Good “Lesson Manners”

Red Henry

Red Henry

When someone goes in to take a music lesson, both the teacher and the student need to have good manners. Some folks haven't thought much about manners as applied to music lessons, but good manners need attention in the lesson too! And this applies to both the teacher and the student.

I was reminded of this by a recent mandolin student whom I taught for several months. He was apt to do several things that interfered with his learning. Sometimes he wouldn't practice for a week. Sometimes he'd cancel a lesson on short notice, or with no notice at all. But the biggest thing he did to prevent himself from learning was to START PLAYING HIS MANDOLIN, LOUDLY AND FOR A LONG TIME, WHILE I WAS SHOWING HIM A NEW TUNE.

That was not good manners. And it meant, among other things, that (1) he didn't hear me playing and explaining the tune phrase-by-phrase so that he could learn it, and (2) his cute little H4 recorder didn't capture the lesson either, because he was playing at the same time I was. And he didn't know which parts of a tune were going to be hardest to play, because he'd never listened to begin with. Then he'd come in the next week with the tune only half-learned-- and he never did learn many tunes well-- I wonder why.

When you go in to a music lesson, think of all you can do to make the lesson go well. Listen throughout, play when it's your turn, and ask questions. Use good manners.


Posted in By Red, lessons and tagged , on by .

About Red Henry

Began playing mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and banjo in 1967-69. I married Murphy in 1974. We led the Red & Murphy bluegrass band, playing professionally, from 1975-87. Since then I've handled the technical side of Murphy Method cassette, videotape, and DVD production. When you call I usually answer the phone, and I'm normally the one who sends out the orders.

8 thoughts on “Good “Lesson Manners”

  1. martha carlton

    What a good thought for all music students to take to heart. Each of us should squeeze as much learning time as possible out of the lesson. I think I tend to talk too much.

  2. Susan

    Thanks, Red, for the reminder. I’d like to add that when attending a workshop, please do not “noodle aound” on your instrument while the instructor is talking or playing. That is quite annoying to others and takes up valuable instructor time as well as being generally bad manners.

  3. Red Henry

    Post author

    Good point, there. Folks who tink around on their banjos, guitars, or mandolins are holding up the lesson or picking session (or recording session– I’ve seen that done). And who can get in tune if somebody’s noodling away?


  4. Martin, IL

    Is it me or does this post seem a little tense?! I am not sure it was necessarily that this person was rude, but I wasn’t there. I do know that if you pay for something you have an expectation as to how it goes. Just as you apparently have an expectation also. I think its up to both the teacher and student to set that expectation up front. I do not like rudeness, but maybe I am new school, and thinking he who pays is boss. Besides, you know how to herd cats, right?

  5. Martin Bacon

    I think Red’s point is how to get the most out of your lesson. I usually learn more when I am actively listening than when I am talking or “noodling” although I am sure I am guilty of doing both when I should have just been quiet.

    As for Martin above,
    Before I actually met Red, I thought many of his posts were “scary”. I told my wife I thought he was the “enforcer”. Now I know he is just trying to give really good advice about how to act in situations like jams or lessons where you might not be familiar with bluegrass etiquette.

  6. Steve (in Japan)

    To: Martin, IL: Hey Martin. From your comment above, I take it that you’re a young man. I think you need to go back and re-read the first sentence of the 2nd paragraph in Red’s entry. Also, my young friend, you wrote, “he who pays is boss,” didn’t you!? Now, let’s try putting it this way, “He who buys is a consumer.” This “post” is about teacher – student relationships and not employer – employee relationships. There’s a big difference, don’t you know? In this case, above, I believe the teacher (provider) has been very patient for “several months.” Also, a student (consumer) should never, ever, never (unless told to do so) turn on a tape recorder in the classroom, but rather must turn on his or her brain! Ease up, Martin, ease up.

  7. Steve (in Japan)

    Hey Marty. Red’s posts “scary,” no way! “Good advice,” you better believe they are. The man knows what he’s talking about and he’s a real gentleman about it too. I went back and read many of his posts and he’s a writer! I see you know the phrase, “Physician, heal thyself.”

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