Reply To: "Shut Up"

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I am frequently asked this question by other music educators – particularly those whose primary teaching experience is NOT related to the guitar. When I began teaching, I experimented with many varied techniques and approaches to quieting students because I had a mindset that guitar rehearsal needed to look and feel like the band and orchestra rehearsals did when I was being trained in school. My thinking on this has evolved somewhat over the years, however. I now tend to believe that many guitarists’ “noodling” is a subconscious tactile response that enables a means for cognitively processing what is being discussed by providing a secondary mechanism for keeping their attention from being further depleted. This could be seen as akin to the way that many children doodle or color while being read to – not because they lack interest in the story, but precisely because the secondary task enables them to pay better attention. I know that it is hugely obnoxious for us teachers who were brought up in a radically different educational environment, however, I believe that we educators have an equal responsibility to adapt our methods to our students just as they must learn to function in ways that they may be unaccustomed to.

A caveat to this discussion: it is important to mention that we teachers also have a keen instinct for formative assessment and that it is generally easy to tell who is on task and who is not. Although the casual, outside observer may not be able to differentiate between these two groups of students, we can and therefore need to adjust our expectations accordingly.

I guess the biggest advice I can offer is this: if we talk less and play more, this issue will generally resolve itself.