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  1. #1

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    I have noticed probably because I realize I am in need that a lot of questions regarding how to progress get a " find/get a teacher" response. I have reached a certain (basic) level of playing and feel I could really benefit from some directed guidance verses my flopping from one internet page idea to the other and while making some progress there is a definite lack of efficiency and structure inherent in that approach. That said I have honestly looked locally but havn't felt a connection or seen/heard examples of playing or responses that suggested that I had found someone with whom I could forge a student/teacher relationship. I have talked to a few local folks and to be honest - "yep! I know jazz stuff and can show you some licks....I also teach bluegrass/rock and .... etc............" which is not what I was hoping to find or "here is me playing some crazy shred stuff ... call me" So the questions become these! if you are trying to find a teacher who you could/would work with across the internet:

    - How would I interview/evaluate a prospective teacher? What is reasonable to ask of a teacher?
    - Would creating a demo vid of what I think I understand/can play right now be useful?
    - Would creating a here is what I would like to achieve wish list be useful?
    - Would it be appropriate to ask the prospective teacher to supply examples of their playing/approach or teaching system of genres I am specifically interested in ?
    - Ok! what are good questions or ways to evaluate a prospective teacher and how can I best /honestly present myself as a prospective student that could make the relationship be productive going forward

    I have to imagine that while prospective students might have answers - prospective teachers might have equally valid responses regarding what works for them !!

    Last edited by WillMbCdn5; 02-01-2017 at 11:35 PM.


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  3. #2
    Too many great teachers available with an obvious body of work to worry with anyone you'd have to research or audition. You don't have to commit for life either. Take a few for a test drive over a year or so. Probably beneficial to have different perspectives over time anyway.

  4. #3

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    To answer the first question, you just need to trust your gut feeling as to whether or not they're the right fit for you (after having some sort of communication.) A demo video would certainly be useful but not necessary for most teachers. IMO every first lesson should be a diagnosis session where the teacher asks the student about their past, present and future: "okay when did you start playing? 5 years ago? okay. How is your playing now? Where do you want your playing to be in a year?" Those sorts of things. If they're a good teacher, they'll know what to ask you. I "wish list" would be useful, certainly. As a personal tip, though, I'd start calling it a goal list. A wish list tells your brain that it probably won't happen. A goal list, subtley tells your brain it's something that NEEDS to get accomplished.

    It would certainly be appropriate to ask about their approach. You can definitely ask for examples of playing, but you aren't necessarily going to get it, especially if you end up with an older cat who hasn't been hipped to the power of the internet lol. With that being said, though, don't make the mistake of assuming that a great player is going to be a great teacher...they are two different skill sets. You can be an amazing player and not be able to convey your genius to others, therefore making you a horrible teacher. On the other hand, you could be a horrible player but be able to understand everything you need to know to help someone else get there and have the communication skills/personality to help them. Don't get me wrong, both can coexist, I'm just saying don't automatically make that assumption.

    Also, if you're serious about jazz, I recommend finding somebody that does jazz as their main bag. For example, I came from a metal background but switched to jazz in high school and never went back lol That means I could theoretically teach metal heads, rockers and blues guys, but I went to college for jazz and have been studying it for about 9 years intensively and that's what I want to teach and know I can teach very well. Someone who teaches all of those genres is a jack of all trades and a master of none, so keep that in mind also.

    Final note: If you didn't know, there is a teacher wanted/ student wanted section on this forum.

    Hope this was useful!

  5. #4

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    Thanks Matt and Noah - I appreciate the thoughtful and honest advice - I suspect I am a bit intimidated by the prospect of committing to studying and am overthinking things. Time to jump in and swim a bit


  6. #5

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    Even after having studied with a number of teachers and a lifetime of playing, I'm not sure I could give good advice on how to find a teacher.

    Instead, I'll just go with my experience, and maybe something will prove helpful.

    I started with the local music studio in my neighborhood. I didn't realize my good fortune. My first teacher, Sid Margolis was a big band player in the 30s-50s. He taught me to read using the usual kid books and then started teaching me Great American Songbook chord melody. I learned an enormous amount and quite fast. Sid was experienced, had an approach, and I learned a lot of basics that were central to his style of music -- which remains foundational in jazz.

