Ask Your Teacher to Tell Stories

In Sources of Power Gary Klein writes…

The method we have found most powerful for eliciting knowledge is to use stories. If you ask experts what makes them so good, they are likely to give general answers that do not reveal much. But if you can get them to tell you about tough cases, nonroutine events where their skills made the difference, they you have a pathway into their perspective, into the way they are seeing the world (p. 189).

Practicing and performing and gigging are problem solving. How do you work out that touch section? How do you get over stage fright? How do you organize a concert program? How do you book gigs?

The best advice I can give anyone is to find a local teacher or, if nobody is available locally, take webcam lessons. Teachers have short cuts and knowledge and, most of all, stories.

Klein is right that the best way elicit knowledge is through stories. Every time I write a post on The Classical Guitar Blog, I’m telling a story about what has worked for me. Or I’m telling you a story about what I do in the practice room or on stage. These are authentic stories I live every time I sit down with the guitar. Your teacher has just as many stories and just as much knowledge.

So ask for those stories. Ask your teacher what she did the first time she performed. Ask him how he practiced that difficult bit in a piece, even if it’s not a piece you’re working on the lessons in those stories can often be applied to other works. Ask about their early years or playing and what they did to get better during them. You’ll be amazed at the responses you get.

Posted on in Guitar Teaching


  • John Lancaster
    John Lancaster

    The ability to communicate using stories to explain sometimes complex practical techniques is the hallmark of a good teacher. I have just been watching Barenboim on TV giving masterclasses on the Beethoven sonatas to young professional pianists. Although much of the theory goes right over my head, his insights on interpretation are immediately understandable thanks to Barenboim’s use of stories, anecdotes as well as practical tips and tricks. Since I am constantly on the move, it is difficult for me to find a guitar teacher, and hence I turn to your blog and other internet sources for inspiration and advice. You effectively manage to communicate your love of the instrument and your passion for teaching, so a glorious career should develop! Please keep up the good work.

  • Alan Learn And Master Guitar Guy

    Bear in mind, we all respond to teaching methods differently. It is best to discover what kind of learning techniques are most suited to you and find the type of lessons that match. I do believe that when a student is told a story, they can use the vision to excel their performance.

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