Monday, May 31, 2010

Got the blueberries?

Uncovered in several recent studies is the fact that eating blueberries is good for motor skill development. Fine motor skills are what you need for playing guitar so any advantage you can get is worth paying attention to. Some scientific evidence even suggests that blueberries can slow down and perhaps reverse age-related memory which is good news if you want to be playing guitar well into old age. That's my plan.

In a University of Reading in Pennsylvania and Peninsula Medical School in England study researchers supplemented the rats regular diets with blueberries. The rats showed a 83% memory improvement within 3 weeks on blueberries. In another study at Tufts University in Boston they reveal improvements in balance and coordination.

Learning guitar is largely a function of the brain. The healthier your brain the faster you will learn and the better you will ultimately play. This is because motor skill development starts with the brain. Staying fit, getting plenty of sleep and eating right produce healthy brains. This is often misunderstood when we see the fabled life of guitar legends who seem to party for days, eating poorly and living a very unhealthy life. While this may be the life of the occasional short lived rock star it is rarely what true guitar virtuosos do. Check out guitarists like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and John Petrucci who all have very strict health plans.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Success on guitar through effective decisions

The decisions we make ultimately lead us to success or failure. Brain researcher Jonah Lehrer explains in much detail how our brains actually work in the decision making process in his book 'How we decide'. Applying his findings to guitar can be beneficial. My own interpretation goes like this.

When people decide to learn guitar it is usually the result of a dopamine rush. Dopamine makes us feel good and often motivates us to take action. The problem is it won't keep you motivated for very long. What happens is we soon get swamped with new thoughts and ideas and the novelty of learning guitar begins to wane. Our desire to play guitar never actually disappears. Even if the initial excitement has gone because it is usually connected to a deep rooted emotion lurking in the background until suddenly you hear a great song, go to concert or even see a friend playing guitar. Suddenly the dopamine comes rushing back in and you are kicking yourself for not sticking with your guitar lessons.

The trick is to separate the learning of guitar from the joy of playing. Think of it like fitness. Working out is hard work but the pleasure comes as a result of the hard work. If you take up guitar with the idea of enjoying the practice you may initially be disappointed. But if you simply timetable your practice and get on with it knowing that long term it will pay off. The actual enjoyment of practice begins to creep up on you and before you know it you can't wait to practice each day. This does take time but to get back to Lehrer's research what he points out is that we make many decisions emotionally or using the automated brain which is actually very helpful in some situations but not all. What we often need to do is think logically and be thoughtful about our decisions and how they effect us long term. Learning guitar is a long term decision.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The 2 common mistakes guitar students make..

Two of the most common mistakes when learning guitar are;

1. Intangible goals
2. Putting the cart before the horse (Putting the Song before the Skills)

Intangible goal

When I began teaching many years ago students would come to me to learn guitar. As an inexperienced guitar teacher my usual question was "What would you like to learn?" Some students would respond with the name of the song while others may suggest a general style like a rock, blues, jazz and around 50% would say I'm not really sure. The first group seemed easy enough because I had a song as a starting point. The second group was a little more challenging because I had to suggest songs in the style which they may or may not like. The third group was perhaps the most challenging because it would often take a few lessons just to find a starting point. I pondered over this problem for some time before I started to see the real problem. Very few students had any real tangible goals. Let me explain quickly what tangible goals are.

If your goal is to be a good guitarist then this is intangible. What is a good guitarist? How do you know when you are a good guitarist? In whose opinion? You see the problem is there is no way of you really knowing when you reach your goal. A tangible goal must be something you can measure. For example you could say once I can play a certain song as per the record then I will be a good guitarist. Personally I think it's best if someone other than yourself who you can trust is the judge of whether or not you have achieved your goal. This is why the AMEB exams are good goal to aim for because industry professionals are deciding whether you are of a particular standard or not.

Putting the Song before the Skills.

The reason so many people take up guitar yet very few get past the basics is simple. It is the result of a loss of confidence. When students set out to learn guitar they are focused on the songs they want to play. The problem is they are trying often to play songs that were performed by professional experienced guitar players. It is unreasonable to expect that after weeks or even months of playing guitar you can play songs performed by guitarists who in many cases have years of experience. It would be like learning a new language and expecting to be fluent within a few months. As a result after a few months of attempting only to learn such songs students begin to lose faith. This unfortunately is all too common and often perpetuated by teachers who want to keep their students coming to lessons each week by succumbing to song requests too early.