    My next teacher was Carl Barry. I didn't study with him for long, but he taught me elements of Chuck Wayne's approach which I still use. Carl exposed me to a more modern style of jazz, since Sid, I think, was more a swing musician and Carl was more post-bop. Both great. Sid is gone now, but Carl is still active in NYC.

    I next studied with Warren Nunes. Warren had a system, but his lessons always seemed to be a group lesson and didn't seem particularly well organized in some ways -- and were very organized in others. For example, Warren usually had a bassist and often had a drummer. So, when you played your lesson, it was in a band. Somehow, with fits and starts and using his books (which are very good), I learned a lot about his approach and I went from knowing something about guitar to my first baby steps toward being a musician.

    I then studied in combo classes for 10 years - which were very intense. Hard music, full speed ahead, no mercy. And, that turned out to be good too.

    I've had a number of one-off or short classes with guitarists whose names you would know, generally picking up something useful. Chico Pinheiro was particularly important. He's active in NYC and I think he may be teaching some.

    But, if I had it all to do over again?

    I think I would have benefited from a more structured approach from a single teacher. Sort of like what Sid did, but going into a number of topics at an advanced level (maybe I should have studied with Sid for longer). Topics would be ear training, probably through transcription, reading, repertoire, comping and soloing -- with details of melody, harmony and rhythm. Lots to do.

    But, otoh, Andres Varady was on the cover of GP at age 12 on the strength of his playing -- knowing no theory whatsoever according to the interview -- but clearly understanding all the sounds. As always, there's a guy who plays great and got there by some other path.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    But, if I had it all to do over again?

    I think I would have benefited from a more structured approach from a single teacher. Sort of like what Sid did, but going into a number of topics at an advanced level (maybe I should have studied with Sid for longer)
    I tend to agree with this thought process. If you think back to the "old school" way of learning a trade, you became an apprentice of somebody and you worked your butt off for years to master all of the techniques your teacher was showing you, until you were good enough to go off on your own and continue to master it/develop your own sort of mastery. I can say after going through lots of private instruction and 4 years of music school that private instruction is always more beneficial, at least for me.

    Everyone needs a mentor and it's usually best to have just one. Why? Because you can stay focused and solely trust what that one person is telling you. When you study by yourself online it's like having 100 mentors and the reason progress is so much harder that way is because you don't know who you should listen to more, so you practice a little of everything and don't end up accomplishing much.

    Just food for thought.

  8. #7

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    Hey Will,
    It's too bad you haven't found a good, local, in-person teacher -- that's always my first recommendation!

    In Hal Crook's book ["Ready, Aim, Improvise!" -- highly recommended], he discusses different "levels" of player: beginning, intermediate, and advanced instrumentalist/musicians; and beginning, intermediate, and advanced improvisers. Just using these basic terms on a 3x2 grid, where would you place yourself -- intermediate guitarist, beginning improviser, or what? If you're a beginning guitarist, I'd still highly recommend in-person lessons; there are too many technical aspects of playing guitar that need to be watched/corrected, and, IMO, that's too difficult to see/accomplish in an online setting.

    That being said, there are many other posts on this Forum regarding online lesson options, from "video only," "video submission feedback included," to one-on-one "skype" type lessons. The prices range from $30/mo. for unlimited access, to $100/hour or 90-minute private lessons. They all have their pros and cons, and I've engaged in both (but not when i was a beginner -- I had private, in person lessons, before the "internet!"). Over the past several years, aside from an occasional "Mike's Master Class" series, I've mostly taken "skype" lessons from players I liked (look around -- some of your favorite players offer lessons!). A few have been one-time only, and I got a lot out of them, and others I've worked with regularly -- which may be once a month, since the better teachers give a lot to work on! Something to keep in mind: great players are not necessarily great teachers, so you still have to find that connection described above.

    One more thing: you mentioned your approach has been "flipping from one internet page to another;" that's definitely not a great learning approach for most people, especially if you're at "basic" levels, as you said. You may need a good "guitar" book, and a good improv book, and then work through them!

    Good luck, and enjoy the process!


