Thinking Of Taking A Summer Break From Guitar Lessons?
-by Eric Dieter
When students think about music lessons, they often subconsciously pair them with school. This makes sense- they’re both structure learning environments. So when the summer starts to creep up, there’s an inclination to cast all learning aside and just “relax.” If you’re prone to this type of thinking, let me share with you some of the things I’ve learned from 20+ years of teaching guitar
Learning Is Relaxing
Improving at a skill or boosting our knowledge base will eventually reach a point where things start to get easier. As guitar students start putting in consistent work, their hands will find it easier to move with less effort. Doesn’t that sound relaxing?!
Do you know what isn’t relaxing for most people? Finding that they can no longer do something they used to be able to do. When it comes to playing an instrument, you’re hands tend to “forget” when they have too much time off. Even if we intellectually remember where each note or chord was, the hands will often struggle to make the movements we used to be able to do easily. Not to mention forgetting songs you spent weeks or months on is extrememely frustrating.
Wasting Time Doesn’t Save Money
Many students will look at the perceived financial benefits of taking a break. But they fail to see it from the perspective of money lost versus the money invested. The thinking goes like this. If I spend $200 a month on lessons and take three months off, I might think of this as a $600 savings. However most parents and students don’t take into account that during this break their progress will regress. In fact it can regress as much as 4 to 6 months.
So what that means is that it will take you four additional months when you return to reach the point that you were before you left now this will cost you $800 just to get where you were before you quit and now you have lost four more months. What will that do to you or your child’s confidence on the instrument? Fact is, quitting is far more expensive than continuing.
Overcoming Inertia… AGAIN
The hardest part about any new skill or habit is getting started. Think about how much time went by between when you had the idea to get into guitar lessons vs. when you actually started guitar lessons. Do you want to waste that much time again?
The good news is that if you’ve already started the guitar, you’ve bought the amp, you have the cables you have, the pick, etc… so you have the knowledge and resources. Stopping now will only make it more difficult to resume later.
Most students, when they quit, will fill that time with something new. They will not leave this empty hour or two hours or three hours in their schedule so that guitar can resume in August or September. This time gets filled with other things… which, overtime, will also make it very difficult to resume your guitar lessons regardless of how much you may want to return.
You have already started now and it will be far more valuable and easier to continue on the path that you’ve started rather than starting a new path that will soon be overgrown with weeds. Continuing is way easier than starting over.
The Time-Investment Pay Off
Lessons become even more valuable the better you get at the instrument. Consider when you are a beginner you are unsure of how to practice, what to practice, in what order, for how long… To be hones,t a lot of your time is wasted with not knowing what to do or by getting distracted by the wrong stuff. As you become more advanced do you understand how to get more out of your practice time and therefore will get even more out of your guitar lessons. the more experienced you get, the more effective your time becomes.
When students take a break but actually manage to continue to practice, they STILL notice their skills are degrading. Why? Without the guidance and structure of our teachers, we become less focused and less efficient in the practice room.
What might this do you or your child’s confidence if they see that they are no longer is good at something as they used to be?
Do you think this confidence or lack there of will continue over into other things such as school sports and other extracurricular activities?
I do not think it is a far leap to assume that this lack of skills or the sudden loss of ability will cause frustration in young students and will impact their performance in many other areas. Instead, staying the course can and will help students build self-confidence.
The easiest thing in the world is to STOP doing something that requires effort. There are constantly things competing for your attention. Learning how to adapt to a changing schedule while keeping guitar in your life will set you up to deal with future setbacks. And we all know it’s a matter of time before something else comes up and demands your attention. Developing the skill to both adapt to a changing schedule while keeping leisure activities that are important to you is a valuable skill you’ll be gald you worked on!