Thursday, September 30, 2010

What does Sport have to do with Learning Guitar?

We often underestimate the value of a coach.  In the NRL St George have now won 2 straight premierships under the coach Wayne Bennett. Whether you like the sport or not one can't help but admire a great coach. Wayne Bennett has miraculously taken a team that has not won a premiership in over 30 years or a minor premiership since 1985 to the top 2 years in a row. Wayne Bennett's record with Brisbane was also very impressive. Bennett will go down in history as the sports best ever coach. 

Australia's Olympic Record

On a 60 minutes program earlier this year they featured a story about how the Australian Olympic athletes were not going to do so well in the up-and-coming Olympics because our secret to success was now out. In both the 2000 and 2004 Olympics Australia ranked fourth place in the world because we had a secret. Keep in mind the fact the three countries in front of Australia have much larger populations. USA with 307 million, China with 1.3 billion and Russia with 140 million. Compare that to Australia with only 21 million. This in effect means a country like China should get 61 times as many medals as Australia to be comparable. 2004 Australia won 49 medals and China 63. China would have needed to win over 3000 medals to be comparable by population.

Bad News Predicted for Australia
Now the story on 60 minutes was actually predicting bad news for Australia. In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing Australia slipped from 4th place into 6th place in the overall medal tally. For many Australians this went unnoticed but slipping two places was significant. The most notable threat to Australia was Great Britain who more than doubled their gold medal tally in 2008 compared to 2004. So what is really going on here?

Aussie Secret Revealed

The reason behind the success of Australia in the past has come down to 'superior coaching'. The Australian government had a very generous budget which was spent on ensuring our athletes had the best coaches and that our coaches had the best coaches (yes good coaches have coaches) and access to the latest technology. In other words we were one step ahead of the competition not because we trained harder or had naturally better athletes but because we trained smarter and recognised the advantage of a good coach.

Train (practice) Smarter

So how does this relate to learning guitar? While guitar and music also have an artistic component becoming a technically great guitar player is similar to becoming a sports champion. It's not enough to simply train harder you must train smarter. The message in this story is the power of a coach. Australia's significant advantage in the Olympics has come about not as a result of superior athletes but as a result of superior coaches and technology. The reason Great Britain has dramatically improved its performance is because they increased the budget allocated to training their Olympic athletes. In other words they now spend a lot more on good coaches than they did prior to 2004 even poaching some Australian coaches. Apparently they fund their Olympic training program through the national lottery.

Find a Great Coach

The moral therefore to this story is simple. If you want to be good at almost anything start with a good coach. If you want to be great then find a great coach. Successful people know that trying to achieve success alone while a noble idea is not the choice of champions. The 60 minutes story was perhaps trying to create controversy over the fact that some of our best coaches have now defected to Great Britain but was also pointing out that whoever has the best coaches will win. My conclusion and advice is to make sure you have a good coach.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to trick yourself (and others) into practicing guitar.

Taronga Zoo's (Sydney, Australia) magazine 'Wild Life' (WL)  featured an article about training seals to do tricks. Throughout history animal training was largely based around cruelty but most of today's animal trainers  have learned to use positive reinforcement techniques. In WL the author says "Today's training is based on operant conditioning where seals change their behaviours because off positive reinforcement".  They use a variety of fish snacks as well as toys and even gelatine. They also incorporate the use of a whistle which creates an association that a fish snack is on the way.

So how does this relate to you? 

Comparing you to a seal may seem strange but the reality is you are not so different. The seals change their behaviour because it brings an immediate positive result. Everyone loves an immediate positive result. This is often termed as instant gratification but usually in a negative sense. The results of your life whether it be learning how to play guitar or getting fit or almost anything else comes about as a result of your behavior. Reinforce the right behaviors through positive reinforcement and just like the seals you will learn to associate the actions to the rewards.

Can you train other people to do tricks? 

You might ask what kind of manipulative person would want to train other people to do tricks. In the WL article they mention how a common question is 'why do trainers want to train seals?' Their answer is that it allows them to take care of the seals. For instance getting them to open their mouth allows them to keep their teeth clean and getting them to lie down and rollover allows them to inspect their body for any problems. They have even trained female seals to lie down for an ultrasound to monitor their pregnancy. This same idea is probably applied every day in your own life. Anyone who is parent is constantly training their child to behave in a certain way. By using positive reinforcement you can usually get your child to want to brush their teeth, eat their vegetables, go to bed on time and to do their homework.

Cause and Effect.

