Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - March 2020

Monday, March 23, 2020

Lessons Learned?

 Everyone wanted me to switch lessons over to online/video last week, as expected due to the COVID19 SARS-COV2 quarantine.

  I admit I had to hurriedly adapt.  I wasn't set up to do it initially and hadn't discussed what app people prefer, and it turns out there isn't a de facto standard video app.  Presently I'm trying to stay on top of about 5 different apps across my students.

 BUT, that's not what the title is about.  I've resisted doing "online lessons" for years and years, I've had many students move away and request it. The problem is that what I think makes me useful as a teacher is having a more or less instantaneous response to a number of things I see and hear.

 My process on paper is very complicated I suppose, but effectively it's to immediately address things that are being done wrong or ineffectively and offer a solution.  The latency of video prevents that, as well as something I've felt was integral: having the student play along with me leading, in that I can quickly alter the tempo and timing to both lead and allow the student to be able to keep up.

 That's out with doing it online.  

 The flip side is that I have to have a more macro view.  I have to verbalize more where previously I would demonstrate by playing along with the student, providing accompaniment.  Because of this from my perspective I'm compromising, because I can't micro-manage every detail!

 The "macro view" means that instead, I'm having to focus on getting the One Main Thing accomplished.  I've always maintained that if you need copious notes to remember what you need to do at home from a guitar lesson that there was probably too much done in the lesson.  Now it's not really an option in this video format; in which case I've noticed people have become more (from my point of view) "procedural".  One part requires something to be done that leads to the next part; I can't provide accompaniment that matches the tempo the student is at to help this along because of the latency.

 So now it's more cut and dry.  The essence has to be acquired before the next part, so to speak.  Because the only options are to hear the student play it alone, or with the recording full speed.  The mechanical problems that prohibit playing it with the recording full speed have to be fixed, and I have to describe how to do it verbally.

 Although, sometimes the camera allows a closeup of finger angles that is a unique, new aspect. 

These 2 things alter the dynamic.  I can't let a student gloss through something mechanically to try to get the Big Picture of playing a song in focus. I can't try to lead a student verbally as they play along with me, because the timing latency makes that impossible.

 On the whole, though, it may make the work-load task more straightforward to the student.  The lesson seems to go faster and more direct, and while less is addressed it's a little more obvious what must be done (seems like that's the new mantra in this post-COVID19 era...).  What is missing was probably a bit abstract to the student (timing issues, finger placement at speed) but in its place more specificity about what is vital.

 Hopefully, the positive comments are forthright and keep coming!