Monday, July 30, 2012

Keep your guitar dreams alive

Successful marketers know that to keep you buying their products they have to constantly advertise. Think of how many KFC ads or bank ads you are likely to see in a week. You probably don't even realize but they are everywhere from TV to radio to billboards. It's no wonder so many people eat KFC and bank with the major banks. Well you should do the same. You can run your own marketing campaign on yourself. Make a collage of album covers, inspiring photos and guitar memorabilia. Stick them on your walls and make screen savers. This will inspire you by constantly reminding you why you learn guitar. Life is busy and it's easy to get caught up in the day to day while your dreams and aspirations slowly get buried and forgotten. You need to keep your dreams alive through constant reminders of why you learn guitar.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Guitar is not rocket science

I must admit that when I started learning guitar it may as well have been rocket science. It completely baffled me and it seemed every time I had a question answered it led to 5 new questions. I had no clue why certain chords were used in combination or what modes were or how any of it related to my favorite songs. I became intensely curious about music theory and would spend hours everyday reading in the hope of unlocking its secrets. Within a few months it started to make sense. There was of course still much to learn and one could spend a lifetime studying music theory but my motivation to learn music was not based on understanding music from a theoretical perspective. I wanted to play and my initial hunger for music theory was simply about understanding how most popular songs were constructed and those few months of focused study gave me a good solid grounding. I strongly encourage you to learn music theory and can assure you that essential theory is not difficult. A good teacher could teach you most of what you really need to know within a few months.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

3 habits of my best guitar students.

1. Consistent guitar practice. My best students show consistency in almost every aspect of their practice. They usually practice at the same time, in the same place for the same length of time each day.

2. Followed instructions. My best students would rarely stray from the course. Sticking to the course meant they made faster progress which resulted in more confidence in their playing.

3. Rarely missed a lesson. My top students not only had excellent attendance rates but were also consistently on time.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How hard is it to learn guitar?

Guitar teachers often get stuck on this question because there is no simple answer. Beginner guitar students likely have their mind set on some kind of general goal. For me it was being able to play Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Queen, Kiss and others. When I began I had no idea what was involved. I just imagined guitar was like a puzzle that you just had to solve and once solved was easy. I was partially right but what I did not realize was how much fine motor skill development was involved with learning guitar to the level for which I aspired. I think if I had been told that guitar would take thousands of hours of repetitive exercises I might have thought twice. It was like I was expecting to climb to the top of a small hill but instead found myself ascending Mt Everest. Now I don't want to scare you off from learning guitar because it's not all about reaching the summit. Every level offers a better view than the previous one so it's really about how high you want to go. How hard depends on how high.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Are your kids watching too much TV? Guitar might be the answer.

According to an article I recently read a TV station aired over 200 junk food ads during the Saturday morning children's shows. Junk food is now big business and it's literally poisoning our children. This is not about to change and if anything the junk food companies are getting more aggressive. They know that parents aren't really watching as TV tends to act like a baby sitter while they get house work done. I would like to suggest a solution that certainly worked for me. When I started learning both drums and guitar at age 14 I soon found myself less and less interested in TV. The lure of guitar became so strong that I would spend hours in my room working on some aspect of guitar. Little did I realize that guitar was actually taking away what would have been TV time. Children I believe watch TV out of boredom. When they have other interests they will naturally spend less time watching TV. Guitar is not the only option of course but it's a great place to start.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why guitar jams are more than just fun

As a teen I was totally unaware of the benefits of jamming. To me a jam was just fun. Sure there were good and bad jams but overall they generally left me feeling good. A jam was a chance to crank up the volume and feel like a rock star. Simple riffs backed with a bass player, drummer and second guitarist suddenly sounded amazing. But the real benefits of such jams wouldn't truly reveal themselves until later. When we jam we connect with other musicians which opens us up to new possibilities. This in turn connects us to other musicians. As our network grows so do the opportunities. Hendrix is a classic example. Jimi would jam with everyone and anyone in the hope that he would learn something new. He was hungry for anything that was new.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

5 ways to motivate yourself to practice guitar.

1. Get a Guitar stand. Keep your guitar out on a stand not in it's case. Just seeing your guitar will increase your motivation to practice guitar.

2. Create a song list. Find those guitar songs that motivate you and put them into a list and listen to them before your scheduled practice time.

3. Find a guitar buddy. When someone else shares our interests we naturally become more motivated.

4. Read a guitarist's bio. When we look behind the scenes of a successful guitarist we usually find someone who was once just like us. It's a big motivator.

5. Teach someone else guitar. Once I decided to teach guitar I realized I needed to practice what I was preaching. This certainly gave me motivation to practice.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

3 classic mistakes made by beginner guitar students

1. They try to do too much. One of my pet hates is when I hear someone refer to a guitarist as being able to play everything. Firstly no guitarist can play everything but more importantly it's irrelevant. I just want to know if they can something well. Quantity comes a distant second to quality.

2. They fail to develop good technique. In a rush to be the world's next guitar sensation many beginner guitar students try to side step technique going straight to their favorite songs. This always comes back to haunt as they struggle to get past an early intermediate level due to poor technique. If you are serious about guitar slow down and get this one right. You will be glad you did.

