Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rehearsing failure

I should point out that I am not about to suggest you practice guitar with an aim to fail. Rehearsing failure is a technique that will help you to be prepared and to deal with failure when it arises. I first heard about this strategy in a book about successful sports stars. In high level sport a critical mistake can shake your confidence and end up costing you the game. Dealing with your mistakes quickly and refocusing are critical.

Are you prepared for failure?

Think of safety instructions or a fire drill. These are simply preparations for when things goes wrong. You hope you won't need them but in the event that something does happen you will be prepared. In the infamous 9/11 New York terrorist attacks it was those people who had done routine evacuation drills who mostly survived. They knew what to do when disaster struck. Failing guitar is hardly a disaster but the same principals apply. You need to be prepared for the day you decide to quit. A decision to quit is the only kind of failure when it comes to learning guitar. Being prepared will improve your odds. 

Learn from your past

Imagine you had decided that 'Stairway to Heaven' was a song you wanted to play within your first year of guitar lessons. By the 6th month mark you were still struggling to hold down the first few chords and as a result you felt like a failure. At this point you decide to quit declaring you just don't have what it takes. Rehearsing this situation before it occurs can dramatically reduce the chances of you really failing by throwing in the towel. Try to imagine yourself in different situations. A good place to start is to look at other pursuits you have begun but later quit. What happened? How did you feel? Why did you start and why did you then quit? Perhaps you took up tennis or golf or you started a business or a diet or a fitness plan. Look closely at the reasons and then using your imagination apply them to guitar. 

Strategies for dealing with failure

By rehearsing in your mind the failing scenario you will be better prepared to deal with it. You simply need to imagine yourself failing and how you will feel and then work out how you will respond. Try writing down the various scenarios and then write your strategy for ensuring you do not quit. One strategy I use is what I call the contract strategy. Firstly when I decide to take up something new I set a short time frame. With guitar let us say 3 months. I then commit to practicing for the 3 months. At the end of the 3 months I review my contract. There is also the delay strategy. In this case when I feel like quitting I delay my decision for another week to see that I still feel the same next week. I have used this with many guitar students as well. When they say to me they are going to quit I ask them to give it one more week and then see how they feel. It works in about 50% of cases. Look for the strategies that work for you and by being prepared you will rarely fail.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don't choose guitar teachers based on convenience

We live in a world of convenience. In real-estate they shout 'Location, location, location because location usually means convenience. Quality may win out in the long run but short term convenience wins hands down. Think of fast food. Fast simply means convenient. A drive-through where your meal is ready within a few minutes without getting out of your car is about as convenient as it gets. Home delivery while a little slower is basically on a par. Either way these convenient foods reduce your need to burn calories while also delivering foods high in calories and low in vitamins. 

More convenience 

How about the convenience store? Right around the corner, open late and easy parking. What's the cost? High prices, poor selection and definitely no advice. Even the big supermarkets are convenient because everything you need is in one place but often what you are buying is not ideal. What about a movie at home? Film makers spend millions of dollars making a movie which was designed to be watched at a cinema yet we often choose the convenience of home and get an inferior experience. The list goes on.

Convenient guitar teachers

Convenience almost always comes at a cost and this also applies to guitar teachers. The first place people look for a teacher is in their local area. Makes sense because who wants to drive 30 minutes to a teacher when there is one just around the corner. A good example are public schools. Many parents opt for a guitar teacher at their child's school. Now while some of these teachers are probably quite good this is very much a lottery. Most schools who offer guitar lessons have no actual input or control over what these guitar teachers teach. It is highly unlikely they are screened because there is usually no one qualified in guitar to know what a qualified guitar teacher really is. A good test is to ask your school who hired and trained the guitar teacher. Many of these teachers have little or no teaching experience and are often self-taught music students themselves. 

Find the best (not the most convenient)

To avoid the convenience trap try to avoid selecting your teacher based on location. Be prepared to travel to find the best teacher for you. I suggest you ask the following questions of any teacher before you start.

