Monday, April 30, 2012

Why don't all guitar teachers charge the same?

This is a complexed question but I will make my answer as simple as possible. I have been teaching guitar for 27 years and for the first 10 years I just charged the going rate that most teachers charged. I figured guitar lessons and guitar teachers were all much the same so there was no justifiable reason to charge more but then something happened. 

My first singing lesson experience 

I decided to have singing lessons and the first two teacher's rates were much the same as mine. They seemed like reasonable teachers but were not what I would call results focused. Neither teacher seemed prepared and a typical lesson consisted of 'So let's do some warm ups and then we can look at a song you like". Every lesson seem disconnected from the previous one and although I felt I had learnt a few things I soon realised that these teachers weren't really inspiring me or pushing me to improve. I actually felt that they didn't really care if I improved or not as long as I seemed happy.  

The $100 per hour teacher

I then found a teacher who charged $100 an hour (in 1990) when everyone else was charging $25 per hour and at first I thought "This guy's got to be kidding. I can't afford his rates and how does he even justify his prices." He had been recommend to me and I later found out that people like Sting hand Jon Stevens had had lessons with him and he was a trained opera singer who had a reputation for getting results. So despite that his rates were out of my price range I decided to do a term of lessons just for curiosity. He was truly an amazing teacher. I not only learnt the correct way to sing but I became a better teacher. I only did the one term with him because I went to America at the time but those lessons were worth every cent. 

Why good teachers charge more

The lesson I learnt was that not all teachers are equal for a very important reason. Good teachers like good doctors, good chefs, good pilots and just about good anything continue to invest in their education. They invest in themselves because they are essentially practicing what they preach and what they preach is the fact that to improve you should find a coach and usually the better the coach the more they charge. In my experience when you pay the more expensive teacher you actually end up getting better value. When I paid around $1200 in lessons (which was a lot of money back in the early 90's) I improved dramatically as a singer and a teacher. I got more value in just a few lessons with this one teacher than I had from the total number of lessons combined from the two previous teachers. 

The second reason

There is another reason why some people charge more. My dentist for example is not cheap but he does great work. I have been to dentists in Japan and they are half the price but here is the difference. The Japanese dentist (not all Japanese dentists by the way) was still operating on old equipment and he actually missed some important dental work (root canal) that needed to be done. My Sydney dentist has the latest equipment and regularly attends training and seminars all over the world so he can stay up to date. I am happy to pay more because I know he will get it right first time and save me a lot of costly dental work later. 

Look for value rather than price

The value of your lessons should be what counts most. I suggest you try different teachers at different prices and decide for yourself what seems the best value for you. The one thing I don't recommend is going straight to the cheapest teacher without comparing the difference for the reasons stated above.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Great (Guitar) Coaches Have A Plan

"Learn the songs you want to learn". What's wrong with this statement? It's an all too common claim from music teachers and music schools and on the surface tit can seem very attractive. After all who wants to learn songs they don't like? I think its a bit like casinos luring in gamblers with the idea of becoming rich quick because telling you the truth (put your money on our tables and we will keep 80%) wouldn't be so attractive. In the case of guitar lessons the truth is beginner students will not be able to learn their favourite songs because they simply don't have the skills required. They must firstly spend time learning the essential skills of guitar before they jump in to songs played by professional players with years of experience. 

Setting students up to fail

In my first 10 years of teaching my aim was to keep students happy. Give them what they want was my philosophy and they will keep coming. Teaching the songs students enjoy created interest but the problem I found was that very few of my students made any real progress. Typically what I saw was this initial peak of excitement when they set about learning a new favourite song but within a few weeks they had lost interest. Within a few months the students confidence had been eroded because every song seemed impossible for them. Students would conclude that they were just not cut out to be guitar players and would quit. At the time I concluded that guitar was like a gym membership. Most people would be motivated for the first few months but only a small percentage would continue on long term and I should just accept the fact. The reality in hindsight was I was setting them up to fail by giving them inappropriate songs to learn week after week based on their requests of course.

What do great coaches do?

I knew at the time something wasn't right and I had decided I was going to find a solution or quit teaching. I was totally frustrated but the breakthrough came when one of my mentors suggested in his book to ask a simple question. "What would a great coach do?" It soon became apparent that great coaches don't ask their students 'What do you want to do?' but instead say "If you want to be a champion this is what you need to do". It took a while to summon the courage but eventually I decided that I was no longer going to be a typical 'keep them happy' kind of teacher if the end result was failure.  Everywhere I looked music teachers would promote this 'Learn what you want to learn' idea but I knew they too were failing. If we were in almost any other industry be it medicine, air travel, competitive sports and we only had a 10% success rate we would soon be out of business or worse. So I stepped up to plate and was now committed to being a great guitar teacher.

