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  1. #1

    Periodic break from lessons?

    I'm an intermediate level player who has been working on jazz guitar off and on for a year or two. I'm self-directed, developing my own practice routines and researching areas of interest. Although I made acceptable progress I decided to take lessons to see if I couldn't accelerate things.

    The teacher I found is great! He's a good musician, likeable, knows his stuff and, best of all, is great at teaching. I've been taking one hour lessons every week since March and have learned so much. In the lessons we will usually pick a tune from the Real Book, then he will diagram the chords, highlight the progressions, and write in a chord melody to go with it. This is very helpful and has really expanded my playing and comprehension.

    The problem is that I never seem to master a piece before we are on to a new one. We review the old song in each new lesson, and I don't feel as though I need more lesson time playing through it for him; just more time working on it on my own. When I was studying on my own I'd tend to keep working at something until I had it down. Also, I would study chords and arpeggios until I understood them, then move one. I practice two hours a day.

    Lately I've been thinking about stopping the lessons for a month or two until I can review all of the material we've worked on so far and nail it down in terms of playing and comprehension. Or maybe I should just take lessons every other week instead of every week. I could also practice more but I often find that I lose focus much beyond two or three hours. On the other hand, I'm learning so much and having such a good time with the weekly lessons I hate to give them up even for a while.

    Any advice on this?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    So Cal USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by cfit View Post
    I'm an intermediate level player who has been working on jazz guitar off and on for a year or two. I'm self-directed, developing my own practice routines and researching areas of interest. Although I made acceptable progress I decided to take lessons to see if I couldn't accelerate things.

    The teacher I found is great! He's a good musician, likeable, knows his stuff and, best of all, is great at teaching. I've been taking one hour lessons every week since March and have learned so much. In the lessons we will usually pick a tune from the Real Book, then he will diagram the chords, highlight the progressions, and write in a chord melody to go with it. This is very helpful and has really expanded my playing and comprehension.

    The problem is that I never seem to master a piece before we are on to a new one. We review the old song in each new lesson, and I don't feel as though I need more lesson time playing through it for him; just more time working on it on my own. When I was studying on my own I'd tend to keep working at something until I had it down. Also, I would study chords and arpeggios until I understood them, then move one. I practice two hours a day.

    Lately I've been thinking about stopping the lessons for a month or two until I can review all of the material we've worked on so far and nail it down in terms of playing and comprehension. Or maybe I should just take lessons every other week instead of every week. I could also practice more but I often find that I lose focus much beyond two or three hours. On the other hand, I'm learning so much and having such a good time with the weekly lessons I hate to give them up even for a while.

    Any advice on this?

    Thanks!
    Your teacher sounds similar to mine (i.e. a good one), but I recommend you take a break. For how long? Well work on the material he gave you and if you have some other friends that play jazz, after you feel you have it 'down' play it for them. If they agree, then it is time to start lessons again. If not, rinse and repeat.

    This worked very well with my teacher. I stayed with him for over 3 years, but took 3 - 6 months breaks.

    Note: I took breaks partly for economic reasons (I.e. I wasn't getting much from 'new' lessons so I wasn't getting my monies worth from them) , but if that isn't a consideration, there may be no need to take a break.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    Run your own life, take a break if that's what you feel. However, a lot of this knowledge is accumulative, and relates well to other tunes; there really are only a dozen or so common progressions that make up most standards, so mastering each tune will happen anyway as you make the connections. Learn the melodies and lyrics, if there are any, and that will help you remember the tunes. Mastery is elusive; techniques can be mastered, but tunes are lifelong explorations in jazz.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Edinburgh
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    I have a lot of students, and actually encourage them to take time out to themselves every few months. I give a discount for ten lessons, then expect them to take a month or two to themselves, to let things settle. I've found that in the long term the student is happier, and is more likely to stay with me longer as a consequence. Some of my students have been with me for over a decade, with a month off here and there throughout the year. Win, win.

  5. #5
    Have you actually discussed this with your teacher?
    One thing I've noticed about teachers who are paid regularly, be it privately or institutionally, is this equating justification of payment by providing regular and tangible product. When I was in music school, many teachers were ostensibly clueless about progress, or process, instead looking to have a regular lesson product.
    Talk this over with your teacher. Ask questions about process. Talk about other aspects of the learning process like ear training, interval mastery on the fingerboard, visualizing the movement of voices in the SATB structure; all of which inform learning a piece.
    I happen to see the value of sticking with one piece for a very long time (like your whole life) and learning a fresh piece, applying your progressive knowledge to a new piece a week. Once you have the fundamentals down, the two are not mutually exclusive and actually inform each other.
    Take the time and discuss this with your teacher. I would love it if my students came in with their own priorities when it came to learning style. It gives a truer focus on the learning process that is a very individual thing.