3. They focus on the wrong things. This is a common trap. A good example is picking. Guitar students will be trying to learn let's say a new riff and most of their focus is on the fretting hand almost completing ignoring their picking. It should be the other way around. 70% of their attention should be focused on the picking.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

How did Eddie Van Halen get so good on guitar?

The obvious answer of course is practice but Eddie was not your typical guitar student. Where most guitar students do 30 minutes to an hour a day Eddie was more like 6 hours a day. The Van Halen brothers were fortunate because their father Jan was a trained musician who played clarinet, sax and piano. As children both Eddie and brother Alex were forced to do piano lessons which obviously paid off but at the first opportunity they switch to guitar and drums. Eddie actually started out as the drummer and Alex the guitarist but apparently Alex turned out to be a better drummer than Eddie. When Eddie made the switch to guitar he became an obsessed with practice. Van Halen hit the major music scene in the late 70's. I was a teen at the time and the first time I heard Van Halen's Eruption I had no idea what he was doing. At the time I was still very much a beginner guitar player and Van Halen was like some kind guitar playing alien. It became apparent to me some years later that Eddie was simply the result of thousands of hours of serious guitar practice.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Your child not practicing guitar? 5 things NOT to do

1. Do not stop their guitar lessons. Some parents will use this tactic out of frustration but the result is nobody wins. Talk to their guitar teacher and if they are unable to help then find a new guitar teacher.

2. Do not yell at them. Some parents resort to screaming at their children but its never a good strategy because it more often than not brings about a negative association to learning guitar.

3. Do not leave it up to them. Children learn best when they have support. Young children especially will rarely want to practice guitar if it means being sent to their room by themselves. If a parent sits with them and gets involved in a positive way you will see a far better result.

4. Do not just accept it. If your child is to succeed on guitar practice is essential so you need to be persistent in finding a solution. If you have tried everything then email me at briefly explaining your situation.

5. Do not buy into their excuses. Children have plenty of free time so claiming they have no time for guitar practice is rarely if ever true. What they are probably saying is they don't feel like practicing and that's something that needs to be discussed.

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Guitar is easy...

Many people have the false idea that guitar is difficult. I also felt the same when I first begun to learn. Guitar to me seemed impossible. I recall seeing Tommy Emmanuel and couldn't believe that human fingers could move so quickly with such precision. But Tommy of course is no ordinary guitarist. Wanting to be like Tommy would be near impossible for most of us and few beginners especially are aiming that high. To be reasonably proficient is not such a daunting task. It just takes a few years of committed daily practice. The difficult part is having the discipline to practice everyday for two years. If you can do it then guitar is easy.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why do so many people want to play guitar?

Today there seems to be a guitar phenomenon. Is there a more popular musical instrument in the world? Guitar is so popular that even the game Guitar Hero has out sold every other game on the shelf. They now have Air Guitar competitions and its serious business. Where are they coming from? Why do so many people want to play guitar.

I can only give you an educated guess at best. I strongly believe the guitar has become fashion. So often now I see images of guitars in the media. Look at almost any advertisement aimed at a teenager and 8 of 10 times there will be a guitar in the background. Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift are popular girl sensation and unlike say Britney, Kylie or Madonna of the previous generation they perform with a guitar. Guitar is part of her image. This guitar image can be seen everywhere and guitar equals cool. Anyone who is anyone plays guitar right? So in short guitar has become a fashion accessory and as far as I am concerned its much more attractive than any other accessory.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Predicting behaviour and how it affects guitar learning.

It turns out we are better at predicting the behaviour of other people than predicting our own behaviour. According to various experts when we see others we consider environmental influences but when we assess ourselves we don't take the circumstances into account as much. We like to believe that the influences of others does not affect us as much as it affects others. We like to believe that we are fully in control of our decisions. 

I know you better than you do
Emily Balcetis (Assistant Professor New York University) and David Dunning (Professor Cornell University) conducted a series of studies to show the difference between predicting our own behaviour and that of others. In short their was a significant difference between the two. This means that if predicting your own behaviour is less reliable than asking others for advice we should be seeking more advice. If for example I was to teach you guitar I am quite confident that I will be a better predictor of your future behaviour than you. Let me explain why.

"I want it now!"
I have spent 25 years working with thousands of guitar students. I have studied their behaviour and I have learned to recognise the predictable signs of students who are about to quit or who will likely want to quit at some point in the future. In fact it only takes one or two conversations for me to determine what kind of behaviour you are likely to display in the coming week. For example students who call up to inquire about lessons with one question 'Can I start today?' have about a 50% chance of quitting within a month or two. This is because they are impatient. The reason they wanted to start lessons today is because by later that same day that want to be a guitar master. When this doesn't happen they move on to something else.

