Teacher Training

Teacher - Trainer

When looking to improve your skills as a guitarist have you ever thought “would I like to be taught by a teacher or a trained by a trainer ?” or “do I respond best to being taught or trained ?”

Is there a difference between a teacher and a trainer ?

I had my own idea on the subject but decided to do a little research to clarify before writing this blog.

The question I posed was - “Should one learn to play the classical guitar with the help of a teacher or a trainer”.

The quick answer to this question is “I need both”, but do I require both skills equally or do I have a natural leaning towards one or the other?

Let us look at this question with regard to someone who has ability with the guitar and wishes to advance further; people starting out never having played before have different needs.

So what is the definition of a Teacher/Trainer-

Cartoon Teacher

Teacher – a person who has the ability to impart knowledge of or skill in, to give instruction; causes others to develop skill or knowledge.

TRAINER – a person who has the ability to develop in others a desired behaviour through practice and discipline.

Cartoon Trainer

To play a musical instrument we have to be able to work within both of the above disciplines; we need knowledge to understand the workings of music and our instrument, we require physical skills to enable us to develop with our instrument and we must have the desire and ability to sit day after day and practice.

All the above is taken as read and in an ideal World would enable each one of us to reach our desired goal however we all must live in the real World, some of us have busy lives, others play the guitar for fun and some wish to play as a profession.

As a teacher/trainer I find that all of my pupils have different needs, my job is to supply the right form of instruction to meet the needs of the student, the difficulty comes when the student is unsure or unaware of their own needs.

Here are two case studies from past students who for reasons of anonymity I will refrain from using their correct names.

Jack is a young man of 16 years who has dreams of going to music college. Jack has been playing the guitar from an early age and, due to his parents work related moves around the country, has had many different teachers. Jack loves the guitar and practices most days, though quite often finds himself distracted by the many interesting things available to a young person in the modern World.

When questioned about how he practices we find that Jack has no problem recounting the intellectual, theoretical side of music and the guitar, after all this is no different from his general school studies where memorising facts and figures is an everyday part of life, where jack struggles is in the day to day physical training, the repetitiveness of mastering techniques, Jack is always asking why and what will be gained by this type of practice.

Jack tends to want to see the end result before committing to the daily routine.

Jack has the time to sit and play his guitar but often finds himself distracted to the extent where he can truthfully say he has sat with his guitar for a number of hours each day yet cannot quite remember what he has achieved during the time.

In Jack we have a young man who can absorb facts easily though as yet does not have the skills to fully understand and make use of this information. Jack enjoys the theoretical and can happily talk about and discuss music; where he does have a problem is in the understanding of how to physically play the guitar.

Having what some would class as a natural talent Jack does not appreciate the benefits of repetitive practice and so is having difficulty in advancing beyond a certain level of ability.

As the person who Jack comes to for lessons It would be easy to carry on developing Jacks interest in the intellectual side of music and to just give a small amount of time to the physical development of playing the guitar, after all one wants to keep the student happy and with all his school work we don’t want to be too demanding of his time.

Unfortunately this approach would not take into account the 2 year time window Jack has before applying for college entry; developing desired behaviour through practice and discipline (trainer) takes time, different for each of us, therefore we need to give Jack a practice routine that will excite him, develop the desired skills and give him a sense of where he will be in 2 years time. Jack will require constant support and encouragement to develop not only a daily routine but also and perhaps more importantly the drive to deliver the high quality that is required every day.

Jill has been playing the guitar for more years than she cares to remember though has not had lesson for several year., Jill has reached a high standard of playing and enjoys working with music of a standard that can be found in many of the grade 8 syllabuses. Jill can happily sit and play many pieces from memory however she is drawn towards returning to lessons because she feels there is more she could achieve.

During her first lesson Jill talks about the physical problems she has and the areas where she feels improvement in technique would move her playing forward.

During Jill’s first lesson I was able to appreciate the high quality of her playing and could also appreciate why Jill felt that a better understanding of how to physically play the guitar would improve her quality of performance.

Taking Jill’s desire at face value a training regime was initiated which allowed Jill to happily return home full of enthusiasm and with plenty of material to work through.

Several weeks pass and it becomes obvious there is little change or improvement in Jill's technical ability and I realise that although Jill initially outlined her awareness of the need to physically improve her playing she does not have the drive or inherent desire that will carry her through the demands of daily practice.

When carrying out repetitive exercises Jill is unable to focus on the task in hand and finds herself drifting back to the variety of pieces she is able to play so much so that as the lesson day approaches she becomes anxious as realisation hits that she is not able to show an improvement within the practice regime she has been set.

To help Jill it was felt that although the Trainer more than the Teacher approach had been her initial request Jill was not able to focus on the repetitive nature of a strict training regime and therefore to help her achieve results it became necessary to disguise training exercises within a musical wrapping, something Jill would enjoy playing; similar to when you were a child and mother would hide the nasty pill the doctor gave you to take within a soft piece of marsh mellow.

Hands up all those who swallowed the marsh mellow and spat out the pill!

There are many skills we will have to try to master during our journey to learn to play music, some of them we may have a natural ability for, some we may not have an ability for yet can enjoy learning and there are others which cause us to struggle and if the truth be known we try to forget about; thinking of them only as a block to our enjoyment.

Appreciating the difference between a Teacher and a Trainer both in the person we select to assist us in becoming a musician and in the way we are happy to learn can be a great step forward towards not only reaching our desired goal but also and most importantly in enjoying the process.