We are basically motivated toward pleasure and away from pain.  Think about what drives you to go to work even if its a job you hate? Either the pleasure of being paid or avoiding the pain of poverty. Credit card companies, airlines, department stores are all examples of organisations that use reward systems (point cards) to keep you motivated to buy their products. They know the power of rewards all too well.

Frequent flyer reward system for guitar

How you ask? Firstly create a reward system based on your practice. The positive behaviour. Create a rewards catalogue for yourself that rewards you or your child for minutes spent practicing. E.g. 1 minute of practice equals 1 point. So for 1000 points you might get a choice of a movie ticket or an iTunes card. At 5000 points you might reward yourself with a concert ticket. 10,000 points and its time for that new guitar.

Guitar practice becomes its own reward

The final destination is getting to the point where practice becomes its own reward. This is where you begin to really enjoy the the practice. From my experience it is connected to confidence. Lets use say learning to swim. If you can't swim learning is hard word and a little scary but once you can swim at a reasonable level it becomes fun. 

So good luck and let me know how it works out.

Hope that helps.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why isolation in learning guitar is so important

The brain learns firstly through a deliberate step by step process. Remember when you were a child learning to tie shoe laces? It was a challenging task that required serious concentration and practice. This is referred to as 'Deliberate practice'.  Playing guitar is about learning and developing a range of skills such as picking technique, finger placement, pitch recognition, rhythm, reading and so on. Isolating each of these elements is important for development but also for recognition. Recognising the different elements of what you hear is the first step to being able to play what you hear. 

Watching a TV music quiz show recently I was impressed by the woman who was able to identify instantly the instruments being played in a complex orchestral arrangement after just a few seconds of listening. It made perfect sense when they announced she had spent years touring with some of the world's best orchestras. She was able to single out the different instruments instantaneously.

The following video is a visual awareness test was conducted by Daniel J Simons at the University of Illinois. You may have seen this already but if not try watching this short video and doing the exercise before you read below.

I, like many people who were unaware of the real test also missed the appearance of the surprise guest. I was completely focused on the number of passes by the white team.

The above experiment demonstrates how our brain filters when it is focused on a task. This is important because irrelevant information can just get in the way. Learning music is a real trap because the music itself can get in the way. Ask the average non-musician to count the number of beats in Happy Birthday and they will have trouble because they just want to sing along to the words they know.

To learn music effectively you need to isolate its elements. Learning music can resemble the 'Rub your belly and pat your head simultaneously' challenge most of us did as kids. If you did learn it I bet you can still do it now. If not you will probably find it challenging. The secret is to not to begin by doing both. Start by rubbing your belly in circles until it is automatic and then stop. Now pat your head until it is automatic and stop. Now start the belly rub and then introduce the head pat after 15 seconds. If it doesn't work start all over again. Keep isolating and then combining and you will have it down in no time and once you do you will probably never forget it.

The reason this works is because the part of brain that needs to learn has difficulty trying to multitask. In fact multitasking is not recommended when trying to learn something new. If you try doing a complex action your brain doesn't know which part to filter out so it will filter depending on where you focus. Breaking down a complex action or thought is the key. Learn one element at a time. Once your brain understands one part of the task it can more easily incorporate another part. Now how does this apply to guitar? 

Students (and I don't just mean beginners) invariably pick up a guitar and try picking out a riff with the left hand moving around the fret board and the right hand picking out the right strings at the same time. This rarely works because you need both hands to execute correctly yet the brain can only focus on one at a time. So begin by picking out a few notes and then focusing on just one hand. Once say your left hand knows its part go to your right hand and rehearse its part. Then like the 'Rub the belly, pat the head' exercise bring them together. Keep doing this until you have it.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How children learn music

For children repetition is key to developing skills especially in music but this can sometimes be challenging for those who have to listen. As adults it can become a little aurally challenging to hear the same song again and again. Children on the other hand like repetition for several reasons.

This is a topic that many organisations understand all too well. When Walt Disney built his first theme park he literally walked around on his knees to see how Disneyland would be seen from the child's perspective. TV shows like Blues Clues would test their shows on children to see what would engage them prior to going to air. T
he results were often surprising and contrary to popular adult beliefs. Blues Clues became the highest rating children's show in US history because it was designed for the way children viewed the world. The enormous success of The Wiggles comes from their understanding of how young children view live entertainment. Take them to an opera and chances are they will be bored within minutes.

Teaching guitar to young children

If I could only offer one sentence of advice to teachers working with children it would be 'Small steps and lots of repetition'. Children will assess any challenge and if the step appears too big they will find a way to avoid it. This could be anything from using diversion tactics (E.g. Asking irrelevant questions or acting up) to emotional outbursts (E.g. tears) to simply saying they are bored. All these signs indicate that the challenge is either inappropriate or perceived as too hard to the child. 

