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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