Having been on the teaching side and the student side of lessons recently, I feel like I have a decent grasp of what music lessons should be about. (I am taking guitar lessons this year, for the first time!) Students are usually very excited to start lessons, and many will put in the practise time at first, but a lot of students lose their drive after a month or two. The student is often not progressing as fast as he or she would like, and the lessons aren’t always exactly what the student was expecting. This is a common issue with students, and it is one I strive to avoid.
Before I start lessons with my students, I need to know what their musical interests and background are. I find out what kind of music they listen to, what kind of role models they have, what kind of things they can already do. I especially need to know what kinds of things the student wants to learn to play! A lot of teachers are classically trained and intend to classically train their students. I am classically trained, but the only way I will point my student in that direction is if he or she wants to go there!
Once we have a direction, I select a lesson book series to start with (usually with an accompanying theory book and perhaps a “fun” book) and we start learning. But I don’t like this to be our only source of learning. We usually use this as our main book and I give other songs as extra pieces. These songs are usually songs that the student knows, likes, or has heard before. This gives them some familiarity and allows them to show off recognizable songs to other people.
If I have a student who is coming to me after some time with another teacher, I can adapt to the books that the student is used to using, or we can change paths completely. The key is communication about where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’d like to go!