Is jamming with friends and noodling around on your guitar beneficial? We say yes! In fact, incorporating jam sessions into your guitar lessons can be a great way to build your chops. Check out Wheaton, IL teacher Scott C.‘s thoughts here…
Anyone who has ever taken or taught music in some capacity has probably come into contact with what I call “Human Tablature” lessons. In short, this is where you show up, you ask the teacher to teach you a song, and they teach it to you. A perfect example is when “American Idiot” by Green Day came out; it was almost like every guitar teacher in the country was given a full month’s lesson plans – all they had to do was show up and show the student where to put his or her fingers. These lessons are usually so boring you can audibly hear your life getting duller, and both the teacher and the student are constantly shooting shifty glances at their watch.
Guitar lessons like this, even when accompanied with theory or fundamentals exercises, do little to improve the student’s skills, and in my experience never get the student to love music or to continue their education for that matter. What they are doing is simply playing the role of a guitar tab or an online instructional, in which case the lesson is expendable because we live in the age of YouTube. The student becomes stunted, bored, and gets sick and just as tired of “American Idiot” as the rest of us.
Something that has shot adrenaline into my own lessons has been to teach improvisation— in whatever way goes— as soon as possible with a student, and then to leave pure, clean, well-lit open space at the beginning of every lesson. What this does is make each lesson not just a time for musical education, but a musical experience, which is exactly why we all wanted to learn music in the first place, right?
I know, I know, you might be thinking that you can’t possibly “jam” when you are just beginning, but fear not, it just takes a little calibration. What it looks like for me is simply teaching the most base form of a scale at the beginning of a season of lessons, laying down the fundamentals of improvisation (even if it’s just with a few notes), and then consistently allowing time and space for music to happen, for creativity to strike, and for you to land a killer note or fill that positively gets your blood pumping. If we are learning a particular song together, I will usually start out with that at the next lesson for a jam, and then we will see where it goes.
This is great for five grossly beneficial reasons:
- It’s fun!
- It instills the blueprint for creativity and improvisation from the very beginning, which sharpens and hones your theory and technical skills, so that you don’t become a musical robot.
- It puts music in your court where you taste what it’s like not to just learn music, but to make it.
- It is an easy way to go over and remember things previously learned from other lessons.
- It makes your lesson time exciting, and gets you psyched about that hour or half-hour.
Scott C. teaches guitar, drum, bass guitar, songwriting, music recording, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, and music theory lessons to students in Wheaton, IL. His specialties include folk, bluegrass and country music styles, and he joined the TakeLessons team in October 2012. Learn more about Scott, or search for a teacher near you!
Photo by L. Bernhardt, Resident Loon