Friday, April 30, 2010

Buying a Guitar Amp? Here are TOP 10 tips.

Here are Jay Irsaj's (Wildflower Amplifier's) Top 10 tips for buying a guitar amp.

1/ what /where do you want to use it

2/ what styles of music / sounds are you after

3/ tube or solid state ( I would prefer tube) But you remember the old PEAVEY Renown’s they weren’t that bad

4/ what amp configuration / Combo / head and cabinet. Would also come into the equation of what style (blues /rock combo ok) all the heavier and louder stuff Head and quad my recommendations.

5/ Marshall style amps – medium – heavy (AC/DC , led zep. ) depending on what model you purchased

6/ Fender is classic clean ( country, blues rock ., jazzy, Light rock) probably a little more versatile than the Marshall type but it will not get you into the heavier stuff.

7/ $500 - $600 – would be very basic entry kind of amp (new)

8/ Go into the shops and try / before you buy ask question

9/ Don’t rush into it until your exactly sure of what you want /need in a amp. (other wise it will become a boat anchor)

10/ Have fun doing it.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Monday, April 26, 2010

How to improve your guitar lessons by repeating

A perfect memory

Kim Peek born 1951 can read two pages of a book at the same time and remember all the content perfectly. Peek was portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man. Peek was not actually autistic He had a remarkable ability to remember large amounts of information after only reading or hearing the information once. In other words he had a eidetic memory more commonly referred to as photographic memory.

Peek helped neuro scientists to discover and learn more about how memory actually works and better still how to make it work for you and I. Memory as we know it involves 4 basic steps. Encoding, Storage, Retrieval and Forgetting. Peek was able to encode information with one swipe like a computer swiping bar codes but for most of us encoding is selective. Our brain actually spends a lot of time forgetting and this happens for a very good reason. Peek's ability came at a big price. Our brains prioritise information based on evolutionary survival. We are more likely to remember that a stove is hot after one touch than we are to remember where we left our car keys simply because one is painful and the other only inconvenient.

Using pain to teach piano

Now I do recall hearing stories of piano students in days gone by who had teachers that would hit their knuckles with a ruler if they made a mistake. Connecting pain probably helped with the encoding process but unfortunately it often encoded the wrong message. 'DON'T PLAY PIANO'. While this may seem humorous in hindsight I have met many adults who said they learned piano this way as a child but have not touched a piano since. You could see the fear in their eyes.

The solution? Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Encoding information improves with each repetition. A German psychologist named Hermann Ebbinghaus was one of the first to really study memory. He discovered that people usually forget 90% of what they learn in a class within 30 days and most of the information is lost in the first few hours. Ebbinghaus proved that you could increase the length of a memory by repeating the information in timed intervals. This tells us that efficient learning is not about cramming as much information into a students brain as possible. The quantity theory if you like. Its about making sure that what you learn is remembered. The quality theory.

Song overload

This supports my long held theory that learning new songs every week is not only ineffective its frustrating for both teacher and student. In my early years of teaching students would turn up for their weekly lesson and I would ask 'What would you like to do this week?' They would hand me a recording and I would spend the lesson working out the song and teaching it to them based on what I heard. I ended up working out thousands of songs but after about 3 years it dawned upon me that neither the student or I were remembering any of these songs. I knew that teaching students in rapid fire was not the solution to real learning. It may have kept them happy in the moment but I knew there was no real learning going on.

Maximise your memory - Here are some important things to remember.
  • Repetitive learning is the key.
  • Decide on a few songs and commit to learning them in full.
  • Try to choose the songs you rant to learn carefully so you can stay committed.
  • A good teacher will keep each lesson to a few topics and also keep you focused on the goal.
  • A good teacher won't allow you to learn new songs every week. Yes good teachers don't fold under pressure.
  • You should walk away from a lesson feeling clear about everything you have learned.
  • Your teacher should repeat the information several times throughout the lesson and should have you repeat it back.
  • Immediately revise the information learned asap once the lesson is over. If possible revise several times to dramatically increase the chances of submitting the information to memory.

Hope that helps.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

3 Steps to Success on Guitar


version of this blog visit

I want to give you a very simple 3 step plan to success on the guitar which is the basis for the G4 GUITAR METHOD.

1. WRITE DOWN YOUR GOAL - The importance of writing down your goal cannot be overstated. Almost everyone and anyone who has written on the subject of achievement will tell you the first rule is to put your goal in writing. To simply say you want to learn guitar is not enough. What is learned guitar? Is it simply a few notes, a few basic chords, a particular song or a set of skills? You must be able to define your goal in tangible terms.

