. No breaks, no hesitation, and anyone watching this can tell he feels good playing it, and maybe he’s convinced himself that he could, when before he thought that he could not! It’s a great moment.
When I see this student, or any student, my expectations for them are high. I want them to be the best musician they can possibly be. I want them to have the ability to express themselves through songwriting, performing, writing, and improvisation. This is the responsibility of a teacher (in my opinion anyway). Not only should they strive to be the best they can possibly be for themselves, they should reflect the values of the people that helped them achieve!
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