“I didn’t practice” and nine more things you should never say to your guitar teacher

I’ve taught guitar and other music classes for nine years now, and while the majority of my students work hard and progress, there’s that small percentage that keeps me entertained with comments like these.

I didn’t practice

You don’t have to practice. I’m such an awesome teacher that visiting me once a week will magically turn you into Eric Clapton. He probably never practices either.

We couldn’t find her guitar

I actually got that one once. We know who wasn’t practising.

You’re a woman?

I’m pretty sure … let me check. Yep. As it turns out, women can teach the guitar too.

I’d like lessons for my two year old. He loves music.

I really got a call from a lady who wanted me to teach her toddler. All kids love music. Give him a toy guitar and let him play rock star for a few years. I take children as young as seven. Some teachers will take younger, especially if they teach the Suzuki Method.

I can’t get my child to practice

Maybe lessons aren’t the right thing now. Perhaps they need to be a little older. Maybe they’re not really interested. It could be that their instructor is teaching them “Skip to My Lou” when really, they’re more interested in “Smoke on the Water” (and yes, there’s a beginner version). Your little rocker shouldn’t expect to start on a speed metal solo, but you should have a teacher who’s able to keep his or her interest.

Scales are boring

Yes they are. However, if you want to be a good lead player, you need to practice them. They’re like vegetables – have them first then do something more fun as your dessert.

I played this better at home

The whip is probably making you nervous. I’ll put it away.

Playing with someone else in the room can be unnerving. It happens to me too. I’ll practice something like crazy, then go to a jam and completely crash. It doesn’t matter how supportive everyone else is. So, I go home and practice some more and eventually, that muscle memory will kick in and it doesn’t matter how nervous I am, I can pull it off.

You know I’m kidding about this one, right? You should feel comfortable enough with your teacher that you can say things like “I played it better at home.” We understand because we’ve all been there.

I’m a rock fan, why am I playing “Ode to Joy?”

Because I have a whip.

It’s a memorable and easy-to-play melody. If I started you out on a Hendrix solo, you’d walk out of the lesson. (Not that I’m a Hendrix expert anyway. I can, however, show you how to play “Blackbird” or some blues licks, but not until after “Ode to Joy.”)

I don’t need to read music / tab / chord diagrams

True, you don’t need to do all of this. However, you need some way to write and read what you’re learning. For more on reading notation and tab, see this previous post.

I already learned this off the Internet

And you’ve learned it wrong, because the guy teaching you started changing chords without stopping just last week. All right, slight exaggeration – you can get good instruction, but you have to be careful. Here’s my post about tab sites.

There’s nothing better than a live teacher who can help you correct mistakes. If you have to learn from videos, go to someone reliable like Homespun Tapes. I love them.

Now, go practice. And remember, it’s always Be Nice to your Guitar Teacher Week.


I teach guitar, mandolin and ukulele via Skype. Give me a shout here if you want details. If you live in Ottawa, ON, you can come to my studio.

About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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5 Responses to “I didn’t practice” and nine more things you should never say to your guitar teacher

  1. aarondoerr says:

    I really liked your comment about not learning “Skip to My Lou” in favor of “Smoke on the Water” but then you said you have to play “Ode To Joy” before you start Jimi solos?? You had me, then you lost me.

    • jamiebobamie says:

      The point is, you have to start somewhere, and a Hendrix solo is not the place. With kids, I always teach them something they really love, like that simple version of “Smoke on the Water” that I mentioned. For adults, it’s often a two-finger blues shuffle.

  2. G Chord says:

    Terrific guitar story… a favorite pursuit of mine: guitar stories. There is so much rich culture, history and community reflected in these kinds of stories, as well as hope for a future filled with creativity and productive energy…. something we need more of in the face of our increasingly superficial and anonymous new age of technological multitasking. Thanks for this blog!

  3. aliv says:

    Jamie, I would like to feel as if I were your student. If I were your student, I would say “Jamie, I feel like it is out of my reach, I already practiced a lot but the result was just not satisfying me” 🙂 . I look forward to hearing from your reply soon, my teacher 🙂

    • jamiebobamie says:

      Then we’d need to look at another way to play the piece, or to move on to something more attainable. As long as you practice and have a good attitude, that’s what counts.

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