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.

Now only $55 for a limited time.

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.