    There's a lot that goes into learning music, guitar, creative composition (improvisation), pacing... and a good teacher has insight that goes well beyond the assignment of a set lesson plan. Take advantage of that. Ask good questions.

    When I was in school, I studied with a great teacher, David Tronzo. We never talked about the things I needed to know to pass my proficiency exams, but rather I brought questions about the way I heard things and approached pieces and he offered his very unique and deep insights and perspectives. Now, years later, those things are the lessons I realized started me in the directions I consider real and valuable.

    Talk with your teacher.

    Just my two cents.
    David

  6. #6
    I'm sure it varies from person to person, but for myself, I don't think it's a terrible thing to have a "consolidation period" every now and then. I also think that for me, once a week is too often to have a lesson. I do better with once every two or three weeks. That gives me time to practice what I was working on, but also to explore different aspects of it. (If I've learned a new chord, how can I resolve it or to it? If it's a tune, how many different ways can I find to play it? Stuff like that.)
    "I'm opposed to picketing, but I don't know to show it." --Mitch Hedberg

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Beaufort, S.C.
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    497
    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    I happen to see the value of sticking with one piece for a very long time (like your whole life) and learning a fresh piece, applying your progressive knowledge to a new piece a week. Once you have the fundamentals down, the two are not mutually exclusive and actually inform each other.
    I couldn't agree more with the above statement.

    After 30 years of teaching guitar I found that there is also a lot to be said for being "under the gun" so to speak and having to have your weekly assignments ready for your next lesson.

    Some of my students who would take breaks from their lessons came back without being any further along than their last lesson!

    Regards,
    Steven Herron
    Learn To Play Chord Melody Guitar

  8. #8
    A common way to organize lessons is in "semesters" (in other words, every few months). Learn 6-8 tunes over that period (plus technique etc.), but mid-way into the semester agree on 3 for your "recital" that you will play at the end, and yes you can swap as you approach the end, if you wish. Polish those 3, dial them in.

    As long as all material is level appropriate, this pattern can be repeated ad infinitum. This approach has been used successfully for all instruments and the voice, classical and jazz, for a long time.

    Exhaustion and frustration can easily set in without his clear plan in force. "Escape from lessons" is the typical result!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    London
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    11,753
    Talk to your teacher about it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
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    So Cal USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Herron View Post
    I couldn't agree more with the above statement.

    After 30 years of teaching guitar I found that there is also a lot to be said for being "under the gun" so to speak and having to have your weekly assignments ready for your next lesson.

    Some of my students who would take breaks from their lessons came back without being any further along than their last lesson!

    Regards,
    Steven Herron
    Learn To Play Chord Melody Guitar
    As for "under the gun"; it comes down to the main reason why someone takes lessons; to learn something or to be motivated to improve \ practice?

    E.g. my wife and I went to Yoga classes. After 3 sessions (and some Internet searches) I learned all of the positions that were good for a sound yoga 'workout'. So I told her I wasn't going again, and instead I'm just going to do the workout routine at home. She said she would continue to go because it helps ensure she does the workout. Fast forward: my wife still goes 2 times per week. Me? I only do the workout once a month (at home)! And yea, my wife keeps telling me 'I told you so'!.

    The moral of the story is that if one takes breaks from lessons with the plan to woodshed on the material they were already provided AND they do so, then taking that break was wise (as it relates to getting where one wishes to get).

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by cfit View Post
    I'm an intermediate level player who has been working on jazz guitar off and on for a year or two. I'm self-directed, developing my own practice routines and researching areas of interest. Although I made acceptable progress I decided to take lessons to see if I couldn't accelerate things.

    The teacher I found is great! He's a good musician, likeable, knows his stuff and, best of all, is great at teaching. I've been taking one hour lessons every week since March and have learned so much. In the lessons we will usually pick a tune from the Real Book, then he will diagram the chords, highlight the progressions, and write in a chord melody to go with it. This is very helpful and has really expanded my playing and comprehension.

