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An Open Letter To Instructors
I have had different instructors as an adult trying to learn a musical instrument. I have run across the same issues, each and every time.
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March 8, 2019 - 2:04 pm
Member Since: December 26, 2018
Forum Posts: 4430
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In case there are teachers here, I would like to make some suggestions, these may not apply to the typical child student, and may mot apply to you. I have been taking music lessons off and on for a while now. I have run across the same exact problems with all my instructors. I currently have a new cello instructor. So far, so good.

When I start my lessons, I always let my teachers know the following:

I am not in any hurry.  I need to go slow. It does me no good to be pushed along before I understand and can do what is currently being taught.

I need a strong base when I learn things, so please do not skip over anything thinking I will figure it out. I am taking lessons because I do not know how to do this. If I don’t have a strong base because, what my instructors thought of as, simple mechanics and fundamentals are rushed through, I will hit a brick wall and have to start all over, at which time, I will quit.

I have no problem working on the same song(s) until I am ready to move on. Not doing this just flusters me and makes me feel buried. I am willing to break songs into small pieces when learning them. You may get bored, but this is how I learn. (My thinking: My lesson, is my time)

Please watch what I am doing and make sure I am doing it right. There is nobody at home who can keep me on the straight and narrow, and mirrors confuse me. It really does not help if we are just sitting and playing songs together. I need you, as my teacher, to watch what I am doing. Playing together once in a while is no problem, but please can you watch what I am doing, and speak up when necessary?

I am not interested in doing any recitals or joining any community orchestras or orchestra groups of any kind. I cannot perform in front of people. I cannot even speak to an audience. I am doing this for my own benefit, and well-being and self-worth. (When I took cello lessons for only three months. After a few lessons my instructor was pressuring me to join her little weekend orchestra. I finally told her I would think about it to just keep her from bugging me because saying “no” was not accepted. What happened after I said I would think about it? That orchestra music piece was brought in at the next lesson and I sat in lessons (my time I was paying for) counting beats in measure, there were 14 measures before the first cello note, and then we played 7 measures with one note and then counted more measures. Thank goodness my lease on that cello was up and I gave it back. Lesson time really should be used for lessons.) This brings up another point, the music used in the weekend ensemble music, in my opinion, should not have replaced my learning material or been included with my “curriculum” material.

Now, this is what I had to request of my violin instructor after I had to remind her of the previous learning needs, because she was rushing and just playing with me, no instruction. I asked, “Could you please not use vibrato, or vibrato all the time when we play together? I am not anywhere near the level for vibrato and it is very distracting and just makes me want to play it.” To which she said, “It is hard to not use vibrato.” I was thinking, but did not verbalize, “What if a conductor said (s)he did not want a piece played with vibrato?”

What generally happens when I take lessons? The instructor agrees and says (s)he understands and agrees. The lessons start and it always becomes a race to the finish line. A song never gets learned good enough. Techniques are not taught. The mechanics of performing these techniques are not discussed and shown. My last violin instructor started in the middle of the book 1. Later on I had to ask her to go back to the beginning. All of a sudden there was a huge jump in the difficulty of the songs. So, we went back to the beginning. I also requested the no vibrato at that time and explained why, and she made the statement mentioned above. 

My suggestion is to listen to the student, especially the adult student who pretty much knows how (s)he learns the best. I run across these issues all the time. I let the instructor know what I need. Instructor says it is completely understood, agrees. We start going at a speed that suits my needs. After about two lessons, we are racing through the book. Why? I said I was in no hurry.

Techniques and mechanics were not taught or pointed out. Please listen to the student. Please don’t use the time to just have someone to play with. Spend time watching the student and listening to the student. Make corrective statements. 

If you want to do some advanced way of playing that the student cannot do, please do not do it if that interferes with the student’s lesson time playing.

If a student prefers not to perform, don’t push it. I can’t do it. Have no interest in doing it. I forced myself to do a piano recital when all my kids and I took piano lessons. I did it for my kids’ benefit. Did not want to make them afraid or hesitant like I was. I was a nervous wreck. Not ever doing that again, and my first cello instructor kept pushing me to do it. We don’t all want to perform.

It is very difficult to teach, but it is also very difficult to learn an instrument. When a student is able to explain how they best learn, please do your best to accommodate, especially when you have agreed.

One more thing, don’t assign too much to be done in one week.

We do not have an assortment of instructors to choose from in my area. At the time, she was the only cello instructor, she was also the only violin instructor available at that time I took violin from her. Lovely instrumentalist, and maybe a great teacher for younger students, but not for me. Different students have different needs, please do your best to accommodate, and please listen to the student. As an adult student, I have chosen to learn, and am doing my part between lessons by practicing and playing for fun, which is enforcing what you have taught me.

Thank you for listening. 

The Bumblebee Flies!

Fort Lauderdale
March 8, 2019 - 2:26 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 16250

Well said.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

March 8, 2019 - 3:00 pm
Member Since: December 26, 2018
Forum Posts: 4430
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Thank you. So far, my new, young (college student) cello imstructor is really good. Lesson two. Keeping my fimgers crossed that they do not go downhill. I really think he will continue to be helpful.

The Bumblebee Flies!


March 8, 2019 - 4:03 pm
Member Since: December 23, 2017
Forum Posts: 1650
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When my now grown son was a teenager, he desperately wanted to play the guitar.  He has coordination and hand strength issues.  I found a retired studio musician, Richard, that instructed through a local community music store.  He spent days scouring the larger guitar stores in the area and found a blemished parlor guitar from a respected Canadian luthier that had the size and sound that was perfect for our son (and got a professional discount for it).  He got us several sets of light gauge strings (for free).  He was never late to a Saturday morning lesson, although he often looked worse for wear.  Initial progress was slow but then became exponential.  Richard kept me posted on what musicians were visiting the area that my son should watch and what CDs should be purchased.  He got a gig to perform the introduction to the musical “Beverly Hillbillies” and told the theater my son was needed as his page turner (“sure it is on the week days but he will be out of there by 9:00 pm”).  After three years he proudly told me “the kid knows what I know, except how to mimic James Taylor, and I am not telling anyone that.”

That is an instructor.

Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal. —Earl Nightingale.

March 8, 2019 - 4:52 pm
Member Since: December 26, 2018
Forum Posts: 4430
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thumbs-up @Irv 

The Bumblebee Flies!

Stroudsburg, PA

Honorary tenured advisor

March 8, 2019 - 5:36 pm
Member Since: January 30, 2019
Forum Posts: 636
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I like your "open letter" @cid.


March 8, 2019 - 5:49 pm
Member Since: December 26, 2018
Forum Posts: 4430
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Thank you, @MoonShadows 

The Bumblebee Flies!

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