Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why is Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven the greatest song ever?

At no other point in history that I am aware was there a song that drove so many people to learn to play music than when Led Zeppelin released Stairway to Heaven. Sure a song like 'Smoke on the Water' has probably been played more times but it's a simple riff played mostly by those who take up guitar for 5 minutes.

If learning to play Stairway in the 70's and 80's was a disease we had a serious epidemic on our hands. Stairway was so popular that musical instrument shops had signs posted saying 'NO STAIRWAY'. No doubt the store employees were irritated by the nonstop stream of guitar amateurs performing their half learnt renditions. There was even a whole album made with different versions of Stairway. At its height Stairway was basically considered a benchmark for guitarists. Those who could play Stairway could hold their heads high.

So what was it about this song that caused so many including myself to seriously take up guitar. To this day I cannot really say but perhaps its the seductive guitar intro. It sounds very simple because the tempo is slow and every note is clear but for a beginner bar chords are near impossible. When I first began learning Stairway at age 14 I was a complete beginner. Stairway seemed easy enough to my ear but yet remained out of my range of abilities for sometime. It was the fruit that seemed within reach but was actually higher than my arm could stretch.

It would take me a full 2 years before I was able to really play Stairway but here is the thing. I am quite convinced that it was my pursuit of Stairway that kept me going and ultimately led me to a lifetime of guitar. It really was a stairway to Heaven.

David J. Hart

For a structured proven method of learning guitar visit www.g4guitarmethod.com

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why measuring your practice makes all the difference.

Whenever a new student would begin lessons I would spend a portion of the first lesson asking them to fill in a daily practice log. Now most were happy to go along with my request but not all. Some students would feel it unnecessary, pointless or even over the top. Comments like "Guitar is just a hobby" or "Don't worry, I will be practicing" were standard from those students not wishing to participate. The problem unfortunately was that over the years my research showed that it was those exact students who were most likely to quit or complain that they didn't have enough time. Studies have shown that we humans tend to over state our ability to get things done. I remember reading how the Sydney Opera House went many times over budget and took years longer than expected to complete. Another example is most people think they are of above average intelligence, are better than average drivers and even believe we will liver longer than most of our friends. The fact is we can't all be above average. Now guitar is no different. 

You only think you are practicing everyday 
When learning guitar we tend to over estimate the amount of practice we really do. For example a student might commit to practicing 30 mins a day. After 3 months they assume they have done 90x 30 mins being 45 hours. That would be enough focused practice to play some basic Beatles songs. The reality though is that the student will likely have missed a few days each week and in some cases missed a complete week and end up practicing half as much as they realise. We see this all the time with people trying to get fit or perhaps save money. They don't track the exercise or money spent so are left scratching their heads. The reason the practice log is so powerful is because it challenges the student to be honest. If at the end of every practice session you log in your practice times you will not be able to mislead yourself. It's a daily reality check. 

But wait...
The practice log has additional psychological benefits as I discovered. When we measure we feel compelled to improve on our previous scores. So if you did 900 mins practice in your first month you will naturally aim to do better the next month. If your practice drops in the next month you will almost feel obligated to make up the lost time in the following month. I found that students became a lot more consisted once I introduced the practice log and student dropouts reduced dramatically. It only takes a few seconds at the end of each practice yet it makes a dramatic difference to most students. Log your practice because your efforts deserved to be recorded. Acknowledging your efforts builds confidence.

David J. Hart

For a structured proven method of learning guitar visit www.g4guitarmethod.com

Friday, October 12, 2012

How good are you on guitar?

Many students ask this question and with good reason. Learning guitar is a journey and although the learning never stops there is usually a destination of some description in mind. When I was a teen my first destination was Stairway to Heaven. Along the way new destinations will arise but for most of us guitarists there is a song or riff or sole we desire to be able to play. 

"Are we there yet?"
Now as with any journey it doesn't take long before we start wondering how long it will take to arrive. In my early years of learning I would at times ask the question but no one really offered a reasonable answer. Most responses were vague at best. For example they might respond by saying "It's all about patience" or "Keep working hard and you'll get there". When my own students began asking me the same question I decided to go looking for a different answer. 

Takes 2 years of 30 minutes a day on average
I first decided that to measure I needed some kind of measuring stick so I created levels which included what I called the 7 essential skills. I than worked how long it would take the average student to complete each level. This gave me a very clear measurement of what the average student could expect based on the amount of time invested in practice, age and previous musical experience. I discovered that if a student was consistent with their practice it would take about 2 years to reach a level that most people would regard as competent.  

The first make or break year
I also discovered that students who stuck with guitar for at least a year had about a 90% chance of reaching the 2 year mark.  In other words students who could stay committed for a year were very unlikely to give up. In fact it was a sliding scale in the first year. I found that just by telling my students this fact from the start increased their chances of success. They now knew that their chances of success increased with every passing month. This gave them clarity and hope especially during those times when they began to doubt themselves. As they say, knowledge is power. 

David Hart


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Should your child enjoy their guitar lessons?

Some parents believe that first and foremost learning guitar should be enjoyable for their children. While enjoyment of music and practice are certainly important I think there is a common misunderstanding. So I want to  pointed out a slightly different angle on the importance of enjoyment when it comes to learning guitar.