  1. Do they use a method of teaching? Be wary of teachers who seem to improvise their lessons from week to week. A good clue is lots of hand written material.
  2. Are there clearly defined benchmarks? Ask the teacher what are the expected outcomes of their course and how will you know when you reach them.
  3. Is your teacher committed to teaching? Some teachers are very nice people but are not actually committed teachers. Your fees might help to put them through university but they see teaching as a source of income not a career. The result is a guitarist willing to trade their time for your money opposed to a trained professional committed to your success.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The balancing act of great guitar teaching

Some years ago I noticed guitar teachers generally operate from two distinct styles.  

1. Consultation teaching
Most guitar teachers primarily use the consultation style. They will ask you a question like “What do you want to learn?”. The lessons will then be based around the songs, riffs or ideas you have specifically mentioned to keep you engaged and coming back each week.  In my early years of teaching this seemed like a logical way to teach. After all I am being paid by the student so they should get to decide what they want to learn right?

2. Structured teaching
Structured teaching basically opposes consultation teaching because there is a set plan. In the strictest sense the student does not get a say. It is like school or university. You might get to choose the classes but the teacher/lecturer decides the content of those classes. This also seemed quite logical once explained to me. After all the teacher should know what's best right? 

The popular choice
The consolation method is the popular choice among guitar teachers for a few reasons. Firstly it is easy. The decision making is left to the student. As a teacher I don't need to think about what I am going to teach you each week. I just ask you and being a trained musician with an internet connection I can easily work out almost any popular song. Secondly it keeps students happy. When given the choice most students would rather learn their favourite songs. As a guitarists I understand this because I too feel the same. Who wants to practice boring old scales? Thirdly its good for business, in the short term anyway. Happy students are happy to keep paying.

The risky choice
The structured teacher is taking a risk but it is one that has the student's long term interests at heart more so then their short term happiness. Structured teachers if strictly structured can lose a lot of students in the early months but usually end up with more success stories. A structured teacher is usually following a proven path whereas the consultation teacher is improvising and is often changing course from week to week. There are no long term goals in place and although the student enjoys the lesson over time they gradually become frustrated.

A case for structure

Structured teachers focus more on the skills of guitar playing. By focusing on skills you will ultimately be able to teach yourself songs you want to play in the way you want to play them. Think of it like language. I can teach you to recite from memory your favourite stories and that is definitely a skill but if I instead teach you to read and write you will eventually be able to teach yourself. The process literally speeds up because you are now literate. 

Finding harmony
I am not suggesting that any teacher should work strictly to a structure with no improvisation at all. The best teachers can balance the two. My point is most teachers are consultation teachers with little or no structure in their teaching which ultimately results in students who have no real sense of where their lessons are heading. The ideal situation is to have a teacher with a well structured proven method who is willing to take your personal interests into consideration. They should ask questions but not be too eager to please you. Great teachers focus on the big picture and that means combining structure with your personal interests.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Applying video game mentality to learning guitar

Personally I have never taken to playing video games. I am sure many people find them exciting and perhaps a great way to wind down from a stressful day. What I do find fascinating though is the dedication and investment of time some people make to mastering their favourite games. The games seem to tap in to their competitiveness. Its as though the game player's very survival depends on winning the game. This same competitiveness does exist among some guitar players. I have seen it many times in students and its extremely powerful but there is a distinct difference between video games and guitar. With guitar the rewards take more work so as a result many people lose interest before reaching this point. I know from years of teaching that if I can get you in to the game of learning guitar you will be hooked. The challenge for me as a teacher is to get you practicing often enough and long enough to reach the tipping point. That point where there is no turning back. The point at which you are hooked for life and practice is no longer a chore but a pleasure or even an addiction.

So how do I get you hooked?

