When I have a student, a talented student with buckets of untapped technique and expression, there is one core idea that has to be injected almost constantly. Intermediate guitar lessons in the home require attention.
The ideas of focus and attention are so simple that some might think they don’t need analysis or thought, but I think it’s the single most important angle to get the most improvement. How to get a student to focus is a huge challenge, but it is our job as a guitar teacher to evoke these advanced skills. How many times have we told a student to try a given passage again, with a little more energy, or staccato, or legato, or anything, only for the student to completely misunderstand our intent? It’s natural, but always difficult for both parties. This process can be simplified, though. Neglecting these details-legato, staccato, louder, softer- is often a result of a disconnect between the student and the music. This disconnect can be repaired with focus!
A child has all the musical instincts and potential of any adult, maybe more, and the second they apply that underground power of focus, they discover all the subtleties which music has. So how do we get a student to focus during intermediate guitar lessons in the home? We find that individual’s distraction. What is keeping the student from focusing? What are they thinking about that is so important when they have a guitar in their hands? It’s okay to communicate isn’t it? I always ask my students what they are focusing on when they are playing. It’s important! The answer is so often, “I don’t know,” which is disturbing as a musician, but not unpredictable, and certainly not anything the student should be blamed for. We have to show them what they need to focus on.
What they need to focus on is the music! Inside a piece of music, is a very specific set of instructions. It’s easy when a student is playing their guitar, for them to simply ignore the instructions and try and just, “get by.” Even typing those two words sends shivers down my spine. A student has to look at the music, and notice what markings are there. There’s a “forte” in measure one, what does that mean? It means “strong,” so what does that mean to the student? Does this mean a stronger stoke, or a broader sustain? I don’t know, that’s the magic of music, every individual has a different concept of “Forte.”
Once these questions are approached, the student can start to create their own version of the music. This is the approach to focus we need. Intermediate Guitar lessons in the home need to include a laser like zooming into the actual written notes. When the student looks at the notes and the rhythms and the expression markings, she can focus on what she want music to be. While many parts of music aren’t really up for interpretation, I find that pointing out the spots that are allowed to be interpreted can bring the student’s focus back.
The last step is motivation. The most obvious reason that a student might need a teacher is for technical information, but the second, and I think, most important reason is for direct motivation. As a teacher, we have a fresh direction to approach motivation from. The student can become very tired of hearing their parents demand that they need practice, but the teacher can reason with the student, and show her that what she wants can only be reached by focus. Being creative is what our job is, and we must not stop thinking about every single possible approach available to us. Intermediate guitar lessons in the home gives us a unique ability to motivate our students and influence them to focus. If we can break down the distraction barrier that seems to exist in almost every student and also motivate them, the rest is easy!
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