A system for success on guitar

I started by creating a system to teach guitar students the skills necessary to be great guitar players so they could then learn their favourite songs at some point in the future. The system needed to prioritise learning to ensure students developed the essential skills but I also took into consideration the psychology of learning in the same way that today's sports coaches use psychology. To succeed you must develop a winner's mindset. You must believe you have what it takes to be a great guitar player and you must be motivated when you practice with a clear view to what you hope to achieve. On top of all this you must be realistic about what to expect. Teachers who promote the idea that you will be able to play your favourite songs after a few lessons are misleading you. A realistic teacher will make it quite clear that without at least 500 hours of skills practice you are unlikely to be able to play most of the songs you probably want to learn.

A typical lesson with me

When students turn up for lessons rather than saying 'Hey what would you like to learn today?' which is really music teacher code for "I just want to keep you happy so you pay me money each week" I would say; "I have a plan for you to learn guitar so you can eventually play the music you like. I am not going to say its easy and everything will be fun but if you stick to the plan you will reap the rewards. Are you with me?" By being upfront students realise that the journey ahead is not an easy one so their expectations are realistic. They are not expecting to be able to play 'Stairway to Heaven' after a few lessons. Lower your expectations and you won't be disappointed

Seek out teachers with a plan

When serious musicians, actors, athletes and so on learn anything they do what needs to be done. They are optimistic but realistic. They know its not always going to be fun and true champions seek coaches who will push them to do what needs to be done. If you truly want to learn guitar avoid teachers or music schools that offer to teach you what you want to learn. Instead seek out teachers who have a plan and stick to the plan. If you are skeptical about their plan find another teacher but a teacher with no plan whose only purpose is to keep you as a happy paying customer will likely disappoint you in the end.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ear training software

Ear training (Aural) is often overlooked and under valued among guitar players. Developing your ear really is a critical step in the process of learning music because with a good ear you learn faster but you also learn to articulate. Students with weak aural skills can often rely too heavily on tab and can become frustrated when their playing sounds different to the recording they are trying to emulate. An untrained ear will leave you in the dark musically speaking. The solution of course is to train your ear and the best way to achieve that result is through quality software.

We recommend the Earmaster software. There are a few different companies making software but for all round value I think the Earmaster Pro package is the best. Follow the link below to purchase your copy and use the code 'g4guitar' to receive a 15% discount.

BUY NOW by following the link.

Earmaster Software can be purchased via the G4 Guitar Online Shop.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why was Jimi Hendrix such a great guitarist?

When I read the Jimi Hendrix biography I realised that his success was largely due to the people he met. When Jimi was young he would take his guitar to concerts and literally go back stage to pick the brain of the guitarist. Some probably even thought he was a little mad I am sure but Jimi knew that the way to become the best was to learn from as many guitar players as possible. Hendrix then went on to play with everyone and anyone of the day but his break came when Rolling Stone's guitarist Keith Richard's girlfriend at the time saw him play. She then introduced Jimi to Chas Chandler who took Jimi to London and introduced him to Eric Clapton amongst others. While Jimi was already a very accomplished player mixing with the top players of the day would have certainly helped to improve his playing.

How times have changed.

Today we have the Internet and access to an amazing amount of information and resources which I am sure the average teenager would now take for granted. When Jimi was a teen, apart from touring guitar players AM radio (with poor sound quality in mono) was really the only way Jimi could tune in to the latest guitarists of the day. TV for someone like Jimi was probably not an option because they were simply too expensive. Despite all this Jimi used the power of networking to improve. He somehow knew the key to his success was going to be the result of connecting with other guitar players and preferably ones who could teach him something.

Survival in groups

We are influenced by our environment whether we like it or not. As the saying goes "No man (person) is an island". If you want to be a great guitarists then you need to connect with people who are going to influence you in a positive way. I doubt that Hendrix would have became half the guitarist he did had he just hung around his local neighbourhood in Seattle. Jimi knew he had to go where the guitar players were and that usually meant touring artists and eventually touring himself. The term 'Keeping up with the Jones' is not some out of date throw away from a past era. It is as relevant today as ever. It has been shown that most people will earn pretty much the same money as their friends, have similar levels of fitness and even watch similar TV shows. We are tracking the every move of people around us whether it be conscious or unconscious. It's human nature to follow the group and is the result of evolution. Stay with the group and you are more likely the survive an attack from a predator.