I of course know that you ultimately decide your outcome but if I can convince you to stay on course long enough my work is done. My strategy for convincing you is quite simple. Practice everyday for at least 30 minutes on specific skills and you will reach the tipping point. If I can convince you to stay on track I know its only a matter of time. I have seen students who after 5 weeks decide that guitar is not for them. Typically they will say they don't have the time or don't have the talent. I will then explain that neither time nor talent are the real issues. You will rarely hear a video gamer making such excuses. They will turn off their phone, skip meals, reduce sleep all in an effort to master the game. Sure this is unhealthy behaviour and I am certainly not recommending any of the above but merely pointing out the lengths they will go to. So what is the problem with the above mentioned guitar student?

Getting in the game  

The problem with guitar is that it takes time to get hooked and into the game. Video games are designed to get you in as quickly as possible. The game designers know that if a game is too difficult or complicated at entry level it is unlikely to be successful. Learning guitar can be structured in the same way. In fact that is what we have done at G4 to some degree but guitar is guitar so we can only do so much. Its just the nature of guitar and this means it will still take time to get you into the game. When students say they are giving up because they don't have the time I know that what they are really saying is guitar is no longer a priority because it just does not seem worth it. The practice is not exciting them like a video game. Its just dull, boring, tedious exercises. My job as a teacher is to map out the path and show them that if they stick it out they will be a reasonable guitarist within 2 years and it will be well worth the effort. Once they reach the level of a reasonable guitarist those dull exercises turn into cool licks, riffs and songs. At that point they realise the sky is the limit.

One of my roles as a teacher is to convince you that if you practice consistently for long enough you will get the same excitement from learning guitar as you would from a video game except it is a sustained excitement. If you would prefer to be an accomplished guitar player opposed to an accomplished Guitar Hero player then its worth sticking it out. If you are in any doubt just ask any accomplished guitarist.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

G4 GUITAR METHOD Free Download

Free Download

Download your free copy of the G4 GUITAR METHOD

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Complete Package
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Now only $99 

 The complete package includes the following items;

Over 50 pages of materials 

Suitable for both children and adults.

  1. The 7 Essential skills 
  2. Rhythm book 
  3. Chords & Reading book 
  4. Hammers & Pull offs  
  5. Finger Exercises 
  6. 365 Day Challenge 
  7. Junior Student Checklists
  8. Senior Student Checklists
  9. Theory pages

We include 30 days full email support which means that if you have any questions regarding the method and materials just pop an email and we will usually respond within 48 hours.

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We will also include a free 30 minute face to face online or face to face lesson with a qualified G4 GUITAR Teacher.

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Making your payment
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The complete package will be in the form on downloadable PDFs. Once your payment is made please send an email to this address and we confirm your payment and send you a link to the download page.

If you have any questions please feel free to email

What makes a great guitar teacher?

When asked the question of what makes a great guitarteacher all I can really do is tell you what questions you should ask when seeking a teacher because these are the questions that I believe are most relevant to your actual long term results. So here goes.

  1. Do they use a method of teaching? Be weary of teachers who improvise their lessons each week with no obvious plan. A trademark of this kind of guitar teacher is  hand written material. It is of course appropriate for teachers to write specific notes or exercises that apply to you but it should be less than 50%. You need a teacher with a plan and hopefully one that have proven actually works.
  2. Do they have a progress tracking system? This is critical. If a teacher has no system of measuring your progress it is too easy to overlook important skills. The essential skills required to learn guitar need to be constantly developed and monitored. 
  3. Are there clearly defined benchmarks?  As a student you may know what songs you eventually want to play but with out some benchmarks along the way it is highly likely you will lose motivation. A good teacher will have clearly defined benchmarks to ensure you stay motivated and on track. 
  4. Are they a good teacher or just a nice person? We all like people who are friendly, patient and kind. Unfortunately these qualities while important are not always enough. Some teachers are very nice people but are not effective as teachers. While they may be inspiring the student to turn up each week for a friendly chat they may not be getting results. A clue here is to check whether you feel inspired to practice each week and if the teacher honestly cares about your progress or seems more interested in winning your friendship. A good indicator is  when you say you have not practiced and the teacher says its okay. Its NOT OKAY! No practice and you are wasting your time and money unless what you are really paying for is a friend.

