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So why am I calling myself “The Patient Guitar Teacher” as if I’m the only guitar teacher in the world who is patient? Is there some particular point I’m trying to make? Well, yes. I don’t mean to say there aren’t other teachers out there who are patient. There are. So apologies if you’re offended by this, but I’ve put a lot of effort into my teaching, and as you’ll see if you want to read down far enough, there might be more to it than you think.

For as long as I’ve been teaching music—almost 20 years—many of my students have told me that I am very patient, usually when they were at a critical moment in their musical development. After a while, I started wondering, Why is this so important that people keep talking about it? What’s going on?

One thing is that I work very hard to make my students feel comfortable to take as much time as they want to grasp a musical concept. Some things can be very hard to do, but sometimes people mistakenly think that they should be “getting it” faster. I’ve seen enough students to know that no two people learn in quite the same way. So if you’re my student and you want to spend a lot of time on some particular thing, you go right ahead. I’ll be with you all the way. I usually have a feeling for when to stay out of the way and when to step in again. I have figured out many different ways of teaching things, so if one way is not working, I’ll try something else.

As I thought more about patience, I wondered if there was more to it than that. I started to realize that “Patience” for me is a way of organizing my teaching, learning, and playing of music. Here’s what I mean:

About 15 years ago, a friend made me a mix tape of Brazilian music. I was so blown away by it that I decided to go to Brazil to hear some for myself. I listened to samba in Rio de Janeiro, maracatu in Recife and I also traveled to Bahia and Minas Gerais to see what was going on there. I loved Brazilian culture so much that I went back seven more times.

On one of those trips, in Bahia, while taking a percussion lesson with a really wonderful teacher named Macambira, it hit me that there was a similarity between the methods of many of my favorite teachers here in the States and what I had been seeing in Brazil. Sometimes you just have to see things from a different perspective to really understand what you already know. Or something like that, anyway.

Macambira brought it all together for me. He sat at the front of our percussion group, a very calm, encouraging presence. He showed us a beat pattern, then played it with us for a long time. If one of us got off the rhythm, or used the wrong hand pattern, he’d stare at you with a good-natured grin and raised eyebrows until you figured out where you were supposed to be, by watching him, then he’d smile widely and nod. This is what some people call the oral tradition. It’s showing rather than telling.

One of my favorite teachers at Berklee College of Music was Larry Senibaldi. I finally found him after I had been at Berklee for a couple of years. Larry was a little different than most of the guitar teachers at Berklee. He took the time to figure out what I needed, and then he showed it to me. I felt like he was trying to get to know me as a musician and to discover how he could help me improve. I began to really make progress. I’m certain Larry had never met Macambira, but they really had a lot in common.

Find out for yourself what these great instructors have taught me about teaching music by contacting me at PatientGuitarTeacher@gmail.com to set up a free introductory lesson.