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FDP Forum / The Chop Shop / Lessons for an advanced player

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Rob Jai

Northern California

"Jai" pronounced "J"
Feb 15th, 2012 12:52 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I've been playing on and off for more than 40 years and seriously playing as a gigging musician for the last 5.

So, now I decide I'd like to take some lessons. Obviously I can play to some degree already but feel that I could seriously improve on some techniques etc.

How does (should) a music teacher approach an advanced student? I don't feel the need to practice scales and start with the basics - I just need someone to help me figure out better ways to play what I already play.

How do I spell out to a potential teacher what I want to learn, and are music teachers generally open to focusing on what the student wants as opposed to sticking with a generalized lesson plan that fits more beginning to intermediate students?

I almost feel like I could do just as well picking up stuff from YouTube and online lessons and save the money that lessons would cost, but I'm open to giving formal lessons a shot if they could prove to be fruitful.

Anyone out there taking lessons as an advanced player, and what are you getting from them?

Contributing Member

She loves my big 10"

record of her favorite blues.
Feb 15th, 2012 01:23 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I'm with you on the picking up most things from the tube etc.. though I've gotten together a few times with teachers over the years. Usually to get a handle on something they knew well that I wasn't as good at.

As far as general stuff, I've just gone to people with honesty, "here's what I'd like to work on, can you help"? Beyond that, if you respect their playing and technique (and why else would you take advanced lessons from them) it's a mistake to *not* ask for their input and suggestions. But that said, as someone who already has a grip of where you are as a player, it's easier to determine whether their advice is useful to you.

My experience is that it's a little more pick and choose a la carte style at a higher level than when you're just starting out and trying to absorb everything about playing from one person with a regimented teaching plan.

Also - "teacher" at a higher level probably doesn't mean the guy in the back room at your local music store. Your best bet is to approach a local player you admire and offer to pay them for their time if they'll show you some of their tricks.

YMMV. Good luck.

Power Trio

West Virginia

Feb 15th, 2012 01:48 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

im in the same postion as you. been playing for ever and wantin to improve. exceptin that when i find a teacher its always some 20's something dude whos been playin for 6 years and blows me away from the get go. then a 1/2 hr later sticks his hand out for $50

at this point id rather stick with U tube. theres a lotta good and bad stuff out there so you have to weed thru it and take what you can


Richmond, VA

Feb 16th, 2012 04:12 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I am in a similar situation as Rob, playing for around 40 years, seriously for the past 10 years, and for occasional stretches before that. I've found that Berklee's "A Modern Method for Guitar" is a useful way to learn and to complement picking stuff up from YouTube. I consider myself an intermediate player but find that playing "basic" material in Book 1 really makes me work to get it. It does require a commitment to learn to read standard notation, which can expand your musical horizons.

A Modern Method for Guitar, William Leavitt

Rob Jai

Northern California

"Jai" pronounced "J"
Feb 16th, 2012 11:15 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Hey, thanks for that link Casey. I'm open to all ideas for self learning. That book is about the cost of a single half hour lesson. I think that one of my bandmates might find it interesting also.

I'm really trying to jump my playing up a level or two and move on to a higher plateau. I've moved forward in leaps and bounds since starting a band, but there is far far more that I need to learn before I can consider myself a competent, and not just an "adequate" player.

What I DO know is that it's sure not as easy to learn new tricks at the age I am now as it would have been 40 years ago. But, who knew that 40 years ago?


San Antonio, Texas

Feb 16th, 2012 02:40 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

John 5, guitarist for k.d. lang, and Marylin Manson... When he's on tour and has some time to kill in which-ever town, will call the local music stores and ask how good their teacher is. If he's good, John will schedule a lesson. He doesn't care what style the guy teaches, just that he's good.

I like that attitude.

Tyrone Shuz


I'm all in!
Feb 16th, 2012 05:35 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"How do I spell out to a potential teacher what I want to learn, and are music teachers generally open to focusing on what the student wants as opposed to sticking with a generalized lesson plan that fits more beginning to intermediate students?"

You just did spell it out, and I always go where the student wants, given that s/he's equipped to go there. If you chose to study w/me (and you're only about 3,000 miles away, easy drive even by California standards) I'd ask you where you wanted to go, and I'd also do an exploratory to see what you know and what you don't know. This actually doesn't take too long.