After more than 25 years of teaching and recruiting teachers I have found that the best teachers seem to be able to positively inspire their students. They are friendly, honest and genuinely want to see their students succeed. Great teachers see their students as a reflection of their own commitment to teaching. If their students are not passionate they question their own passion towards their teaching.

At G4 GUITAR we of course use the G4 GUITAR METHOD along with checklists to carry out this very function. There are 7 Junior levels, 3 Senior Levels plus AMEB all with certificates awarded on completion which makes it very easy for students.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via our website at

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Why would you want to learn music theory?

Theory to many guitar players is considered dull, boring and perhaps mildly useful at best. As a young teen I could not see what triads had to do with playing Van Halen or Led Zep. I would grin and bear it as my teacher explained a theoretical concept hoping he would just get to the riff I wanted to learn before my lesson was over. I didn't care whether the song was a 1, 4,5 progression or whether the cadence was perfect or not. It just had to sound good. But then one day I became very curious. I wanted to know it all and the more I studied the more exciting it became. Learning theory was unlocking the mystery of music and it was fascinating.

By understanding chord theory you can work out any chord for yourself. Not only will you have no need for a guitar chord dictionary but you will be able to see how chords connect. At age 16 years when I finally understood chord theory my friends thought I was amazing. I became the 'go-to' guy for chords. For example a Cm7 chord is made up of three elements. The pitch (C), the triad (m = minor) and the embellishment (7=adding the 7th note from the scale). Once you understand these elements the chords become easy understand. There are few more steps to the process of course but they are not difficult. In a few sessions you will literally understand how just about any chord is formed. And thats only one of the many benefits of learning music theory. 

Theory for Guitarists 

We are currently putting together some theory PDFs aimed specifically at guitarists that will soon be available so stay tuned. Below is an extract of one the pages.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Youtube revolution - What it means

Youtube is definitely driving a revolution of learning because it is based on the idea of rapid evolution. The more people who can collaborate on an idea often the faster it will evolve. The video above points out this fact out and shows examples of dancers who have learnt purely from Youtube videos. While I am extremely excited about this revolution I am cautious about overstating the idea of actually learning from Youtube. I think we need to be careful not to take the approach that one hat fits all. While some students will become great guitarists with nothing more than an Internet connection most will probably not. I believe the Internet is driving both inspiration and innovation which is fantastic but developing fundamental skills has not changed. The Internet may introduce new and wonderful ways to play a guitar but the essential skills have not changed and are unlikely to change. What's more is Youtube does not know you or understand your needs. When learning guitar like say learning a language what we need most is a teacher who knows your particular needs hopefully with a method that can be tailored to suit those needs.

Questions and answers

Youtube surprisingly is creating more questions then it answers. Youtube is inspiring people to learn guitar but can also leave them with unanswered questions. Every student is different and when a video is made it may be good for one student but not another. Its the Goldilocks scenario. Too hot, too cold, just right. When you go searching for Youtube videos most will be too advanced, too simple or just irrelevant. I uploaded some videos for beginner students and while I got some good comments of appreciation others would criticise making comments that I was going too slow or giving too much explanation. I knew these comments were from frustrated guitar students who felt I could have said in 2 minutes what I took 10 minutes to say. This was because they were obviously more advanced and did not need so much explanation.

Nothing beats a teacher

There is no question that Youtube is the best thing since the invention of the guitar but it should compliment your lessons not replace them. Students who only learn from Youtube are in fact spending a lot of time searching and watching Youtube videos and often less practicing. Youtube videos unfortunately need to be watched before you can decided whether they are relevant to you.  There are those individuals who no doubt sit with their guitar watching Youtube videos for 8 hours a day and become amazing guitarists and if you have the time why not. For the rest of us who don't have that luxury we need to make sure we make the most of our time and that is where a teacher comes in. A good teacher will know what you need to be working on at any given point. They will know the next logical step. You won't spend hours searching for what you need.

