I had my first classical guitar lesson a few days ago and wow, is this going to be demanding (in a good way)!
Unlike my group lesson teacher, my private teacher doesn’t take a sequential approach (making people learn technique first before learning songs and reading music). Instead, he tosses students in all at once and continually refines their work as they progress. He explained that when he was teaching classical guitar at a university, his students had juries every 12 weeks, so he had to find efficient ways to teach and prepare them.
So he pulled out my Prep Level book (mind you, this is a pre-Grade 1 book), got a sense of my music background (Yes, I can read music. Yes, I know the names of the strings. No, I don’t know where the notes are on the fretboard unless I spend a few seconds figuring out each one), then selected a simple piece and asked me to play it.
Did I mention that I don’t know where the notes are on the fretboard? Between notes, this was my brain:
Thanks to my group lesson teacher, my technique was not catastrophically awful and my private teacher made some excellent suggestions and adjustments, but I was definitely flailing in the deep end. When I mentioned this, he said, “Yes, I tossed you in the deep end, but I won’t let you drown.” I’m glad I record my lessons because I’m holding him to that!
I can definitely see the strenghs of my private lesson teacher’s approach. After only a few days, I’m a bit more confident about what notes are on which string. I’ve learned how to plan ahead for the next note or chord as I play the current one. Most importantly, I’m learning how to be more comfortable paying attention to multiple things during my practice and being okay with how intensely laborious this is.
I’m still continuing with my online group lessons on my steel string acoustic guitar because I’m getting so much out of them and it doesn’t require that much additional commitment. Playing on an acoustic guitar requires more finger/hand strength than a nylon string classical, so I treat my acoustic guitar practice like fitness/body awareness training. The different approaches of my two teachers nicely complement each other at this stage of my learning.
On a slightly different topic, I’ve added a deliberate practice progress bar in my blog’s sidebar to keep track of my hours, just for fun. I’m only counting focused practice time, not lessons or other supporting activities (all are important, but I’m too lazy to weight those hours according to their importance). No, my goal is not to reach the mythical 10,000 hours. The 10,000 hour “rule” is too simplistic and often misinterpreted, but it does highlight that being good at anything requires massive amounts of focused work. Anders Ericsson’s research pointed out that the practice quality, not just quantity, made a difference. Also note that the violinists he studied, who had put in roughtly 10,000 hours of practice, were students. Excellent students, yes, but not experts yet–they were only about halfway down that path, if that.
What I’m actually excited about is seeing the improvements along the way and the hours it took to make them happen. Where will I be after 1000, 5000, or more hours of practice? We’ll see.