Tuesday, December 10, 2013

3 Tips to Success on Guitar

Learning guitar is not difficult. It just takes time, patience and a proven strategy.

1. Eliminate distractions

Watching children especially young children you can see how they get fixed on something giving it 100% of their concentration. You will often see frustrated parents shouting "For the last time stop what you are doing and come to dinner". Children seem to find it easier to shut out the rest of the world when they are engaged. As adults we can have trouble switching off. When we leave work it tends to follow us home and when we go to work unrelated distractions (phone calls, emails etc.) tend to crop up. This can be a problem if you are attempting to learn a skill like guitar and may even explain why children seem to learn new skills faster. So your first challenge is to create a time and space where you will not be distracted so you can focus even if its only 10 minutes a day in the beginning. Turn off phones, computers and remove any possible distractions.

2. Develop patience.

Your biggest enemy will be yourself and often your unrealistic expectations. When you watch great guitar players you are seeing the results of thousands of hours of practice. I see many students take up guitar and after only a few hours of practice wonder why they can't play their favourite songs. This would be like going to the bank each day and depositing $10 and after a month expecting to see a million dollars. Set the bar lower and you will be a lot happier. Take time out each day to remind yourself that until you have done at least 500 hours of practice you are probably going to be below the standard of what most people would consider a reasonable guitarist. Develop patience by keeping a Practice log. Measure how many minutes you do each day and celebrate when you reach 500 hours then 1000 hours and so on. The masters have generally done 10,000 hours or more.

3. Focus on one thing at a time

Many beginners are eager to play songs but don't actually realise playing a song requires a combination of often complex skills. Teachers also know that if their student is not able to play a few easy songs within the first few weeks and months the student will likely lose interest. What students want and what is best are unfortunately rarely the same thing. When you learn guitar in an ideal sense your best option is to focus on skills. If you ever saw the movie Karate Kid you may remember that the master began by asking the student to only do chores. The student was frustrated and wanted to get straight to the good stuff. The master was actually teaching the student skills first before introducing actual karate moves. he was also teaching the student to focus on one task at a time. With guitar the skills should precede the songs but for most students its the other way around.

ConclusionFocusing on skills means spending 10 mins on one skill. Start slowly and build up. Example if you are learning a scale just practice a few notes at first adding one new note when you feel ready. Avoid trying to learn all the notes of the scale at one time. Focusing on just a few will help your brain to absorb and ingrain the information. Too many notes and the brain will not remember. Imagine if I give you a 20 number sequence to remember and recite a week later. If I give it to you in one go you most likely won't remember even 5 mins later but if I break down in to 5 numbers at a time giving you one sequence each day and time to memorise each 5 note sequence you will likely be able to recite all 20 numbers a week later. Yes it takes a little longer but the result is a week later you will remember. Make the time to practice without distraction, develop patience (it will serve you well in all areas of life) and focus on one thing for 10 minutes at a time followed by a short break and then focus on something else. You can't lose.

You might also like the following blog post; 

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Classical Sitting Position - Is it better?

The Classical Sitting Position(on the left) 

as it is known is really the result of hundreds of years of guitar evolution. When sitting in this position it really is the ideal way to play guitar. If you notice in the pic the shoulders are basically even, my back and neck are straight and the guitar is positioned perfectly so both hands can execute their roles. 

The 'Popular' sitting position (on the right)

This means for a right handed guitarist your guitar would be on your right leg. Here are the 4 arrows explained.

  1. The right shoulder is elevated which can cause neck problems
  2. The left shoulder is lower then the right which means the spine is twisted
  3. Because of the positioning the left wrist is bent which can cause carpal tunnel
  4. The right arm is pressing down on the guitar often cutting into the nerve which can cut off circulation to the right hand

The severity of problems depends on how much you play guitar but better to be safe than sorry. Everyone is free to choose what suits their personal choice but just for the record many of the elite rock players are now turning to the classical position simply because the difficulty of what they play demands it. A good example is John Petrucci of Dream Theater and G3. Check his video ROCK DISCIPLINE and notice how he sits.