Work hard and smart

A teacher is still and probably always will be your best option for learning guitar. When we hear of great guitar players who were self taught we don't see the whole picture. The whole picture usually shows someone practicing for hours and hours everyday for several years. Their method for success is simply hours invested. Its like the person who has a million dollars from working 14 hours a day for 20 years. They might be rich but they didn't necessarily work very smart. I do believe in working hard but also smart. A good teacher will show you how to be efficient with your time and a smart student will find a good teacher.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why expectations matter

When we first begin a new project (E.g. guitar) it is likely that we will have unrealistic expectations. Have you been to a movie highly recommended by a friend only to be disappointed? Compare that to a movie by one of your favourite directors with familiar actors a somewhat predictable plot based on a well known formula. The first example while sometimes just a really bad movie recommended by a friend who thinks Elvis movies are cinema classics is really just a movie that did not meet your expectations. When we are told a movie is brilliant we expect our idea of brilliant and anything less is disappointing. Whether we like it or not we have expectations about almost everything in life and in some cases those expectations are met and in other cases they are not but our expectations often affect our decisions. When it comes to learning guitar your expectations play a major role in whether or not you decide to continue learning or give up especially in the early stages. 

Where did my student go?

I have seen guitar students who role up for their first lesson with their brand new $1500 Maton guitar, half a dozen books on how to play guitar with the excitement of a 6 year old on Christmas morning. Then within a few weeks they disappear. In my early years of teaching this would surprise me but over the years it became an all too familiar pattern which I learned to recognise early. It was simply that their expectations were not being met. I knew in order to keep these students from throwing in the towel too early it was important to set them straight from the outset. Their expectations were way too high and they were expecting too much too soon.

Hope for the best but expect the worst

It is true that some students are better at focusing and putting first things first and there are also students who walk into their first lesson with a musical history so therefore have a head start but over the long term the above differences tend to even out. A good teacher will help the student to prioritise, the less focused student learns to focus and any musical history tends to be less and less relevant. The important fact here is staying in the game. Staying in the game is about understanding your own expectations. If you expect to be playing the entire Beatles collection within a few months you will be disappointed whereas if stringing a few chords together in time is enough you will likely be pleased with your progress. This should not be confused with goals. Its good to aim high but just don't expect too much. The old saying 'Hope for the best but expect the worst' will serve you well.  

Parents - Do you think your child has realistic expectations?

Most guitar teachers are familiar with parents who when inquiring about lessons for their child say something like the following; "Is it possible to borrow or hire a guitar for a few weeks just to see how she/he goes?" I understand of course that some parents don't want to spend $100 on a new guitar only to find out a few weeks later that their child's interest has waned. The problem with this approach though is it sends the message that the parent perhaps does not have faith in their child's ability to learn guitar. But here's the thing, questioning your child's ability to follow through is not actually a bad thing. Most parents know their child extremely well so their instincts should not be ignored. If you are a parent and know your child is unlikely to follow through it is better to address the reasons why before they start. Even if your instincts are telling you they are 80% likely to follow through then address the 20%. Talk to your child about what will be involved with learning guitar. Daily practice, weekly lessons, initially sore fingers, good days and bad days, boring exercises at times and so on. As a parent you know your child so as much as possible laid it all out for them so there are no surprises. 

Good teachers address your expectations early

A good guitar teacher knows that your expectations must be met if you are to continue long term. Unmet expectations soon wear us down. Unless your teacher has some kind of magical powers your pace of learning is quite predictable based on the amount of practice you do on a consistent basis. Basically practice equals progress. A good teacher might be able to get you to practice more than you would otherwise or focus more of the essential skills and therefore help you to progress quicker but ultimately if your expectations are not met you will still be disappointed. The teacher's goal therefore is to evaluate your expectations and then ensure they are realistic and inline with what is reasonable given your average practice times. This is one of the many reasons why you should be using the *Practice Log. Your teacher needs to know how much you are practicing to know what you should be expecting in terms of progress.

*Practice Log is available in the G4 Guitar Method Kit.

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