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  1. #1

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    I guess I come from the old school of teaching. I guess I'm a harder ass than most. When a student comes to me I evaluate where they're at. I design a specific program for him, or her. I keep in close contact with their development and see what works and what doesn't or where the students weaknesses are. This is a continuing process. I'm constantly working on getting the student up to understanding what practicing is. It's so important FOR ME to make sure we take a step by step, gradual, gradient approach. One thing comes AFTER the other.

    What I don't do: Give whatever the student asks, regardless of ability. He/she can ask me questions and I will always answer, keeping in mind where they are and how much they can understand or apply what I'm saying in language they can understand. But I won't give them whatever they want just because they're paying well for lessons and asked me. I am the teacher. They came to me for lessons. My job is to get them where they want to go using what I think is the most direct path.

    I've noticed, especially with one of my students yesterday, that students have access to youtube and every method book known to mankind. They want the helter-skelter, hop-scotch method of jumping from this to that. Guys want to learn songs, and solos and watch how x,y or z does it and they, as a generality, don't know how to knuckle down to STUDY the instrument or any one METHOD. Consequently it takes them 10 times as long. I don't know. I could be lazy and take their money and make it easy, but I had kick ass teachers. I came TO THEM. So I charge more and have LESS students so I don't have to deal with this BS.

    I had to read a student the riot act yesterday because he was paying me well but simply not practicing and always asking me for stuff well beyond his pay grade. Sometimes you have to get very real with students. Always but you have to balance that with a lot of pats on the backs and encouragement. But you have to be real too.

    I told him, "I just don't know what I can do with you any more." That put a real fear into him. I've gone over things with him, over and over. If he had done what I told him he would have been WAY past this by now. He's asking me questions he would have known a year or more ago. And there's definitely no excuse. I record all the lessons, give the student their own web page with PDFs of all the stuff and an open line to communicate with me at any time.

    I THINK there's a instant gratification thing happening with youtube and access to methods, books, links that tries to short circuit the process. You REALLY CAN'T SHORT CIRCUIT THE PROCESS. There's no short cuts. You have to practice it through and through. And I'm having a hard time convincing students. You must KNOW THE INSTRUMENT. PERIOD.

    The students I've had, to a person, man or woman, who has done each lesson, has turned out to be very good, competent players regardless of genre. Kicked ass. I had one guy, not a very naturally gifted guitarist, who after a year of lessons and after doing every lesson to completion, went to Berkeley in Boston and went right to the head of the class. Well it took a semester because of hazing. But after that one semester he was in the number one band and was playing all over the city.

    I've worked really hard developing a step by step approach. It works. So I get flummoxed when I get students who don't do their lessons and then say, "Can you show me how to play . . . " or "Maybe I should just do ear transcriptions." That's fine. But have you done your lessons?

    It seems as though people have no idea how to practice. I think there are some teachers who do great disservice to students by just teaching them Eagles songs or Tool songs or Misty without actually TEACHING THEM music. Without forcing them to learn the instrument.

    I'll take one student who actually wants to buckle down and learn over ten I have to babysit any day.

    End another rant.
    Last edited by henryrobinett; 09-18-2015 at 11:50 PM.

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  3. #2
    It's a good rant though. I think you're right on track. I did some 'ho' lessons to fill out a schedule after the '08 bubble burst. Trying to pay the mortgage. Not good for the soul though.

    Better to "fire" a student. Long term better for your rep AND peace of mind. Stick with what YOU do. Then, you're not competing with anyone.

  4. #3

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    I really enjoy reading your rant. That sounded somewhat like me about 6 years ago. I wasted a lot of time and energy searching youtube for answers and following teachers (in person) that pushed me into the deep end of the pool before I even knew how to float (sink or swim).
    "If I don't practice for a day, I know it... for two days, the critics know it... three days, the public knows it." -- Louis Armstrong

  5. #4

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    I think it's a good rant, Henry. You have your way and that's what your offering to teach. It must be frustrating when students come to class (lessons) and want you to teach them what someone else is doing instead of what you've spent your life perfecting.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  6. #5

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    I am starting the guitar club at my high school again in October. One of the more enthusiastic students got a Mel Bay book to teach himself. He showed me some basic sight reading. I told him point blank, you gotta sing the rhythms before you take them to the instrument. The guitar (in the beginning) is a maze of wood and string, don't give you brain all that to think about and rhythm. I told him that because I wish someone broke it down like that for me.