When I first began teaching guitar 24 years ago I would ask students the question "What would you like to learn?" The problem I found with this question was that most students simply did not have a clear answer. Some would mention songs they would like to play which was definitely helpful but this would often change over time, in some cases from week to week. Some students would actually request a new song to learn each week as if they were renting the latest DVD. I soon came to realize that teaching guitar was really teaching the act of teaching goal setting.

My message was simple. Put into words exactly what you want to be playing in a year to five years from now. At this point I thought I had solved all my challenges as a teacher but as I soon found out it was not that simple. When faced with this task many students began to over think their choice of songs believing they may regret their choice in the future. To get around this I created a program (now known as the G4 GUITAR METHOD) which incorporated standard popular songs that most people enjoyed learning. As part of the program I included skills that needed to be developed to ensure their progress on guitar. I then added what has now become known as the Ultimate Song List or USL. The USL is where students write down approximately 25 songs they would hope to play in the future. A kind of dream song list.

2. SET A COMPLETION DATE - The next step is to set a definite date of completion. With the G4 GUITAR METHOD we include a checklist for each level which clearly states the requirements (in other words the goal) in a written form. On the top of the checklist we include a space for a completion date. The teacher and student decide on a reasonable time frame and enter a completion date.

3. TAKE ACTION - The third step is of course to take action. The best approach is daily action. For this reason we have included a Daily Practice Sheet or DPS. The DPS will constantly remind you of what you need to stay aware of. We include a section called 'Remember' which I would advise you to memorise.

The idea of the G4 GUITAR METHOD is not so much about learning particular songs that you may or may not like but to prepare you for learning the songs you hope to one day play. We incorporate the 7 essential skills into each level which are required for almost any song. By starting with the goals we set you learn how to set your compass and move toward your target. The biggest mistake I see time and time again are students who try to learn guitar without understanding the need for goal setting using the three steps outlined above. They are literally operating without a compass. While some may eventually find their way (most don't hence the millions of unused guitars sitting in people garages collecting dust) they waste a lot of time in the process.

Now just as important as the above is the need for a coach. If you doubt the power of employing a personal coach have a look at how many great athletes, winning sports teams, academic leaders, successful business people, successful actors, successful musicians have achieved their success without the use of a coach or mentor. My guess is it's less than 1%. The reason coach is so vital to your success on the guitar is due to the nature of humans. We struggle with self accountability for one but probably more importantly is a coach (teacher) will save us a lot of time. A recent research finding revealed that people trying to lose weight with the aid of a personal trainer were far more likely to succeed. We have actually run our own research which revealed that adults were 3 times more likely to give up guitar in the first year compared to children under the age of 13 years. The reason is quite simple. As we get older we become more self accountable therefore we are more likely to give up when the going gets tough. An eight-year-old child on the other hand will have to convince their parents before throwing in the towel.

I hope that helps.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Friday, April 9, 2010

Your success on guitar could be related to your impulsiveness

Standford university pyschology researcher Michael Mischel began a study in the 1960's known as 'The Marshmallow Studies'. Mischel wanted to try and understand what effect our impulsive behaviours at a young age had on our future success. In one example the researcher sat a 4 year old boy in a room with one marshmallow on a plate in front of him. The researcher explained that he would leave the room and the boy could eat the marshmallow while he was gone but if he could wait until the researcher returned he would give him a second marshmallow. This put the little boy in a quandary. "Do I eat it now or do I wait?". Around a third of the children ate the marshmallow before the researcher returned.

The researcher conducted many such experiments and tracked these children throughout their life into adult hood to discover whether there was a link between resisting the first marshmallow in exchange for two marshmallows and their general success in life. What the researchers found was that those children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow had a dramatically different outcome in life.

The children who waited were generally more positive, self-motivating and were able to delay gratification in the pursuit of their goals whereas the children who ate the first marshmallow were generally in poor health, had low job satisfaction and troubled marriages.

Humans in effect have two brains operating. Let's call them the short-term and long-term brains. The short-term brain is the one that causes you to overeat at a buffet or to put off studying for an important exam in exchange for a night out with friends. The long-term brain is the one that thinks carefully about what is best between two or more choices. These two brains are often competing and the research shows there is an obvious link between the ability to consult the long-term brain over the short-term brain and success.