I don't have a set program, but I do for certain concepts if you need those. But I'm not a "start at chapter 1" kinda guy. A teacher/coach is /much/ better than youtube because s/he can tell you how you're messing it up. The computer gives no feedback. Good luck!

Rob Jai

Northern California

"Jai" pronounced "J"
Feb 16th, 2012 05:58 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Thanks Tyrone - I thought I might hear from you. A 3000 mile drive is just not going to work for me - I'd do it if I could.

I do understand what you're saying about the value of one to one feedback. A teacher who functions more as a coach is exactly what I have in mind.

Tyrone Shuz


I'm all in!
Feb 17th, 2012 12:02 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Let me also note that while I'm sure you excel in some/many areas, there may be gaping holes in your game that need to be addressed. Those holes could be what's keeping you from advancing.

I've had a lot of advanced students and have been quite surprised at what they don't know given how well they play otherwise. I'm not saying that's the case with you, just saying what the percentages say.

Instead of asking the badass players for lessons, find the badass players who also teach. A badass player does not a great teacher make. You should really ask the badass players if they had to go for lessons right now, who would they seek out? There's always somebody, trust me.

My jazz guru isn't a household name, but all the good players know who he is, and he's an older version of me, been teaching forever.

In fact, I'd recommend jazz lessons because of the amount of music you have to understand. Rock tunes become (for the most part) easy after tackling jazz. But there are different techniques obviously.

Contributing Member

LA-la-land, CA

Insert clever comment here
Feb 18th, 2012 07:18 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"What I DO know is that it's sure not as easy to learn new tricks at the age I am now as it would have been 40 years ago. But, who knew that 40 years ago?"

Why not? 40 years ago, you didn't know as much, so maybe there was more to teach. BUT, now you maybe have an idea what you want, and will be a better student because of your focus. I went to music school at 40, and learned a TON.

"A badass player does not a great teacher make."

Boy, is that ever true. Try to seek out someone who is a teacher first, not a player having to teach. Also, even good teachers don't teach everything well. Be sure the teacher has expertise in what you're wanting to learn.

I'd agree that jazz lessons will be valuable and make everything else seem easy. There is literally no end to what you can learn. But, only if you have interest in the subject. If it starts to feel like work, then you won't stick with it. Make sure you're being taught what you want to learn.

BTW, it's o.k. if you try a teacher out, even one who everybody loves, and you don't click with them. Move on. You're the customer, you deserve to get what you want....



Feb 19th, 2012 07:18 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I was very lucky over the last several years to find a teacher that filled the bill for me. He has become a music mentor and a good friend, and he has helped my musical journey in countless ways. The best thing is that he's not shy about exposing my weaknesses (too numerous to mention) and helping me correct them. I always enjoy the time I spend working with him, althoughI don't have as much time as I used to to take lessons.

Contributing Member

Huntington Beach

Merry New Year!
Feb 20th, 2012 12:05 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

You said you didn't want to learn scales and stuff... that kind of leads me to wonder what you are looking to learn? You said you want to take it to another level, so does that mean you want to improve and add technique or are you hoping to expand your harmonic abilities?

Technique is pretty easy to learn from youtube or videos, so if that is your goal, just stick to that. If you are looking to expand your music vocabulary, get a teacher cause you will end up with tons of questions.

If you are an advanced player and just want to learn new styles, find a teacher proficient in that style. You may only need to take lessons just long enough to understand the basics of what you need to learn on your own.

I went through many types of teachers over the years. There are plenty who will simply take your money as a steady pay check. One way to tell is do they give you assignments and actually ask you to demonstrate that assignment on your next visit? Do they build on your previous lesson or do you sit around for 10 minutes trying to figure where you left off the last week?

There is also the "Teach a man to fish" principal. I went through a few teachers that strung you along by teaching a song, or solo, one or two phrases at a time. If you're really good. I remember learning Stray Cat Strut which must have taken at least two months, but didn't get me any closer to gaining any fluency in rockabilly. I could play that one song, but that's it! He was feeding me fish, instead of teaching me what I would need to know to fish for myself. I wasn't even really looking to learn rockabilly, but was hoping to learn jazz. Me, being completely green to jazz, didn't realize that this song was the only song the teacher knew that sounded "jazzy". I eventually caught on to this guy and quit.