Leading psychologist Martin Seligman (and others)  believe there are potential long term consequences to the idea of focusing too much on enjoyment. When we are led to believe everything must be enjoyable we stop trying anything that is even slightly uncomfortable but here is the problem. Almost anything that is worth achieving takes effort. No pain no gain as they say. Children need to understand that success comes from hard work and persistence and that they should not give up just because something is not enjoyable in the moment. We all know this instinctively but for some reason we want to protect our children from this important lesson. I know when I took up guitar as a child  I was often frustrated and felt like giving up. I did not enjoy much of the practice. I would happily have bypassed the practice if I could have but I really wanted to play guitar. I think there were definitely some critical points where without the support of certain people I would have given up.

My message to parents is to not get too hung up on whether your child enjoys every practice session. Instead talk to them about the reality. Explain that we achieve through persistence in giving up is not a good option. In fact it's rarely good option.  The best time to give up is before you even start that way you won't have wasted any time.  The bottom line is not whether or not you or your child enjoys the practice, it's whether or not you want to be the play guitar.

Finally let me direct you to a blog called 
How do I get my child to practice guitar without forcing them?

David Hart

Is learning guitar at school a good idea for your child?

Many parents receive a note from their child's school offering guitar lessons at their school. This will seem appealing because it's convenient and won't require them to be driving their child to and from lessons.  My personal observations show that students who learn outside of school almost always do better for a very good reason. A critical factor in a child's success on guitar is whether or not they have a parent assisting. Children need help with practice especially in the early months. What I call the critical make or break period. When parents are involved by being present at the lessons parents learn how to assist their child. Parents don't have to sit in on every lesson but they do need to interact with the teacher and understand their role. When children learn during school parents rarely have the opportunity to be involved so their child is left to their own devices and the result is that children who learn at school are more likely to give up. 

School is not the place to test the water
Some parents will try school lessons to see if their child takes to the guitar before enrolling them outside school but this is also a big mistake because parent involvement is most important in the early months. To really give your child the best chance of success on guitar I recommend booking in with a professional teacher who involves at least one parent from the very first lesson. When a teacher or situation does not allow parents to be involved its better to wait until you find a teacher who invites parent involvement because those early lessons usually decide the long term outcome. In my experience a child's success is dramatically increased with parent involvement in the early months especially. 

David Hart


Saturday, October 6, 2012

What's your plan for learning guitar?

When it comes to learning a skill like guitar this is best achieved using a clear structured plan for a very simple reason. There are many different styles of music and of course many ways to play a guitar but the fundamentals are much the same. A clear structured plan is a way of learning that will reliably bring about a result and ensure the fundamentals are being developed. For beginners this is the best way to learn because having no plan is risky. Very risky. By starting with a clear structured plan and reaching lets say an early intermediate level you can then begin to focus on your favorite style. Often when experienced students enquire about lessons with me they are motivated by frustration. They feel like they are not getting anywhere. A structured method of learning solves this problem. If you are learning guitar without a plan I would recommend seeking one out. If you are a beginner it is best to start with a recognised method of learning. At the very least divide your time between a structured method of learning guitar and what I like to call random learning. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Sorry but I didn't have time to practice"

When students apologise to me for not practicing I usually respond by saying that there is no need to apologise or even feel guilty. I know their decision not to practice was not intentional but simply an inability to prioritise. Students who struggle to find the time practice just need to adjust their priorities. Now despite what many students may tell themselves this doesn't mean giving up other important activities. It usually means giving up time killers like TV or pointless Internet time. If you don't watch TV and only ever turn on your computer to check important emails you might be the exception but considering that the average person spends 5 hours per day on a screen  its unlikely you are the rare exception. If you want to get results on guitar the only way I know how is through practice and that means putting it high enough on your list of priorities that it gets done. 

Lack of time is not the real problem.
In summary if you want to learn guitar time is really not a valid excuse. If you find yourself using this excuse try keeping a diary for a week noting down how you spend your time and see if you truly have no available time. Something I have found that works really well is to prioritise what's important to you and do those things first. As an example my health comes first so each morning at 6 AM I head out for a morning workout. This ensures I get something done each day so I don't get to the end of my day and realise I'm too tired or it's too late to exercise. Make your guitar a priority and put it before you turn on the TV or computer and I guarantee that after a few weeks it will become a habit.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Guitar Player Mindset

Success on guitar has little to do with natural talent and everything to do with mindset. Mindset is perhaps the most important factor in terms of long term success on guitar. As they say 'You have to first BELIEVE to ACHIEVE. 

The typical beginner guitar student will QUIT!

The typical scenario goes like this. You get inspired, buy a guitar and start lessons.  First lesson goes well as you are excited and enthusiastic about becoming a guitar player. You practices 10 minutes each day or until your fingers are sore. Second lesson goes okay but the level of enthusiasm has dropped ever so slightly By week 5 the honeymoon is over and it now feels like a chore. Many students concludes they are just not cut out to play guitar and besides life is too short to be wasting time practicing guitar.

Solution: Don't be typical.

The best way to avoid the above scenario is to avoid being the typical beginner guitar student who quits due to a lack of motivation. Instead of allowing yourself to lose enthusiasm for guitar practice why not increase it instead. You can't be passive when it comes to motivation. You need to be actively looking for ways to not only stay motivated but to increase your motivation. Motivating yourself is actually a mindset. Its the mindset that says "I control how I feel." You can allow yourself to be tossed around like a boat with no sail on a turbulent ocean or you can take charge. Success on guitar starts with mindset and your mindset is a choice.  Anyone can learn to play guitar but the ones who actually end up playing guitar are the ones who developed the right mindset.

For ideas on how to motivate yourself check the following blog.

Visit our website at http://www.g4guitarmethod.com