The researchers noted the difference between the children came down to the way they dealt with the challenge of eating now or waiting. What they found was the short-term brain operators focused on the marshmallow in front of them and how delicious it was whereas the long-term brain operators would shift their focus. E.g. they would cover their eyes and imagine playing with their favourite toys or being in a completely different place so as to forget about the marshmallow in front of them althogether. In other words they were distracting themselves.

Distracting oneself is a skill that anyone can learn. Understanding strategies for success will also help you to succeed on guitar. Let us say for example that at six o'clock each night you plan to sit down to do 30 minutes of guitar practice. You have had a long hard day at school all work in your short-term brain just wants to sit on the lounge with a drink and watch TV. If you were to consult your long-term brain it would tell you skipping guitar practice in favor of watching TV is a poor choice and certainly will not help you to reach your goal of playing guitar. Use a distraction like taking a shower or going for a short walk all the while focusing on the guitar practice you are about to do and the long-term rewards for doing the practice. Another good distraction is to make a play list of songs that inspire you to practice and have it ready when you are feeling unmotivated or impulsive. This almost always works for me.

In summary your success in life is determined by your ability to consult your long-term brain on important matters. This doesn't mean you shut down and ignore your short-term brain because it also plays an important role but just don't let it sabotage your long term plans.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The power of following a learning method

Learning guitar today is much more advanced compared to past decades and is probably the reason why we are seeing so many amazing players. The standard of the average student after 2 years of learning is about equal to that of a professional session player in the 60's. When I first began teaching guitar over 20 years ago I was inspired by my own teachers. I was passionate about music, guitar and learning in general. I would literally spend hours everyday listening to my favourite records. Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Van Halen, AC/DC, The Beatles and so on. My approach to teaching was based on simply passing on my own knowledge to my students. In short there was no method to my teaching (madness). As a result I became very good at improvising. I was literally making it up as I went a long. This style of teaching is not uncommon. In fact most guitar teachers probably fall into this category. I am in no way suggesting that this style of teaching is not effective because it certainly worked for my teachers but I just believe after years of teaching that a method is a invaluable tool.

The word technology literally means the application of science for practical purposes. A method of any kind therefore is a form of technology. The advancement of technology usually begins with a problem. The problem I faced when teaching guitar in my early years was one of time efficiency. I would constantly find myself writing out similar lessons for each student. This essentially meant I was wasting time. So the creation of a method allowed me to systemised and standardize much of my lessons therefore saving valuable time. Almost all technology is about saving time. But this was only the beginning. I now had a starting point in the same way the wheel was the starting point for the car.

As time went by I discovered that not only did the method save time it also produced better more consistent results in my students. I now had a measuring stick which I could use to measure and monitor the progress of all my students. My teaching now became more scientific because I was able to measure and compare certain groups of students under specific circumstances. This made teaching extremely exciting because suddenly it was no longer guesswork but based on facts. For example when I set levels I was able to see how long it took the average person of a particular age to complete the level. I was also able to measure amounts of practice with progress. This was a major breakthrough because the number one question students ask is "How long will it take to learn guitar?" This question up until this point seemed impossible to answer but now I was able to give students a reasonable answer. For example to finish the G4 GUITAR Senior level one takes around six months for a beginner who practices for at least 30 minutes each day. Now of course some students will finish it quicker and others slower even if they practice the same amount each day because the quality of practice will vary not to mention some people have previous musical experience or natural ability that even they may not be aware of. In general the prediction is quite accurate.

Another great benefit to using a method is a clear definable goal. Almost any coach will talk about the importance of goal setting. Using a method teaches you the value and power of goal setting. This came as an added bonus when I started implementing the G4 GUITAR METHOD. I soon realized that students who completed the first level then had the confidence to go on and achieve higher levels with ease. The reason is learning anything is primarily about confidence building. Confidence is about believing you can do something. There is a standard joke amongst guitarists which is as follows: 'How many guitarists does it take to change a light bulb? 11. One to change the light bulb and 10 to say I could have done it better' Now on one level the joke is about how most guitarists are all talk but there is another more subtle meaning in this joke. The other 10 guitarists are actually confident. The point I'm trying to make is this joke demonstrates that at least 10 out of the 11 guitarists are confident. I would therefore conclude the first ingredient to becoming a proficient guitarist is self-confidence.

To conclude a successful method offers more than just practical exercises and a step-by-step approach to learning. A successful method gives students a path to success therefore giving them the confidence essential to achieving ultimate success on the guitar. If you are not confident about succeeding on guitar then you need to reassess the method and perhaps the teacher you are currently using because without confidence it will probably never happen.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website