The importance of repetition

Repetition helps children to master a skill and gain confidence before moving to the next level. Think how with a child you can play the same simple game again and again and they never seem to tire of it. E.g.'Peek-a-boo'. Through repetition they are developing and refining a motor skill. If they were to learn a new song or skill every week they would not have time to develop each skill and would quickly lose confidence in their ability. Lets use the example of the alphabet song. Children will sing this thousands of times and still not be sick of it. This gives them a foundation to learn the English language. Adults on the other hand are imagining a scene from The Simpsons where Homer is strangling Bart.

Slow and steady wins the race

We do of course want them to progress and move forward and not get stuck on one song for too long so while we encourage repetition we also keep a balance by ensuring students are moving forward. We have found that children need to go through stages when learning any song. The first stage is learning the new material followed by developing the skills required for a period of time and finally enjoying a level of accomplishment. Pushing them onto new songs or skills too quickly can by pass the last stage and ultimately erodes their confidence because they feel no real sense of accomplishment. Children need to know that a skill that is seemingly difficult  can be accomplished through persistence. This builds their confidence to go on and master almost any skill and not just in music.


The early stages are more about building their confidence with achievable challenges and lots of repetition. If children are happy playing the same song again and again we applaud them for it. Their confidence will grow as they master each song or exercise especially when those who hear them for the first time playing the song remark "Wow. That was fantastic".

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why stopping guitar lessons is a bad idea!

I would have to say that around 4 out 5 people who stop guitar lessons stop guitar completely despite the fact that most intend to continue playing and practicing. In a recent study on dieting in the USA they reported that people who are on a program with a coach are far more likely to lose weight than those without a coach. Why is this?

The answer is actually quite simple. We humans care more about what others think than what we think of ourselves and we don't like to lose. We are social beings and if you look through the history of humans you will find this was a critical part of our survival. To increase your chances of success in anything find someone to be accountable to. When you have a coach you not only feel accountable but are accountable to someone whose own success depends on yours. A great coach knows how to maximize this fact to help you achieve results far beyond what you could achieve by yourself.

"But I don't have time for lessons."

One of the best pieces of advice I received was 'You don't have time for everything but you always have time for what really matters' If you use the excuse of not having time now you will be using that same excuse in 6 months or a year from now. I strongly believe that anything that you're passionate about cannot be put off. You must start today and commit to it long term. The fact is guitar lessons will actually save you time. Rather than spending years heading in the wrong direction, developing poor technique and habits or just generally being unfocused a teacher will put you on the right path and keep you there so that you reach your goals much sooner.

"Is guitar really a priority for you?"

My suggestion is simply to write down the things that are important to you and make time for them by eliminating things that are unimportant. To learn guitar you only need 30 minutes a day and to excel you need a coach.  I know it's not always easy finding the time but I do know that as mentioned above having a weekly lesson will push you to find the time.

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4 GUITAR METHOD Website

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Connecting guitar players everywhere.

As a child I couldn't wait to get to my guitar lesson each week. It was the highlight of my week. I would hang out with other musicians at my local music center and by age 14 years was regularly jamming and even gigging. By 17 years old I had a network of musicians who I could jam with regularly. It was hugely inspiring and was all inspired by one man.

My teacher Mark Bergman was outstanding as both a player and a teacher and became an absolute inspiration to not only me but much of the local guitar community. A local hero you might say. Mark had the ability to bring musicians together and to push them beyond their comfort zone. He brought out the best in you. I was inspired by the way he connected musicians. This led me to a career in music and teaching but also inspired me to take it one step further.

I had imagined a place where the world's best guitarists could come together to teach and share their knowledge and experience with students. I wanted to be able to tap in to their combined yet diverse talents. I knew if there must be other inspirational guitarists and teachers like Mark out there but the challenge was finding them and then bringing them together.

My early attempts at creating my vision came with many disappointments and enormous unexpected challenges. This led me on a path to understand how others had come to realised their dreams. One of the first people I read about was Walt Disney. When Disney decided to create Disneyland most people thought he was crazy. He went to hundreds of banks and money lenders to seek finance for his dream but was continually knocked back. I read many similar stories and realized that dreams are always personal and most people will think you are crazy. We somehow have this idea that all successful people were always successful as if they somehow were given their success. This is rarely the truth. Dreams of the results often of long arduous struggles.