Why my students rarely quit
The good news is that even the impatient can be saved if the teacher knows what to look for and how to respond. I rarely lose students in the critical first year and there are two reason for this. No.1 is I look for those early signs and address them immediately. In other words I never book in a student on the same day. I also ask the question "How long do you think it will take to learn guitar?" to set them straight before we even start. No.2 is I require students to keep a daily practice log. This is like a health chart and keeps aware of how consistent you are about your practice.

Test the theory for yourself
All in all when it comes to making a behavioural change in life you will always do better with a coach than without one. If you doubt this why not try it. Decide on two goals that will take at least 6 months to achieve (E.g. run a marathon and learn guitar) and do one with a coach and one with out and see what the result is after 6 months. 

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Who needs a guitar teacher when you've got Youtube?"

I recently spoke to a guy who said he was a self professed cynic when it came to guitar teachers. He claimed that there was nothing a guitar teacher could teach him that wasn't somewhere on the Internet for free. He claimed anything and everything you would ever want to know about guitar is probably on the net somewhere. While I understood what he was saying I pointed out that there was one very distinct and critical element missing. 

The Internet doesn't care
The net can't see your mistakes or really understand what your next best step should be. The net supplies information but offers no feedback. While the net may save you a few dollars the cost of a good teachers is made up in time. If you work your time is money and if it takes you one hour a day of surfing the net to find what you need (assuming it is what you really need) thats 5+ hours a week in lost time. Surely that's more expensive than a weekly guitar lesson.

"It's too hard!" 
Any great coach knows that information accounts for about 10% of success. The rest is psychology.  The net for all it's knowledge doesn't understand your emotions and how this plays a major role in you ultimate success. More than 90% of beginner guitar students will give up within 12 months and the reasons are related to the mind. Typically students who fail to follow through will say they didn't have time or it just wasn't for them or it was boring. The truth is we give up our goals when we are not seeing  results as quickly as we would like. We become disillusioned and lose faith and when we rely on the net to be our teacher we are unlikely to get that much needed pep talk.

I am yet to meet someone who can't spare 30 minutes a day to practice guitar. If the average person spends 5 hours a day either surfing the net or watching TV or Youtube they can surely find 30 minutes a day to practice guitar. A good teacher will hold you accountable. They will be waiting for you each week to check whether or not you have put in the time and will be asking why not if the practice is not done. We all do better when we have someone checking up on us. 

If you are a serious find a good teacher
Those who don't value a good coach I find are those who aren't truly serious about achieving their goals. When we are committed to our success we do whatever it takes. Many claim that they cannot afford a guitar teacher but this is rarely true. The cost of a lesson is well within the budgets of most people today. If you are genuinely not able to afford guitar lessons perhaps you can speak to a guitar teacher about working for your lessons. Remember guitar teachers are in business so maybe you can exchange some of your time for their time. There is always a way.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Popular Guitar Songs

Here is a list of popular guitar songs you might want to learn. If you have any suggestions please add via a comment below. Thank you.

Always with you always with me
American pie
American Woman
Are you gonna go my way
Back in Black
Better be home soon
Black Betty
Black Magic Woman
Bohemian Rhapsody
Brown Sugar
Come as you are
Comfortably Numb
Couldn't stand the weather
Crazy little thing called love
Day Tripper
Enter Sandman
Eye of the tiger
Hells Bells
Hotel California
Johnny B Goode
Knockin on Heaven's door
La Grange
Life in the fast lane
Little Wing
Long way to the top
Master of Puppets
Nothing Else Matters
Purple Haze
Run to you
Satch Boogie
Shook me all night long
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Smoke on the Water
Stairway to Heaven
Stand by me
Still got the blues
Sultans of swing
Sunshine of your love
Sweet Child o mine
Sweet Home Alabama
The Ocean
Under the bridge
Whole lotta love
Wish you were here
Wishing well
With or without you
You really got me

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

What age can children learn guitar?

Most people are surprised when I say children can start guitar from as you as young as 2 years old. In actual fact it really shouldn't be surprising because many children learn instruments like violin from 2 years and most would agree that violin is equally if not more challenging than guitar.

Children are smarter than we think 

If adults were able to learn at the same rate as a child we would all be much smarter than Einstein, Tesla & Feynman put together. Learning slows down as we age not because we want it to but growing brains are making many more new connections. It no doubt has a lot to do with survival. 

Watch them learn

Think about how quickly a child learns to speak a language, walk, read, socialise and about a thousand other things all at once. Why then would the guitar be so impossible? It's not. Those who promote guitar is only suitable for 6yo and over just don't know how. A two year is more than ready to learn guitar but we just need to understand as adults how to do it.

What parents can do

It is not so much about the child but the adults (parents, teachers etc.) around them that make the difference. Firstly parents need to understand that just because their 2 year old is just banging the 
guitar at first it does not mean its a waste of time. Children need to explore the guitar and learn to associate it with playing. If a parent picks up a guitar each day your child will probably do the same and this is the first step. 

Find the right teacher

All teachers can teach young children but many simply lack confidence and experience. Some even believe its impossible so as a parent don't be put off if you have trouble finding a teacher at first. Try asking around in your area until you find the right teacher. In the meantime you as a parent can take up the guitar and this will encourage your child to also learn.

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