Still determined to learn jazz, I eventually ended up going to a jazz club where a fairly famous jazz player had a standing gig. I decided to approach him during a set break and meekly told him where I was as a player and what I wanted to learn. He happenned to be sitting at a table that was filled with his own students... basically all of then music teachers themselves! He recommended one teacher due to my level and proximity. The teacher he recommended is a conservatory trained musician who studied with several big name people and had tons of accolades of his own, yet still sought out lessons from others. By the way, the performer I approached was Ron Eschete who is a master of jazz chord melody and 7 string guitar.

I have been on a break from lessons for a few years now, but the skills I learned from my jazz teacher are invaluable and in looking back, a major turning point in my musical journey. I can use what I learned to apply toward whatever musical fancy I can think of. I may need a quick overview of the technique involved with a new style, but for the most part, I can take on anything I want on my own, due to his teaching and immersing me in skills I never had such as theory, reading, tune analysis, etc...

Rob Jai

Northern California

"Jai" pronounced "J"
Feb 20th, 2012 02:05 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"There is also the "Teach a man to fish" principal. I went through a few teachers that strung you along by teaching a song, or solo, one or two phrases at a time."

That's exactly what I'm trying to avoid. I did try a short group of lessons in a year or so ago, but found that lesson increments of 1/2 hour were too short to really accomplish much. A half hour goes by like the snap of a finger. It's just not enough time to ask more than a question or two before you're being rushed out the door.

The most successful method of learning for me so far has been playing with other players.

"so does that mean you want to improve and add technique"- I'd say that is closest to what I'm hoping to accomplish at this point.

Tyrone Shuz


I'm all in!
Feb 20th, 2012 02:20 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

First of all, /some/ vocabulary to illustrate a point is ok. For example, in "Stray Cat Strut", there's a diminished arp lick right at the end, on the stop. If you're illustrating that, or the minor scale (end of the first lick) or a whole tone scale lick (end of first lick in intro) that's all good and valuable.

But if you then don't learn when to apply the diminished arp or the whole tone scale, then it's just eating fish.

If you came to me, one thing we'd do would be to improvise in, say, Am, but I'd say do it between the 7th and 12th or 13th fret. Here are the changes, cover 'em.

You gotta know your fretboard, moreso from a function standpoin than a note-name standpoint. IOW, know what the function of each note is, i.e., that's the 5th of the scale, or that's the 3rd of that chord (even more important).

So if I were your teacher, I would be /very/ gentle, but I would surely point out any gaping holes you had, and sadly, those would have to be addressed before you can hit any kind of "next level". There are NO shortcuts, people, there just aren't.

Contributing Member

She loves my big 10"

record of her favorite blues.
Feb 20th, 2012 03:48 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Well I have been admonished here by better men than me for my recommendation of finding players that you admire and trying to spend some time with them.

Although, I guess IMO, it depends a lot on what kind of a student one is and what they are hoping to achieve.

Some people learn better from watching, some from hands-on, some from reading or having things explained to them. Many of the players that a lot of us admire most have never had a professional lesson in their life, yet have carved out places for themselves in music history even though they hold their pick wrong or don't know that they just played a flat five.

If your goal is to really work on elements of theory or take on a new style, or if you learn best in an academic setting, then someone who is a really good teacher with a plan is probably the way to go.

Just speaking for myself though, I can sit and watch someone play and ask questions about what they are doing and why they are doing it, and then go away and figure out whether what they are doing makes sense to me or how the arpeggio fits into different contexts without needing someone to drill me on it. YMMV.

Again, I am not knocking teachers here in any way shape or form. Just pointing out an alternative that works well for some, if your method of learning is conducive.

Benson Fan

Los Angeles, CA USA

Feb 21st, 2012 11:23 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Similar to alcoholism, admitting you need help is probably the first step toward improvement. You may want to take my advice with a grain of salt, though, because I'm neither an alcoholic nor one who is comfortable asking for help!

As a kid, I took guitar lessons from an old guy who was a musician, but not really a guitarist. He played violin and piano and was really old school. He only charged $3/hr at his house back in the mid-late 60's. We went through the Alfred Guitar Method and Mel Bay books, which in retrospect, seem like a terrible path to becoming a guitar hero. I had zero desire to practice that stuff.

I started getting better when I started playing in bands and trying to copy other players (on the radio, etc.). YouTube is a great resource, and if it were around 45 years ago, I'm sure I'd be a lot better, but I wouldn't know how to read music if not for those lessons.