    He wasn't hearing it (no pun intended). And then I found out that he didn't invest in a cheap metronome or app. I told him to take 4 measures of one of the pieces in the book and dance with it. I modeled for him (I am a high school SPED teacher, modeling is in the description -- did you get my good side? Make it work!) and he laughed and shrugged it off. Smart guy, but yeah...

    There's too much out there, it's like brain overload.

  7. #6

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    I think the concerns are valid. It cuts both ways too. I've worked with teachers who seemed to be scatter brained and approached "pedagogy" (being kind) from a "survey course" approach when I was looking for step-by-step structure. The topics were from all over the map. I quit.

    So firstly, I think that a teacher needs to have a method, several in fact (styles you know). And a teacher needs to understand the inquisitive nature of some individuals who are curious and enthusiastic about learning all kinds of things, who may be impatient, who are unaware of how much work is involved in real musicianship, and last but not least - has access to all kinds of internet guitar and jazz..... material.

    Then the teacher can separate things for their students. There is the method, and the work, and no shortcuts. It comes first. The notion of "levels" is very, very helpful here. Let them know where they are, especially if they become unfocused or deluded about their capability. You don't have to be tough, people understand numbers from 1-10. If they're stuck at level 2 that's it. Knowing a few chops from level 5 doesn't mean you're at level 5. Playing entire tunes from start to finish is required. Recitals help. Recordings help.

    On the side, and if they have extra time to satisfy their curiosity, they can look into the world of commercial music instruction (Berklee Press, True Fire, Aebersold, good god it goes it goes on forever...)

    And one more thing, it's Berklee not Berkeley. Easy to get that confused if one lives in NorCal.

  8. #7

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    I was one of those excited students myself, and I shrugged off valuable advice from someone I was very lucky to study with (although I had to do his yard work to afford his lessons). I guess you live and you learn.

  9. #8

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    Sounds like the kind of teaching people need -- especially those who have real aspirations and want to be serious about playing. Getting there is not a 'walk in the park', as you aptly note.

  10. #9

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    I'd like to add that many people (included myself at a much younger age) don't want to knuckle down and learn how to practice musicianship off of the instrument. Sight singing, ear training pitches (interval or contextual, whatever floats your icecream), rhythm training, the works. Instead, they have the push to play faster. Not more musical, teach me how to play faster. But, I guess it comes from the fact that musicality is harder to quanitfy and qualify, know what I'm saying? When someone plays faster, it is easier for the untrained ear to pick on that and go "I wanna do that!"

  11. #10

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    fumble - thanks for the reminder about BERKLEE.

    I developed a step by step method many years ago. I adhere to it and amend it for each student to fit where they're at and what their goals are. I have a few categories of students too. I teach at a community college and sometimes at universities. I also teach incarcerated inmates in prison. Most of these folk didn't sign up for JAZZ GUITAR. They signed up for GUITAR CLASS. So in the community college I have a system for beginners and intermediate players. Sometimes someone comes in who knows who I am and want to study jazz. That's fun. But the inmates is much more scatter shot. I just want the guys to have fun and learn how to learn. Give them songs they want to play or exercises that will interest them.

    But for this rant I'm really talking about PRIVATE STUDENTS. People who ferreted me out for lessons. People who really want to play jazz and who love the way I play. People who are willing to pay more. It's not easy and I understand this. But we talk about it over and over. Then some will try and fool me. Like I won't know they haven't practiced.

  12. #11

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    Yep, I think you should stick to your guns with private students and a solid methodology, as long as they claim that they're serious. Alternate paths and studies can be explored and examined as long as they are understood to be supplements or options for later study. Some students may drop out but may also come back after spending months or even years gaining no significant ground.

    and then you have the casual hobbyist who's needs are different but that's another story...

  13. #12

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    That's fine. I have the casual hobbyists too! As long as everyone knows up front all's well. I know it's a hobby and my expectations will be lower, as will theirs.

  14. #13

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    But don't ya hate how everyone calls what we do a hobby? I don't ear train my arse off for a "hobby"... Oh jeez

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Irez87 View Post
    But don't ya hate how everyone calls what we do a hobby? I don't ear train my arse off for a "hobby"... Oh jeez
    Yeah, I guess. I don't ever recall anyone calling what I do a hobby.