  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noah D'Innocenzo View Post
    Everyone needs a mentor and it's usually best to have just one. Why? Because you can stay focused and solely trust what that one person is telling you. When you study by yourself online it's like having 100 mentors and the reason progress is so much harder that way is because you don't know who you should listen to more, so you practice a little of everything and don't end up accomplishing much.

    Just food for thought.
    This quote is a gem, in my view. I've proven it to be true in the laboratory of my own experience, and am working to overcome the consequences of it. Although there aren't any jazz teachers with whom I can meet in my area, I've found a few good ones online. If I hadn't allowed myself to be distracted by everything anyone recommends on a forum, I'd be much further along than I am now.

    Somewhere -- I forget the exact source -- Jimmy Bruno said (and I'm paraphrasing) that students shouldn't be so hung up on which method they follow, because it's all the same information anyway. In my own wandering about, I've found this to be so. Chords, scales, arpeggios, tunes, lines: everyone teaches these things differently, but everyone teaches these things.

    Having a mentor is essential, for course-correction and accountability, if for nothing else; but -- in the end (weird outliers aside, of course) -- the lessons you use are more important than the lessons you choose.
    "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." (Arthur Ashe)

  10. #9

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    Not to take away from any of the guitar teachers offering advice here (myself included), but if you're past the obstacles of learning the physicality of the guitar (how to hold the pick, what the names of the strings are, how to find the names of the notes all around the fretboard, etc) you might find it more beneficial to study or be mentored by someone from a different instrument. I personally have found a smokin hot vibes player to be the best guitar teacher... for myself.

    I studied with a lot of unbelievable guitar players and teachers. I was really lucky to work on my masters in a school that had a jazz guitar faculty really second to none that I could see. And I learned a ton from each of them. But there is a risk when studying guitar with guitar players to get stuck studying guitar and not studying music. And there's a subtle but stark difference between the two. It's very easy to spend years perfecting the guitar without ever really improving with the music itself. One good way I found that automatically forces that variable out of the question is to study with someone from a different instrument.

    After all the incredible guitar players I got to study and hang with, and after all the unbelievable lessons I learned from each of them... at the end of the day, the two guy who really affected me the most, who really help re-wire my entire understanding of music from the bottom up and tied together everything (ear training, harmony, melody, improv, composition, arranging, etc) into one cohesive construct was a vibraphonist.

    It took me a little while to put my faith and trust in him as a mentor because he wasn't a guitar player and wasn't as big a name as some of the other guys I'd worked with... but once I did offer him that trust (based on just how killin of a player he is and that fact that intuitively I could just tell there was a universe of knowledge and process within him) everything else clicked. Quickly.

    Vibes players see and think like piano players do. Their instrument is literally setup visually to look exactly like the piano. BUT... they don't get 10 fingers. It's tough to study with piano players because they just have such a different physical approach to making sounds out of their instrument. But a vibes player only gets 2 mallets. And sometimes they use 4 mallets when playing chords. So they think and see and organize like piano players, but they create and apply like guitar players. If that makes sense.

    So I think A LOT can be learned from a great guitar teacher. But I suppose my advice would be, if you're having a hard time finding a player who's playing really blows you away AND who can break down the learning process in an understandable and simple way that offers you some direction as a student... if you are struggling to find that... consider seeing if you can find a vibes player. Again, not just ANY vibes player. Make sure they can really play in a way that moves you, and that they can offer a process of some sort.

    Just an idea to keep in mind and consider.

  11. #10

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    A lot of great points. I spent 10 years studying with a multi-instrumentalist whose primary instrument was piano. He'd occasionally show me chord voicings on guitar. But, most of the study was reading tunes in a band context, getting the rhythms and comping patterns right and identifying errors, even tiny ones. He almost never said anything about improvising and when he did it was usually "No licks! Make a melody!". I slowly came to appreciate what it meant to be a musician and I think I made more gains in improvisation that way than I did with guitar teachers trying to teach me about improvisation.

    My experience has been that some sounds stick in my mind immediately and I can use them in a solo -- but most don't. The issue isn't CST for me, rather, it's trying to be able to get the sounds deep in my brain. Once that happens, my fingers can find the notes. How does a teacher teach that? Probably by pushing the student to focus on what's important, which is a lot of ear training first and then the technique to get the sounds out of the speaker.