If you know (or someone points out) what you need to learn, can find someone who can teach you that interactively, and you have the discipline to practice (not just fool around), that's probably your best bet.

I'd probably be a terrible student now, because I would want someone to show me how to shred like Steve Vai in one lesson and then I would probably practice what he told me for about 10 minutes before getting frustrated and humiliated!

(This message was last edited by Benson Fan at 11:24 AM, Feb 21st, 2012)

Contributing Member

Huntington Beach

Merry New Year!
Feb 21st, 2012 12:17 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

There were plenty of times when I was too tired, too lazy, or too unmotivated to practice the assignments my teacher gave me. I was usually assigned a new jazz song to learn the changes, melody and chord melody by the next lesson. There were a few weeks where I didn't even attempt the lesson until the day before it was due. It didn't help that I was playing in two bands and had to learn material for those bands in addition to the lessons. I ended up working out a schedule with my teacher that allowed me to take a lesson every other week. I really enjoyed that pace best, even though my teacher didn't care for the two missing slots in his monthly lesson calendar and loss of potential income!

Your teacher would probably recognize when something is a bit overwhelming and adjust things accordingly. Maybe spent two weeks or longer on something that difficult.

In my lessons, I think my teacher had a tough time gauging my abilities because I had been playing for many years on my own and I was "cheating" when sight reading melodies. When I was given a song to learn, I would punch it into Band In A Box, the only time I "read" the notes was when I entering the melody. From there, I would proceed to learn the song by ear. He finally caught on when he heard me consistently playing a wrong note in one of my lessons. Apparantly I had entered the note wrong in BIAB and continued to play it that way by ear. Busted! From then on, he watched my sight reading like a hawk. That is just one of the ways a teacher can keep you disciplined and honest in your instruction.

Contributing Member

Vancouver, Canada

Feb 21st, 2012 12:54 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

interesting stuff...

i've been playing 10 yrs + but stuck at an intermediate level. so few months ago i started lessons. i met with the teacher and discussed what i wanted.

he is of the "learn to fish" camp too. i needed to understand what i'm doing. i've gotten by, by watching and listening to other players. but for me it left too many holes.

now i'm learning a lot and i'm able to apply it to my playing.

he has me learn solos as an example of what he's teaching me. the point is not learning that song but rather how that solo works over the chords.

he had me compose a couple of solos over a progression he selected. he also told me to use a specific scale in a specific location on he neck. as well as making sure for each chord i included certain notes. it was not as easy as thought it would be... but i came up with really good solos that i never would have played if i did not break it down this way.

so now... i feel like i have the "ability" to compose solid solos bits on my own. and i hope over time all these techniques i'm using will stick in my head and i can do this more freely without needing to sit down with pencil and paper. i really feel like it will come in time

as far as playing ability. he points out my weaknesses and we work on it. he also shows me new things like sweep picking.

practicing scales is dull... but i KNOW it has improved my playing and my knowledge. so i try to do that daily.

utube and mags are great, but for me i need to understand the "why" and not just the "how".

only wish i did this 10 years ago.

Power Trio

West Virginia

Feb 22nd, 2012 10:40 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

i dont know about getting too bogged down with theory, yeahits good to know but only to a point.

a good ear and feeling is imo just as if not more benifical then a theory master.

most the old blues gods couldnt read or write yet they laid down some of the the best music ever recorded and the foundation of everything that came after.

I read the Wes didnt have any musical knowledge nor took a lesson.

Buddy once said' if i land on a note that dont sound good i bend it into something that does"

Otis Rush once said back in his hey day " they all even copying my mistakes" refering to Page, EC etc of the late 60's

I can go on and on with quotes like that

(This message was last edited by Power Trio at 10:43 AM, Feb 22nd, 2012)



Feb 25th, 2012 03:12 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Hey Tyrone, you sure you're not my teacher in disguise? ;-)

My teacher hardly ever gave me any "fish". So not much in the way of specific licks per se. But he would point me in the right direction and make me do the work. So I thnk I am learning how to catch my own fish. Furthermore, the theory stuff enabled me to do things that a lot of other guys couldn't, even if we are just playing blues or country. Like using whole tone or dim scale notes in the right situation (I'm still a little weak on this, but it's getting better.).

I think it is also really important to play with other guys to use what you learn in lessons.

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