In the late 90's after almost giving up on the idea and focusing on my own teaching the internet made its first real appearance and this brought new hope. The main problem had been trying to connect with other inspiring guitar teachers and the internet for the first time was going to allow this. I recalled how my teacher Mark had connected me with other like minded teenagers and we were able to form bands and inspire each other. G4 GUITAR is based on that same experience. We are creating a community of guitarists but thanks to the internet our community is becoming worldwide. We know the secret to inspiration is connecting with like-minded people. In music if you play and connect with other musicians you will learn faster and become more inspired. G4 GUITAR is about doing this with teachers so students ultimately benefit.

In a sentence G4 GUITAR is all about connecting guitarists.

To learn more about the

If you have any questions please feel free to email myself anytime at

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Monday, September 6, 2010

Does Music Make My Child Smarter?

Scientific research on the effects of music on children is always a common subject among educators and parents. Compared to the long history of research on language, our scientific understanding of music is relatively new. What they do know is unborn babies respond to music in the womb from around 17 to 19 weeks. Research has also shown that everything from nursery rhymes to musical toys to dance lessons to learning a musical instrument all strengthen a child's educational, physical, and emotional development. This is good news for parents because enriching the lives of their children with music can be easily accomplished.

So does Music Make My Child Smarter?

Daniel J. Levitan wrote in his book 'The World in Six Songs" about how a simple song like "Patty-Cake" teaches a child coordination. In regards to memory training think of how children learn the alphabet by following a melody almost identical to Twinkle Twinkle walk around the house singing TV jingles. Imagine if instead your child sang songs using complex physics formulas or Shakespeare. Rhythm and song are indeed strong and powerful educators.

Why action speaks louder than word.

Over the years I have seen an overwhelming amount of evidence. When learning a song, a musical instrument or a dance step children experience the unique integration of body and mind that music provides. Studies show that when you read something you only retain around 10% after one week. When you role play or act out something you retain 90%. Playing or singing music has the effect of integrating what you learn into your memory in the same way. Sensory integration is a crucial factor in a child's learning readiness for school especially in subjects such as reading, writing, and maths.

Start early and use variety.

Music improves spatial-temporal, a neurological process needed to understand mathematics. The best way to enhance your child's learning with music is to encourage listening to and learning music throughout the child's developmental years. Try to do it in a variety of ways that are enjoyable and fun, then let your child's own interest and aptitudes guide your choices of lessons and activities. There are many early development courses available for young children and most are worthwhile.

To learn more about the G4 GUITAR METHOD please the ONLINE INTRODUCTION to the G4 GUITAR METHOD.

If you have any questions please feel free to email myself anytime at

David Hart - Program Director


Visit the G4GUITAR METHOD Website

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Top 5 tips for success on Guitar

1. Fill in your practice Log. FACT: Students who fill in their practice logs almost always progress at a faster rate and are more likely to stick with guitar long term. The practice log shows your commitment to the guitar. It keeps a track of your investment therefore giving you a way to compare your results compared to time invested. This helps you to make better use of your time. It also helps your teacher to accurately assess your progress and commitment. If there is anyone strategy that produces the greatest results it would have to be the Practice Log.

2. Stick to the G4 GUITAR METHOD. Why reinvent the wheel? We have spent thousands of hours teaching, researching and testing all the best ways to learn guitar. I have personally studied some of the best teachers & the best players not just in guitar but all areas of skill development. I make it my business to study successful achievers at every opportunity. The G4 GUITAR METHOD has been carefully designed and includes everything you need to build a solid foundation to playing great guitar. By all means find your own style but stick to the program to develop your skills.

3. Be consistent. Try to practice everyday no matter what. We all have busy lives and it is easy to make excuses but excuses won’t make you a great guitar player. I know you want to be great and you can be if you get consistent with your practice. It takes around 15 weeks to establish a habitual practice routine. After that it gets easy. Trust me. I practice 2 to 3 hours every night without fail and I am VERY VERY BUSY. Just for the record I practice around 6000 minutes per month. I CHALLENGE YOU TO BEAT THAT! If you beat it let me know and I will publish you on our website.

4. Listen to your teacher. Your teacher knows what you need to be doing in order to improve. If you don’t understand what is being asked of you then don't be afraid to speak up. Every single lesson is important so make sure you walk away knowing what you need to be doing.

5. Don't be shy. Speak up. If you ever have any doubts or concerns the best solution is to ask questions. If you would rather speak to our student coordinator please email Emma at If your are a parent it is important that the teacher is able to meet you from time to time. For more information please see our Parent Page on or website. You can also communicate directly with myself by emailing

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