Learning from Jimi

Jimi knew that he needed to connect with other musicians to improve and this strategy will also help you. This doesn't mean you only seek out friends who play music and exclude non-musical friends but you want to make sure there is at least one or two people in your life who share your passion for guitar. They don't even have to be guitarists. Just someone who will go to concerts with you and perhaps appreciates the guitar players you listen to. If you don't have someone like this in your life I suggest you start looking. The best place to start is with a guitar teacher because they can connect you with other students as well as introducing you to the places to go and guitar players to check out. Concerts are also a great way to surround yourself with people who share your passion. I think almost every concert I have ever been to in someway has inspired me and I inevitably end up talking to someone I have never met about the music we like. I am certainly not suggesting putting ads for guitar friends on bulletin boards but what I am saying is you should go where people who share your passion go and you will naturally connect with those people who share your passion.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

The Yin and Yang of Learning Guitar

Learning guitar is by no means a perfect science. What works for one person may not work for another as every teacher well knows. Finding what works for you will be a challenge. Success is usually the result of many failures and accepting this is your first step toward success. We therefore need to be prepared to take risks and try different approaches. The success strategy of trial and error receives far less credit than it deserves and should be seen as a stepping stone to success. Success in hindsight may seem obvious and deliberate but this is rarely the truth. When people become successful it's easy to assume that they know some secret that only successful people know. There is some truth in this idea because what they know is that success is often the result of trial and error. At this point you might be saying  " Yes but isn't it better to use a tried and proven method to avoid the common pitfalls of learning guitar?" My answer is simple. Yes but that doesn't mean you shouldn't experiment.

Following instructions and experimentation

I of course recommend using a proven method when learning almost anything. The fastest way to mastering guitar is via a proven path. Why reinvent the wheel? As with almost anything one must seek balance. Think of it as the yin and yang of learning guitar. This is where trial and error comes into the equation. If you were to choose a particular method of learning guitar and follow it to the letter you are likely to miss out on different perspectives. I know if students stick to my instructions they will succeed at learning guitar but I also want them to discover their own path and not become a clone of me and this requires a certain level of experimentation. You and your teacher need to trial different approaches to see what works for you. 

A personal journey of discovery

Guitar like almost everything is evolving and that includes the way we learn guitar. When I was a kid the internet was non-existent. If today I stuck to the same methods of teaching and communicating with students that my teacher used my students would probably be teaching me. What worked well yesterday is likely outdated today. By all means stick with what works but devote some time to testing out new strategies and learning about new technology. It's not just about finding new undiscovered methods of practice and learning but it is also about finding what works for you. Learning guitar is and always will be a personal journey of discovery.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Which guitar should I learn on?

This is a common question. You can in fact start on any guitar as long as it has 6 strings and is in reasonable condition. Below I have listed some pluses and minuses of each of the three most common types of guitars.


+Nylon strings so tends to be easier on the fingers. 
+Nice soft sound that won't annoy the neighbours
+Inexpensive and light weight
-They tend to drift out of tune easily

Steel string acoustic
+Holds it tune well
+Usually more volume
+Perfect volume for singing
-Can be hard on the fingers

+Light gauge strings are an option
+Perfect for amping up, adding effects or even plugging into your computer.
+Great for rock
-You need some kind of amplification.

As you can see each choice offers something different but if you are like me you will end up with one (or more) of each. 

Size is also a consideration depending on your age.

For help please contact Ian at Artist Guitar and remember to mention that you came via G4 GUITAR to receive a free gift with every purchase.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Advice For Students Learning The Guitar

Learning guitar is like learning a new language. It takes years of practice and dedication. I really admire anyone who is willing to follow their ambitions of learning a musical instrument.

Here is some advice for those students

1. Have a Goal: The clearer your goal is the more likely you will be to succeed in achieving this. For many students the main goal is to be able to play their favourite songs. This is why we have the ultimate song list. Make sure you fill this in and revisit it regularly.

2. Develop a daily practice routine: Without practice there is no progress. When starting out its best to do small amounts of practice 15 -20mins each day than to do 1 or 2 long sessions a week. The best way to develop a practice routine is use a practice log. Make sure you fill this in daily.

3. Lower your expectations: Learning guitar is a lifelong pursuit. Progress is slow and there will be times when you will feel like giving up. This is very normal.... The reality is that it will take you at least 2 years of regular practice before you are out of the beginner phase of learning. So if you are in this phase just enjoy the process.

4. Persistence is the key: There will be times when you feel as though you are not progressing. This is normal, anything worth doing will present a challenge and those who persist will reap the rewards.

5. Listen to music: Listening to music is a great way to seek inspiration. It can keep you going through times when you are finding progress difficult.

Written by Brendan Morello of Morello Guitar Schools - Stanmore NSW.