Teachers and Students

Red Henry

Red Henry

Since we've had so much interest in lesson discussions recently, I thought we might like to talk about students and teachers. First of all, here are sample behaviors of a few different teachers I've seen. Which teacher would you rather learn from?

Teacher #1. The teacher, who is a famous bluegrass musician, spends almost the entire lesson talking about music and music theory, going into intricate details about note relationships and chord structures and progressions. The student plays one or two tunes on the banjo, the teacher assigns a tab to learn the next week, and the lesson is over.

Teacher #2. The teacher, who is a fairly well known banjo picker, spends the lesson playing and talking and playing and talking and not giving the student much opportunity to participate. The student hardly gets a chance to play at all before the lesson is over.

Teacher #3. The teacher starts off by getting the student to play their tune from last week, going through it several times for repetition, warming-up, and encouragement, and then continues all through the lesson, teaching enough new material for the next week but having the student playing at least half the time.

Well, you may think that #3 may be a no-brainer, but I have seen enough examples of the first two lesson formats to know that those two teacher-types are quite common. Nevertheless, the focus of the lesson should be for the student to be learning to play, and I wish that all teachers would make it that way.

. . . . .

Okay, now let's talk about types of students. Here are a few examples:

Student #1. The student has canceled the previous two lessons on short notice, and now comes in late. He or she obviously hasn't had the banjo out of its case since the last lesson, almost a month ago. The teacher has to spend the whole lesson in reviewing material and getting the student to play, using up the lesson time for practice.

Student #2. The student arrives barely in time for the lesson, and something's always missing. They've lost their picks, or they've forgotten to practice their old material, or the dog ate their tuner-- but something has always gone wrong that could have been taken care of ahead of time. The lesson starts slowly, because the teacher has to do other things besides teaching.

Student #3: This student comes in on time and ready to play. Although their life is busy, he or she has played at least a little, almost every day. They may not have learned last week's lesson completely, but they're ready to sit down with the banjo and give it a good try.

Which student would you rather teach? I'm glad to say that most students I know fit the #3 category. The teacher and the student both need to do their part if the student is going to learn!


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.

4 thoughts on “Teachers and Students

  1. martha carlton

    What an excellent remindeer about how both teachers and students should behave in a music lesson. Certainly all the Murphy Method teachers that I know are superb teachers!!!!!!

  2. Arden Peters

    I have experienced all three types of teachers, my next to the last one – thankfully!! – being a Type 3 teacher! I would add that Types 1 and 2 seem to have the primary motivation of showing how well they can play, and/or showing me how horribly inadequate I am as a banjo picker. In fact, the last Type 2 teacher I had, I called him after the initial session and told him I was not advanced enough to benefit from his “lessons.” That not only saved and boosted his ego, but also gave me an easy “out” by maintaining my ego without his ever being confronted with what a pathetic “teacher” he was.

  3. Martin Bacon

    No I am not sucking up. Murphy is one of the finest teachers of any material I have ever had and I have a lot of experience teaching and being taught and have had many stupendous teachers.

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