I think our educational system does us a disservice when it comes to private music instruction. Essentially, the former is predicated on “right” or “wrong,” and in music there is no “right” or “wrong.”
Most people approach their music lessons as they would the taking of a math course, with the expectation of being judged and graded, and having to pass “tests” to show their increasing proficiency.
Well, music–and especially banjo music–just doesn’t work that way. I tell my students right at the outset that I have no expectations for them: any expectations are strictly their own. I do not hold them to some measure of improvement–all I want them to do is to have some fun.
And that’s what it’s all about. In 50-some years of teaching, I have had but one beginning student who already had a gig lined up. He was a studio guitarist who had accepted a job playing banjo for a commercial jingle. He told me he hated the banjo but needed to learn one short piece for a studio session in six weeks (he did).
Other than that, not one of the thousands of people I’ve taught was trying to learn on a timetable because he had a deadline. Instead, everyone has said he was doing it “for himself.”
So to me, that means there is no pressure, and that my job as a teacher is to try to make the learning journey fun, for there is no destination.
Taking music lessons is far too expensive to be a frustration. If you want to pay lots of money to be frustrated, I recommend golf. You should “practice” your instrument because it’s rewarding and fun. (I put the word practice in quotation marks because I highly recommend not regimented practicing, but playing, instead–please see my 5 June 2015 blog on just that subject.)
I tell folks that if they drag their instruments out the day before their lessons, thinking “Oh, yeah, I guess I’d better practice this thing” they will never learn to play. The folks who do learn to play are the ones who can’t put the instrument down. And why is that? Because it’s fun, not a chore.
So relax, have fun. Experiment, noodle around. Try to do that which pleases you. And if you’re not having fun, please tell your teacher–something has to change, or you’ll just lose interest.
And that’s no fun at all.