  12. #11

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    Thanks for all the great perspectives. It is clear there are a variety of paths that have worked for different folks. The mentor/apprentice comments resonate because it is how I have learned in the past and I am familiar and comfortable with the dynamics of that process. Having tried a couple of online courses through which which I have learned a fair bit regarding the mechanics of navigating the guitar ( a basic understanding and execution of scales/modes/positions/arpeggios/triads/inversions etc and relating those to simple forms ) I also recognize I lack the self discipline in the absence of accountability or incentive to avoid simply cherry picking the info for what is easily grasped and sounds ok. So while that has lead to being able to noodle around within a certain form it hasn't lead to being able to make music within that form.
    Jordan's comments on the difference between studying the guitar and studying music really hit home. I have a bass player friend who sometimes comments after I have been focusing on some online guitar lesson "yeah sounds cool Will but really guitaristic compared to the last stuff you showed me " While I do listen to and love guitar players to be honest my main sources for solo and comping inspiration " yike- I want to play that!!!" are from folks like Bill Evans/McCoy Tyner/Wayne Shorter. I love Kenny Burrell - Midnight Blue but find myself trying to transcribe and absorb Turrentine's phrasing as much as Kenny's so I don't know where that leaves me. I love the sound of a guitar more than any other instrument but I am more interested in learning how to make music than in learning how to be a good guitar player.
    Thanks for the ideas and input - your making me focus in on what it is I am really asking for and I do believe a good answer only comes from a good question



  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by WillMbCdn5 View Post
    Thanks for the ideas and input - your making me focus in on what it is I am really asking for and I do believe a good answer only comes from a good question

    Yeah man. Asking questions is so important. I heard Metheny in an interview once get asked about what the first thing he does when teaching a student, and he responded, "I ask them what do they REALLY want." It seems like a pretty simple question, but when it gets down to it, it's f'n hard to really answer. And as hard as it is to answer, it's even harder to accomplish that answer without first knowing what it is. Sometimes I have students get a little frustrated with me because they really want to get answers regarding "guitar" based questions. And I'll offer them sometimes. But I'm just far too committed to the "music" based processes. To me, the guitar stuff will eventually work itself out. The music stuff... usually it doesn't. I've seen plenty of KILLIN' guitar players who just have terrible technique. But that helps them create a very unique sound. I'm much more from the Jim Hall type school of thought. I'd rather work on questions like, "If I can only play one note here, which notes are going to be the best most bad@$$ notes I can choose from... that will add the most amount of color and help tell a story?" or "How do I play something lyrical and melodic over this complicated chord progression?"... I'd prefer spending time on questions like that than, "How do I sweep pick this arpeggio faster over x chord?"...

    Neither question is innately right or wrong. It just about priorities. And those priorities change and evolve over time too. So I think the question of "What do we really want?" is something we need to come back to again and again. If the answer to that question isn't changing, then we're probably not progressing.

    When I used to study with Peter Bernstein, I used to get so frustrated, and I couldn't figure out exactly why for a while. It finally dawned on me after many months. I realized that I was hoping he could break down music and show me a process that he follows that I could try and follow also. And he never showed me one. Until I eventually figured out that his process was just to look at and listen to the tunes themselves. What can they teach us? What's most important about them? Not just to learn it well enough to play through it. But to treat each tune as an entire universe to itself. How does this universe function? What's it made of? How do the laws of physics work within it? Etc etc. I think looking back what was frustrating is that he's one of my favorite guitar players, and I wanted to talk about the guitar... and he just wanted to talk about music. That was a tough thing to accept for me. But I learned a lot from it. And it's probably what prepared me to go off and study with the vibes player who just flipped my entire world upside down. I doubt I'd have been able to hang in the piano/vibes world if I wasn't comfortable letting go of guitar talk and just working on the music first.

    So yeah... what do we want? I've been failing at it miserably the last month or two, but I try and start and end everyday writing down my lifelong dream goals. It's a really powerful tool that helps me keep things in perspective and focus my day on accomplishing things that will help get me one step closer towards where I want to be. Tough to commit to. But life-changing.