  16. #15

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    30 years ago when I knew EVERYTHING my teacher Jack Fragomeni point blank told me to quit, he was right to say it. Because he did I did some serious soul searching and now all this time later I am ever grateful for him having the balls to call me out. It's good to be a hard ass, music especially jazz isn't for the timid, or the lazy.
    edbarrettjazzguitar.com

  17. #16

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    I had one student, several years ago who left a message for me on his way to his lesson. He said he wanted to learn this one Wes Montgomery song and solo. Fine. He was nowhere near ready for that. When he got to my house and I had his lesson for him, he was upset. "I thought I told you what I wanted to learn."

    Yes you did, but you're not ready for that yet. Did you do your scales?

    He was a big guy. This was only our 2nd or 3rd lesson. He came from up in the hills. I don't know the first thing about this guy, but he COULD have done time, for all I know. I know those guys. He stood up and started flexing his fists.

    I told him that, "I'm the teacher. I don't take orders from my students. I give the l design as I see fit. I'm sorry there was a misunderstanding but I think the lesson is over."

    He kept flexing and clenching his jaw like he was really considering just beating the shit out of me, but my 14 year old son was in the next room. It's like I could see him thinking this. Finally he put his guitar away and left. That's the last I've heard form him. I wonder about that guy.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
    I had one student, several years ago who left a message for me on his way to his lesson. He said he wanted to learn this one Wes Montgomery song and solo. Fine. He was nowhere near ready for that. When he got to my house and I had his lesson for him, he was upset. "I thought I told you what I wanted to learn."

    Yes you did, but you're not ready for that yet. Did you do your scales?

    He was a big guy. This was only our 2nd or 3rd lesson. He came from up in the hills. I don't know the first thing about this guy, but he COULD have done time, for all I know. I know those guys. He stood up and started flexing his fists.

    I told him that, "I'm the teacher. I don't take orders from my students. I give the l design as I see fit. I'm sorry there was a misunderstanding but I think the lesson is over."

    He kept flexing and clenching his jaw like he was really considering just beating the shit out of me, but my 14 year old son was in the next room. It's like I could see him thinking this. Finally he put his guitar away and left. That's the last I've heard form him. I wonder about that guy.
    If someone has enthusiasm for learning something like a Wes tune/solo I think you're doing them a disservice by refusing to try to teach them it. There's two scenarios that come out of it and both are positive:

    1. He surprises you and actually learns it
    2. He struggles and can't quite get it together. In this scenario he's probably learned at least a few things from the attempt. The seeds of ear training were planted, he's learned himself that you must crawl before you run(telling him is not the same as learning the lesson for himself), and he had a positive experience with you as a teacher.


    I bet he was less preoccupied with violence and more frustrated that you had a chip on your shoulder about being a teacher and took offense. You don't need to take orders from students but you do need to realize they are the customer and you owe them what they ask for or a reasonable, logical explanation why they can't have what they are asking for. Instead you passive aggressively ended the lesson. No wonder you never heard from him.

  19. #18

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    No. He called me for lessons. I told him what I do. He told me what he wanted. I do not believe the customer is always right. Not when it comes to school or lessons. I don't go to college and do a course on U.S. History but decide I only want to study the civil war. No. I told him what I expect from students and what he should expect from me. He didn't do his lessons.

    He was in no way ready to learn a Wes solo. No way. This is the point in making. I have to, as the teacher determine what the lesson plan is. I'm not interested in teaching some guy who decides what he wants to learn by demand. Hell no. Go to YouTube if that's what you want.

    He came to a concert of mine because he was told by multiple people about me. He was blown away. He wanted to learn how to do what I did.

    He wants lessons? I'll give them. But I won't pander. And I don't have a chip on my shoulder. But I do have personal integrity as a teacher. No sweat off my back. I've fired many students. You want lessons? I'll teach you, but I'll teach you my way. If not that's completely fine. I'm not actually in the business of teaching, but I'll do it.

  20. #19

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    Look, I'm in the perhaps enviable position where I don't need to teach. I can pick and chose my students, and I do. What doesn't come across here is that actually I'm a very warm and fuzzy person. I'm very affable, friendly and very communicative. Passive aggressive? I don't have an ounce of that. I'm very up front. Passive aggressiveness isn't. But I've been around the block. I've studied with some great musicians and, around these parts at least, have a reputation.

