I had a student 15 years ago. We’ll call her Janet. She had a great attitude and was always a pleasure to teach. Jane had a rough time as a beginner guitarist. Seriously, the amount of natural ability in Jane was low. In fact, I would venture to say that many teachers would have told her parents to have her try something else. As I often like to point out, however, talent is overrated. Playing guitar, and music in general, requires commitment, patience, and consistent practice. So Janet and I would meet every week and work on tunes with a focus on rhythm development. She did not flow. She did not groove. She was awkward. She couldn’t hear her lack of feel for the music. I kept pushing her as much as possible with each session, pointing out the things she needed to be aware of in her daily practice. I told her to keep listening! I also told her it’s ok to sound terrible; it always sounds bad before it sounds good. This is how improvement at anything works! Such were our meetings for close to a year. I encouraged her to keep practicing, and, trusting her teacher’s direction, she continued to practice her guitar playing consistently and patiently.
Then something happened.
Janet could play the guitar! It was gradual. It was a glacially slow process for her. But she reached a point where she was on stage with a full band at my annual student concert, not only playing but grooving, playing funky guitar with excellent rhythm and feel. It was especially fulfilling for me because she trusted my direction: stay with it, don’t judge your sessions, just do the work and be consistent. And have fun while your’e doing it! Same practice advice I give to all my students. I’m sure she thought of giving up the guitar several times. But she didn’t.
I’ve always been especially proud of Janet but I take no credit for her remarkable improvement. I just guided her practice habits and her practice mindset. I had no doubt she would eventually play well if she persevered. Playing guitar well is something we are all capable of accomplishing.