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
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