    As a teacher I'm interested in results. I have a specific method that I can alter to fit the needs of students. But I will not pander. You want to learn Wes? Learn Wes, but don't make demands on me. I'm not interested in that. Maybe after you done some x, y and z THEN we can get to Wes and I can show you what these lines and chords mean. But otherwise you want to learn Wes? Learn Wes. But that's on you. That's your time. That's what books, videos and youtube is for. But you want to take lessons from a great teacher? Good. Let's get to work. You want to design your own course of study? Great. Have at it. You don't need a teacher.

  21. #20

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    So Henry it sounds like you have a method you require your students to follow? And you assess where they are and then figure out minor variations in that method to suite them... right?

    And you don't like when they ask if you can help them with anything other than that method until they've seen it through to completion? If they want to do anything else, you think it's best for them to do it on their own without you using books and videos, etc. If I'm understanding your feelings on teaching correctly.

    Did you develop this method on your own? Or did you learn it from someone else? Another guitar teacher that you studied with growing up? An online program like the Jimmy Bruno method? A music school who instilled the method within you? Like a Berklee type guitar method?

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by drbhrb View Post
    If someone has enthusiasm for learning something like a Wes tune/solo I think you're doing them a disservice by refusing to try to teach them it.
    Yeah. Obstinate, defiant, telling you how to do your job, threatening?

    You need to fight to keep those kind of students. Mmmkay....

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by jordanklemons View Post
    So Henry it sounds like you have a method you require your students to follow? And you assess where they are and then figure out minor variations in that method to suite them... right?

    And you don't like when they ask if you can help them with anything other than that method until they've seen it through to completion? If they want to do anything else, you think it's best for them to do it on their own without you using books and videos, etc. If I'm understanding your feelings on teaching correctly.

    Did you develop this method on your own? Or did you learn it from someone else? Another guitar teacher that you studied with growing up? An online program like the Jimmy Bruno method? A music school who instilled the method within you? Like a Berklee type guitar method?
    No. I don't know anything about Bruno's method or Berklee. Pretty much all my own. And I love it when guys ask for specific things. I accommodate when I know they can handle it. Or I give them things in sections, bite sized chunks and explain it. If they're working on scale patterns and arpeggios I'll outline the solo and point out the notes to explain why I think those were chosen.

    My method is used to explain. So if someone wants to study they have to understand the language well enough for me to explain it to them. If the guy doesn't know what a major scale is I can't quite explain anything to him. AND he hasn't demonstrated to me he's dedicated enough to be worth my effort.

    But I studied in school and had lessons with Warren Nunes, Howard Roberts and Charles Mingus and many players and much experience down the line. I put my method together in the early 80s after thinking about some of the things Mingus taught me. I spent a good month or less writing a step by step Methodology, pedagogy and spent the next five years putting myself through it. It's my own pov regarding learning and teaching.
    Last edited by henryrobinett; 09-20-2015 at 12:43 AM.

  24. #23

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    In terms of specific GUITAR things I got the scale patterns from Nunes. That's about it. I did all the work inside them outside them, mapping the arpeggios, chord shapes, neighbors, substitutions, Trane shapes within those scale patterns all on my own. I mapped out everything on my own. And I've never been particularly interested in guitar. I also studied with Walter Bishop. I wrote a ton of ii-V patterns mapped to the fretboard, tune analysis, solo analysis, chord melody, reading methods. Most of my inspiration came from Bird, Rollins, Brown, Evans, Miles, Dexter, Coltrane, Corea, Cedar Walton, Brecker. I just always felt the language of jazz was better represented in those guys than guitar players. So I never got any of my methods from other guitar players, after the age of 20.

  25. #24

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    Have you ever thought about writing it out and publishing it Henry? Or perhaps making a DVD series? It sounds like youve developed quite the powerful method!

    Maybe you'd be willing to share the info here? Start a thread and work the forum members through it. I imagine the moderators might be willing to make it a sticky thread if they see how helpful its being to the community.

  26. #25

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    I put a website together that has a lot of it. I have thought about publishing a series, but more I've thought of teaching courses. I first taught it in class form at the short lived American Institute of Music in Vienna, Austria. I was the jazz department. But I've always taught it in private lessons.