    The problem is that I never seem to master a piece before we are on to a new one. We review the old song in each new lesson, and I don't feel as though I need more lesson time playing through it for him; just more time working on it on my own. When I was studying on my own I'd tend to keep working at something until I had it down. Also, I would study chords and arpeggios until I understood them, then move one. I practice two hours a day.

    Lately I've been thinking about stopping the lessons for a month or two until I can review all of the material we've worked on so far and nail it down in terms of playing and comprehension. Or maybe I should just take lessons every other week instead of every week. I could also practice more but I often find that I lose focus much beyond two or three hours. On the other hand, I'm learning so much and having such a good time with the weekly lessons I hate to give them up even for a while.

    Any advice on this?

    Thanks!
    I have been playing and teaching for over 30 years and I must say that you are on to something. You need time to consolidate your learning. You can either take more time in between your lessons (I.e do a lesson every 2 weeks or once a month). Or do a whack of lessons (6 or 8 or 10) and then take some time to absorb all that learning before taking more lessons.

    Also, do not underestimate the value of jamming. Find a local jam or get together with other players that you can work on the tunes with.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  12. #12
    I think that of all the questions I have asked on Internet forums this one has yielded the best advice. Thanks so much!

    I'm still leaning towards taking a break from lessons over August and September but will talk about it with my teacher when I have my lesson next week.

    Thanks again for the advice.

  13. #13
    It's good to be pushed. Without the teacher you can easily sit back and relax, look at all those YouTube vids telling you how to do stuff, try this, try that, etc. Having to go to the lesson prepared and not wanting to look an idiot makes you put the effort in. Sometimes it can be very uncomfortable but its worth it.

  14. #14
    Join Date
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    Canada
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    I've struggled with this too, but my general thoughts are that until you good enough to lead a group through an amateur gig where you are playing some tunes without charts, it's good to take lessons and be in the presence of an accomplished player.

  15. #15
    I'll take it a step further and say I think it's a good thing to take periodic breaks from PLAYING, so long as you don't depend on it for income or plan on going pro etc. I've taken years off at a time (an extreme example) and It's amazing how quick you can get back to where you were. I took my breaks after 2 years of music school, so I had a solid foundation
    White belt
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  16. #16
    For me, lessons are not so much about being pushed as being introduced to new things.The problem is that I don't feel that I've had the time to absorb and analyze all the new material coming my way.

    On my own, I practice at the same time every day,using a timer to break things into 15 minute sections. I practice with a metronome, keep a notebook to record what I've worked on, the amount of time I spent on it, bpm, and odd notes. This regimented approach lets me work on theory, new techniques, tunes, whatever over a period of months until it sticks. Taking lessons, it's something new every week. Each practice session I try to play through the material from earlier lessons so that I can get better at them. Since the pile of material keeps growing I end up shelving the older stuff before I've really got it down.

    Where I'm really missing out is that I do all my playing alone in my office at home. Just as taking lessons dramatically accelerated my learning I'm sure that playing with other people would really help me improve. First I want to get better so that I don't embarrass myself but wonder if I'll ever reach they mythical point where I'm 'good enough' to jam.

  17. #17
    Honestly, one's take on lessons - their purpose, what you expect to get out of them etc - is highly personal. I've learned most of this from students I have taught. I used be made very uncomfortable by students who wanted to TALK, and I mean talk for a substantial portion of the lesson. Mostly adults. Had to come to terms of what the time is about and what value means to different individuals.

    Anyway, in the end, I had to decide that it's basically their lesson , and somehow they perceive it as being more valuable in that format. From the beginning I tended to look at it in terms of pure content, what new information etc. you're getting out of it.

    If anything, it might be helpful to be open to the idea of trying some different teachers for lessons, just for variety's sake. If you're fortunate enough to have an older player in the area, it might be worth taking some "lessons" , merely for the stories and bits of philosophical insight from the old days.

    There's a point at which you might have to remove judgment and preconceived ideas regarding what a lesson really SHOULD about, especially from others. In the end, it only has to satisfy your gut feeling that it's worth it. Pure weekly accountability? Absolutely worth it, ...IF that's of value to you.

    Watch the Ted Green lesson videos, and ask yourself whether being in the room with him was all about some quantifiable percentage of "pure content time/information", or whether it was as much about something completely intangible as well.

    Of course that brings to mind the question of "Do you have that kind of teacher?".

    Sent from my SM-J727P using Tapatalk

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