I get it, you had all the best intentions since the last lesson, but just didn’t get to as much practice as you had hoped.
• Maybe there was no way you could have done better (the kids started school, the dog was sick and there was an emergency at work).
• Or you know you could have done better (“Could have skipped that TV show or the latest news, but I got sucked in, I admit it!”)
• Maybe you just got sidetracked as you had your bass on, were a bit frazzled, started a bit here or there, ended up watching a bunch of YouTubes instead, and started wondering if you actually needed different strings.
• Or you just blew it off entirely, figuring you’d just move the lesson and do a better job next week. After all, the lesson is in two days and how much could you possibly get prepared in that short amount of time?
Do not cancel because of any of the above reasons!
I know you want to make me (or whoever your teacher is) proud by showing off your new skills and not “tank” in front of your teacher, but here is what I have learned:
The above progression is a slippery slope from valid reasons not to practice to, well, not so great ones where you end up being more or less in denial about your commitment. It is a very slippery slope. You have decided to commit yourself to lessons, so, no matter what happened in between lesson times:
Do not cancel. Show up!
Sometimes students cancel because they:
• want to show respect; they don’t want to create the impression of disrespecting the teacher because they didn’t practice or have not accomplished their practice goals. In my reaction, there is no danger that I feel disrespected should a student not have had time to practice. As a teacher, I am here to get you to your goals, and whatever hiccups you may face, talk to me about what is happening and I offer ideas. I am a certified coach. This is what coaches do. So, there: bass coach!
• want to not “make me say the same thing again”. I won’t. Rather, I will say it again in a slightly different way. And I will practice it together with you. You will leave the lesson having spent a productive hour on your bass.
• feel bad about themselves and are afraid of being scolded (I am not the type of teacher who does that. Some teachers are and some students like that. Look for what serves you in the choice of your teacher. I don’t believe in scolding or wagging my finger. I do believe in
- reminding you of your goals,
- of coming up with alternative plans if the current ones don’t work.
After each lesson with me, students get a detailed text document that I call lesson plan – it details how and what to practice. I often also include background tracks, PDFs, and other resources. I do prefer if you practice. But if you did not get to it for whatever reason (I don’t need to know, this is not elementary school!), just tell me and we will make this a super productive session where we practice together. I call these lessons “practice sessions”.
This type of practice, as a matter of fact, is pure gold, because:
• You get immediate feedback.
• We do tweaks to the lesson plan right then and there.
• I can see you practice and give tips and adapt strategies in real time.
• And maybe most important: the teacher being right there with you assures you stay focused and on target.
To spend a productive hour like that with an experienced teacher is worth years of misguided practice on your own. Also: super motivating (rather than the slippery slope)!
The following does not apply to students who come find me because they are pros or have professional aspirations, because they are in college or preparing for college or professional auditions or studio work. If you are such a person, practice; develop discipline; ask for help if you struggle with this on your own. A missed couple of weeks here and there are just a wrinkle and we can exchange a regular practice session anytime for a regular lesson, but practicing, of course, will be more the norm for you if you are heading for the studio scene or the tour bus.
I have a few students who are just too busy in their lives to sit down with the bass or they have other obstacles to practicing. So we create a plan to practice together. And they meet with me once a week and just practice with me. And they improve! I introduce something new each lesson, go over last lesson’s “new thing”, practice lots of technique, theory, timing and creative drills during the lesson, and you bet ya, they are making satisfying progress. Not Jaco by tomorrow, but who says that this is the only way of playing that counts, anyway? Finding your own voice, becoming more confident on the fretboard, wherever your starting point – satisfying? I say yes!
The only valid reason in my book to cancel is a genuine scheduling conflict. Because otherwise, you set foot on that slippery slope of preparing just for a lesson, cramming the day before etc. Don’t practice for the teacher. Practice for yourself. Make practicing a part of your life and daily routine.
And by the way, this entire article is not a sales pitch. Proof:
• I have four fairly full online teaching days and more than plenty on my plate.
• As for rescheduling with me, if you have a genuine unexpected conflict, click the link in your confirmation email and move the lesson. You don’t even need to ask me or send emails back and forth or tell me a reason. Just pick a time slot and change as needed using the link in my automated scheduler. My policy allows moving the lesson up to 12 hours in advance. Easy, no hassle!
Also check out the course, which – whether with or without monthly lessons at the same time – are the biggest bang for your monetary buck and provide a huge amount of value.