‘Guitar Teacher’ Verses ‘Guitar Master’

When I looked up the definition of a teacher on Google what I got was, ‘A person who teaches, especially in a school’. I don’t know about you but this definition doesn’t really inspire me. In Japanese a teacher is called ‘sensei’ which in English would be more like master. Its a term of respect for someone with great knowledge and/or skill. This is important for both student and teacher (sensei). Viewing a teacher as a master is more inspiring and will generally raise a student’s level of initial respect (although maintaining that respect is another story). In other words, if you were introduced as a guitar master to a beginner guitar student, you would likely gain a higher level of respect compared to being introduced simply as a teacher. It sounds trivial but one little word can make all the difference. Not just for the student but also for the teacher.

Living up to expectations

In Japan the role of ‘sensei’ is taken very seriously. A teacher will feel a certain responsibility toward their students. They know to be worthy of the title of ‘sensei’ they must live up to it. Its not a case of getting a teacher degree and resting on one’s laurels. Its a lifetime commitment to improving one’s knowledge and skills on a given topic. This is not just cultural. Its the power of a title. Giving yourself a more powerful title will push you to raise your standards. Now the term ‘master’ might look a bit egotistical on your business card but, you need to at least give yourself this title if you want to be a great teacher. Seeing yourself as a master will push you to be worthy of the title which in turn, will mean better results for your students not to mention you are likely to become a better guitarist.

What is ‘Mastery’

Malcolm Gladwell popularised the idea of the 10,000 hour rule. He presented a case for mastery that said a skill is almost always the result of around 10,000 hours of practice. This can be a pretty good benchmark but I think there is more to the idea of mastery. The way I think of mastery is like this. Mastery is more about the way you act from day to day. True masters of anything commit to daily deliberate practice. Mastery really means to have control over someone or something. For guitarists its having control over their instrument but it is also having control over yourself in terms of discipline. Having the discipline to sit down and do meaningful practice everyday for a given time without excuses. Mastery in short requires a commitment to daily improvement. Mastery is not a destination but a habit. Your level of skill at any given point in time is simply the result of your self mastery and time.

Guitar Masters are leaders

The term leader by the very definition means to be up front. When you are a leader you are inspiring others to follow you. You are one or more steps ahead of where they want to be. Guitar teaching is not necessarily leading. Guitar teachers plan lessons, demonstrate ideas, give feedback and so on. They are instructing their student on the ‘how to’ of guitar playing. The guitar master has a different approach. A guitar master actually lives by example. I don’t just mean they expect students to play certain scales or chords etc like they do. What guitar masters expect is for their students to adopt the mindset and lifestyle. They expect their students to practice daily and purposefully and not to make excuses. The guitar master does not make excuses so therefore does not accept excuses. A guitar master leads by example. The guitar teacher does not necessarily lead by example and they often don’t see the student’s success on guitar as their responsibility. They will say things like “I can’t make students practice” or “It’s really up to them. All I can do is guide them.” These are not the kind of statements made by guitar masters. Guitar masters will call students out when they make excuses about practice.

Mastery is a choice

You have a choice. Your choice will largely determine your success as a teacher. You make the choice to be a guitar master or just another average guitar teacher. You choose whether to make excuses or not. Your students will be a reflection of you and your attitude. When your students are not practicing and making excuses look at yourself first.

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