In order to be able to play your favourite songs you must begin by learning how to play guitar and you should allow around two years depending on how much you practice. These first two years should mostly be spent focusing on developing the skills required to then go on and play your favourite songs. The G4 GUITAR METHOD avoids these problems while also solving the problem of intangible goal setting. There are seven junior levels and three senior levels before going on to the AMEB CPM exams. The levels cover the seven essential skills of guitar playing giving students tangible goals they can achieve in a reasonable time frame. So if you're serious about learning guitar the G4 GUITAR METHOD will help you to reach your own personal goals through a step-by-step measurable process.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Long term thinkers make the best guitar players.

In the book 'The Winner's Brain' (A book written by two Harvard brain experts) the authors describe what the successful few do differently to the majority and have actually found their brains not only function differently but also eventually grow differently. In other words successful people shaped their brain for success in the same way athletes shape their physical bodies for their chosen sport.

A very strong point that resonated with me as a guitar teacher was that of long term thinking verses short term. Successful brains are wired for long term success. They see how what they do today affects their long term plan. But ironically they don't get caught up in the long term goal. They live in the moment but with their compass firmly pointed in the direction of their goal and avoid distraction or getting side tracked.

I can easily apply this to learning guitar. Students who understand that learning guitar is a long term challenge and who focus on the day to day enjoyment of practice knowing they will one day be performing their favourite songs with precision are more likely to possess the winner's brain. If that is you then consider yourself fortunate. For the rest of the population the good news is the winner's brain can be developed. As mentioned its like physical fitness. You just have to exercise the brain so to speak by emulating the decisions and actions of a person with a winner's brain and learning the guitar is a great way to develop your winner's brain.

When you decide to take up guitar you should focus on the 80/20 principal. 80% of your time should be spent on the 7 essential skills and 20% on songs. Most people do it the other way around so their skill development is very slow if at all. Most students get distracted by songs. Yes your goal is to play songs but they need to be done at the right time. Practicing each day with a well structured plan based on a balanced approach is the best strategy. The G4 GUITAR METHOD is a skills based plan that will help you to develop the skills necessary for almost any style. Once you complete all the levels of G4 GUITAR METHOD you can then begin to specialise. Think of it like learning a language. You need to be skilled and well versed in the fundamentals before you can branch off into poetry or creative writing. Same applies to guitar. Once you have the fundamentals in place you can focus more on the songs you want to play or on particular styles like rock, blues, jazz, flamenco or whatever your chosen style.

Conclusion - Think long term and your brain will become wired for success. The G4 GUITAR METHOD is a long term plan and will bring about success. The are no magic pills or potions.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website
Ph:0405-274456. .

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"I didn't have enough time to practice"

Through years of teaching guitar and of course from my own personal experiences
I believe there are two basic types of excuses we all use to sabotage our success. Time and money. "I don't have time" or "I can't afford it". I think we can safely say that for most of us our lives are ruled by these two factors. In this blog I want to talk about time. By recognizing when you use the time excuse you can better prepare and hopefully eliminate its dream killing influence.

"I didn't have enough time to practice" - There is now a well know 10,000 hour rule. It simply says that you can reach the elite master level of almost anything with 10,000 hours of practice. That is over an hour a day for 20 years. Of course you may not plan on being an elite master but it highlights that practice is the key ingredient to achievement. Almost any music teacher will tell you that the most common first words from their students at the beginning of the lesson are "I didn't have enough time to practice". Many students will be apologetic but even worse many teachers will just accept the statement by replying with "No problem, let's just have a look at what you did anyway". The problem with this is simple. If the student does not practice they will not progress. Most teachers accept the student did not have time to practice feeling powerless to help. So what is the solution?

A student who does not progress and will ultimately give up. Very few students will continue lessons for more than a month or two without practice.
In fact lack of practice is often an early indicator of a student who is about to give up guitar. In this case the student needs to be challenged on their statement of "I didn't have enough time to practice". When we say we don't have enough time what we are really saying is we have not budgeted the time necessary to practice. In this case I will say to students "Let's have a look at your practice schedule". I will then run through the week and we will decide on a rough schedule. When they arrive at their lesson each week I begin with their Practice Log. If they say they didn't have time to practice I will revise the schedule and point out that practice is a requirement and that is important that they make the time before we can move forward. Students quickly understand that I am not going to accept their money unless I can get results. Anything less is deception.

The point here is simple. If you're serious about learning guitar try to eliminate the time excuses right from the very start.
There is always time if it is important. If your schedule is truly that busy that you do not have 30 minutes a day to practice guitar you may need to reevaluate your goal of becoming a guitarist. At least for now. At the very least discuss your schedule with your teacher to see if they can help or feel free to email myself.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website