This is a repost from the Denver Folklore Center’s website.
During the past year, music has become an even more important part of our lives. We haven’t been able to attend concerts or play music with friends due to the pandemic. Perhaps it’s the lack of musical connection with others (and boredom) that’s inspired so many people to purchase a new musical instrument. So much so that instrument manufacturers can’t keep up with demand.
So, what do you do when you have that new guitar or banjo in your hands? How do you even begin to learn? Sure, there are YouTube videos and music books. But for the beginner or someone who wants to take their playing to the next level, the best choice is finding a music teacher. Let’s find out why.
Why Take Lessons?
Jeff Jaros, Manager of the Denver Folklore Center, has been teaching banjo at Swallow Hill Music for 11 years, and he understands that for most people “music is a social thing, a human thing.” So, it’s the human connection and the joyful moments, that interaction between teacher and student, that give some value to taking music lessons. It’s much more than simply learning an instrument.
Guitar teacher Robyn Dino agrees. She credits the human connection of taking music lessons with a teacher as a great motivator for children and adult students to learn. Taking lessons “is interactive, fun and there’s an energy that you just don’t get from self-teaching or a recorded video.”
Learn the Basics
Having a professional teach you playing basics is a huge advantage. Jeff: “You will save so much time in your life if you get the basics down right off the bat. Someone showing you the ropes is going to save you weeks if not years of relearning.” Just knowing how to do simple things, like how to hold the instrument correctly, basic tuning, chords, terminology and even how to care for the instrument properly is invaluable.
Robyn agrees: “The teacher is there to correct you and give instant feedback before you develop bad habits. They can offer more efficient playing tips or maybe one small change that makes what you are learning so much easier.”
Structure & Motivation
Music lessons should have some kind of structure to help students learn and progress as players. Structure helps you learn, stay on track and progress. Robyn: “There are some people who are self-motivated, but I’ve found that most need and want weekly lessons to keep moving forward.”
However, you know the old saying about “all work and no play”. Jeff: “You have to make (music lessons) fun. If you make it torturous you have lost the battle. Unless your kid is a prodigy, and those are about one in a million, let them have fun the first couple of years at least and see where it goes from there.”
So, whether a student thrives in a strict learning environment or needs a less structured plan, teachers can pick up on a student’s learning style and adapt lessons to be a better fit, creating a more personalized experience.
Teaching During the Pandemic
The pandemic has been challenging for everyone, including music teachers. Jeff says he and Swallow Hill weren’t ready for the pandemic. However, he has learned to adapt to the new teaching environment. “It’s been extremely educational for me. I’m an older guy, so getting with Swallow Hill and figuring out how we’re going to do this, there was a learning curve.”
Despite being frustrated with the new technology and methods, Jeff was able “to develop different techniques and goals for myself (with distance learning). I see the same joy and success with students. They’re fine with it. I like to channel them (and their energy) instead of being woe is me.”
Robyn adjusted by taking her lessons online too. “Individual lessons were less of a challenge, particularly for most adults. At first my older senior students were more unsure of the technology, but soon felt more comfortable. It was harder for kids that had been on Zoom all day for school or struggled learning on Zoom in the first place.”
How to Choose a Teacher
To find a music teacher that suits your playing level, style and personality, start by asking those closest to you, because they know you. Then call reputable music stores – like the Denver Folklore Center – who know plenty of talented teachers and are happy to make recommendations.
Jeff: “Treat a teacher as if they are auditioning during the first couple of lessons. We don’t all get along with everyone the same way, but most teachers are good at getting a good vibe with their students. If the student doesn’t have a good vibe with a teacher, there are others out there. Think of taking lessons as a great way to learn an instrument and this person is going to make it fun.”