The Modern Culture Of Music Lessons

March 29, 2023

Eric recently had the chance to be a guest on the Fort Worth Roots podcast with host Andrew Turner and guest host Sean Russell of Cut Throat Finches.

WARNING at 0:28 and 5:08 Sean makes a swear

Eric Despite how this podcast has already started, we are a family friendly music school.


From what I’ve seen it looks like you’ve got a bunch of kiddos between the ages of 7 and 14 honing a new skill.


Eric– Well not only that but about 30% of our students are adult guitarists. We get adult players contacting us all the time, saying, ‘Oh I don’t know, is it gonna be weird? Will I be the only adult student?’ And I reply, no, we’ve got quite a community of adult guitar players. But I would say the average age for kids is between ages 6-12. I’d say 9 is the most common age to start. We start as early as age 4 and our oldest student is 72.


The only people we will reject outright are between the ages of 18 to 26 who are paying for the lessons themselves. I am going to grill you with 100 questions and try to get you to not sign up for lessons with us.


Sean– Really?


And is it for the obvious reason?


Eric– Think about where you were in your early 20’s. Usually you’re broke, there’s a lot of life changes happening, not a lot of stability.


Sean– Not showing up to lessons, not paying for the lessons you didn’t show up for.


Eric– Yeah, so it’s typically like ages 4-17 and then ages 30 and up.


Just don’t want to waste their money.


Eric– That’s true. And I tell them that. Sometimes in their minds they’re like, ‘oh, I could do lessons for like 2-3 months. I’ve got enough money for that.’ I’m like, just don’t bother. If you’re gonna take lessons with us you need to adopt the mindset of doing this for several years because it’s going to take at least 2 years before you’re comfortable on your instrument.


I’ve heard it referred to as artistic fluency. Are you saying it takes 2 years to become artistically fluent?


Eric– That’s a good way of putting it. You should be enjoying the whole process from day 1. If the first time you hit a note, it feels good and gives you that spark and inspiration, then you know you’re on the right track. But to get to the point where you’re artistically fluent- I really like that- it’s at least a couple years before it feels really natural.


Think about that first 6 months, first year, if you were to play for somebody else, you’re totally tense, you can’t relax. It takes several years before you’re really flowing and feeling good.


Sean– I agree. I don’t know how long it was before I wanted to play and have someone actually hear it. Otherwise it’s that awkward ‘hold on a minute!’ and you start over and it’s like no one cares about your cover of Sweet Child of Mine yet.


Eric– There’s nothing worse than watching someone play and they get into a verse and they’re like ‘hold on hold on I messed up I gotta start over.’ I’m like, no- just keep going!


Punch through it. 


Eric– Exactly. And wouldn’t you say, Sean, the same thing goes for playing live? It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you’ve never played live, that’s a whole new learning curve. You could be the best player in the world and your first live performance is still going to be awful. It probably takes several years before that becomes comfortable.


Sean– Yeah, the whole recital process and traditional lessons- I was talking to someone about it last night. It’s like someone saying ‘hey you want to play soccer, sit here and juggle this soccer ball for a year.’ Well that’s just one thing. It’s not really playing the game or what you’re working towards.


What I like about the way lessons are being taught more generally now is it’s an environment where you learn a song then back away and learn the theory about why it sounds the way it does and why you’re doing it this way. I think that’s much more impactful.


Eric– As much as I like to think we’re pioneers of music lessons, we’re really not. You’re right, Sean, the whole culture has changed in the way music is taught now.


Sean– Well places are succeeding now at least. There’s a clear pattern that people like of how they want to learn. For a purpose rather than this abstract idea of just playing for the sake of proficiency. Hopefully to collaborate or make your own music.


Eric– To me, there’s no greater joy than making music with other people. Either writing music, improvising, or getting on stage with them. And that’s not everybody’s goal, but that to me is the ultimate goal. And I think there’s much more of a focus on that now.

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