  27. #26

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  28. #27

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    i'm pretty impressed with what Henry has laid out here in terms of what he developed and dedicated himself to. it sounds pretty solid to me.

    and the big guy clenching his fists and jaw? that ain't passive, folks. it's just aggressive. it's threatening, actually. in a former line of work i had to learn the signs, and to embrace the principle that "he who hesitates is lost".

    that scenario is one reason why you may want to think twice about having students come to your home. (unless they're beautiful young women of course. schwing!)

  29. #28

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    I tried to check it out Henry. It was all password protected. I guess I need to pay to check it out. Didn't realize. The way you spoke before about being in the enviable position of not needing to teach and only caring about the results made me think you were just making this stuff available because you could and because you're only out to help musicians. Hence my recommendation that you start a thread based on it. But if you need to charge for it that's understandable.

    So whatever happened to the bad guy? Sounds like he really wanted to hurt you. Badly. But felt guilty about doing it near your son. Gotta give a guy credit for having such a powerful conscience!

    You ever worry that he'll come to one of your gigs to mess you up?

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    i'm pretty impressed with what Henry has laid out here in terms of what he developed and dedicated himself to. it sounds pretty solid to me.

    and the big guy clenching his fists and jaw? that ain't passive, folks. it's just aggressive. it's threatening, actually. in a former line of work i had to learn the signs, and to embrace the principle that "he who hesitates is lost".

    that scenario is one reason why you may want to think twice about having students come to your home. (unless they're beautiful young women of course. schwing!)
    First of all thank you fumbles. Second, yeah it has occurred to me more than once about having people over to my home studio. I had a studio outside of the home too. Recording studio but I also taught there. That's also scary, especially leaving at night. People know where you are and what you have that's easy for stealing.

    About a month or two after that incident my van was stolen. First it was vandalized. I thought it was perhaps him or cronies he got to do it, but I'm not really the paranoid type so, it was a fleeting thought. But who knows? I can't live my life in fear. You know? I teach inmates, murderers and rapists for real. I'm not frightened of big asswipe. I have more things to be concerned about, like playing 26-2, getting my CD out and some gigs, for real. .

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by jordanklemons View Post
    I tried to check it out Henry. It was all password protected. I guess I need to pay to check it out. Didn't realize. The way you spoke before about being in the enviable position of not needing to teach and only caring about the results made me think you were just making this stuff available because you could and because you're only out to help musicians. Hence my recommendation that you start a thread based on it. But if you need to charge for it that's understandable.

    So whatever happened to the bad guy? Sounds like he really wanted to hurt you. Badly. But felt guilty about doing it near your son. Gotta give a guy credit for having such a powerful conscience!

    You ever worry that he'll come to one of your gigs to mess you up?
    See my previous post. This was many years ago. I think he's been back to some gigs. Probably feels like an A-hole. But who knows? I wouldn't know him if he came back. But he may have vandalized my van. I think he may have. Wes is some powerful stuff when denied! LOL

    I recalled more, not that it matters. But when he came for his first lesson he told me he wanted to learn some Wes and brought a book of Wes tunes and solos, I think. I told him it was a great time because my band was getting ready to do a tribute to him so I had been learning all of these Wes tunes. I gave him Four on Six, chords, diagrams, melody tabbed. I also began him on "The Method" scale patterns. I told him how I teach and what I teach and my method. That I want the student to know the fretboard and what things happen. A comprehensive theory. He thought it was great.

    It might have been the next lesson or the one after he called me on his way saying he wanted to learn ANOTHER WES TUNE. I asked whether he'd done what was assigned, he said we'd talk about it.

    When he got to the house he said he hadn't done any of the lessons, but he didn't want to learn what I gave him. He wanted to learn this other thing. He insisted that he's paying for it and he was telling me what he wanted. I told him it doesn't work like that. As the teacher I determine what's best, in what order and I determine based on the work the student has accomplished and what the student desires. And it went from there . . .

  32. #31

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    Ah I see. That's a fairly different recounting of the story than the first.

    You came off like a freedom fightin' Kim Davis in the first one. I could practically hear Eye of the Tiger playing and Mike Huckabee standing next to you as I read it.

    Both interesting and entertaining though.

  33. #32

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    If I studied with you henry, I'd love to pick your brain on those extended arpeggios that you got from Mingus (?) Sounds cool to me

  34. #33

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