You might also like the following blog:

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Top 5 most Requested Guitar Christmas Songs

Here is a list of our top 5 most requested Christmas songs by G4 GUITAR students. Ask your teacher to help you with the strumming and timing and you will be ready in time for Christmas day.
  1. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
  2. Jingle Bells
  3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  4. Amazing Grace
  5. Auld Lang Syne

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
Had a very shiny nose,

And if you ever saw it,
You would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer,
Used to laugh and call him names,

They never let poor Rudolph,
                  C      C7
Join in any reindeer games.
F              C              Dm    G7      C  
Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say,
G                                  D7                 G7
"Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"
Then how the reindeer loved him,
As they shouted out with glee,

"Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
You'll go down in history."

Jingle Bells

C                                             F

Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh,

                 G7                   C

O'er the fields we go, laughing all the way,

C                                      F

Bells on bobtails ring, making spirits bright,

                G7                               C

What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight, oh


C                                          C7

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,

F              C               D7             G7    

Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, hey,

C                                          C7

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,

F              C               G7             C

Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

   G                       C
You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry
   G                    C
You'd better not pout, I'm telling you why
G              D7        G       D7
Santa Claus is coming to town

  G                   C
He's making a list, he's checkin' it twice
  G                    C
He's gonna find out who's naughty and nice
G              D7        G    
Santa Claus is coming to town

G7                   C
He sees you when you're sleeping
G7               C
He knows if you're awake
A7                   D
He knows if you've been bad or good
   A7                D    
So be good for goodness sake

   G                       C
You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry
   G                    C
You'd better not pout, I'm telling you why
G              D7        G
Santa Claus is coming to town

Amazing Grace

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a
wretch like me. Oh I once was lost,but now am
found, was blind, but now I see.

 Auld Lang Syne

    D                A7

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

  D                G

And never brought to mind

     D                A7

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

F#7 Bm      Em    A7  D

And days of auld lang syne

  D         A7

For auld lang syne, my dear,

  D         G

For auld lang syne,

    D            A7

We'll take a cup o'kindness yet

F#7 Bm      Em   A7   D

And days of auld lang syne
The 80/20 Guitar Learning Method
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Saturday, November 16, 2013

How to get your child to practice guitar

Many parents worry that they may be too strict with their children when it comes to learning guitar. Their main fear is they will turn them off music forever. We have all heard stories of adults who say as a child they were forced to learn a musical instrument but many of these examples do not give the full story.

Cause and effect

Many adults have negative memories of a childhood revolving around daily arguments with their parents sometimes resulting in complete rebellion usually by their early teens. In search of the source of such arguments they often site being forced to learn a musical instrument. The problem with this theory is it concludes that when children are forced to learn something against their will they automatically resent their parents but we know this is simply not true. In fact much of our childhood is made up of forced learning yet we show very little if any resentment toward our parents for forcing us to read, write, solve math problems let alone forcing us to go to school and learn for 6 hours a day for 12 years.

Are you strict about teeth cleaning?

My guess is you have no hesitation in insisting your child to go to bed on time, brush their teeth, do their homework etc but do you treat guitar practice the same? There is nothing wrong with being strict about their practice just don't be cruel. By cruel I mean there is no need to physically or mentally inflict punishment onto your child.  When your child does not practice simply send them to their room and withdraw all privileges like TV, Internet etc until they have done their practice. It really is that simple. Once they realise there is no negotiation they will practice without resistance and the result will be progress which in itself becomes the motivator. This strategy works but you may very well get a few tears and tantrums early on but its quite normal.

A musical voice is a gift

The ability to play a musical instrument like guitar should not be underestimated. The guitar has given me thousands of hours of pleasure. Its also a great way to make friends and be sociable. Many of my best memories are of jams in a room filled with musicians. Learning music also develops the brain in a way that in recent years has been found to reduce the effects of brain ageing (E.g. dementia) not to mention the many findings around general cognitive improvement. If physically exercise is good for your body I believe learning a musical instrument is equally good for your brain and general well being. In this age of instant gratification learning to play a musical instrument also offers children important life lessons around learning skills that take time to develop. 
The ability to play a musical instrument is a gift that any parent can give to their child.

Tips on helping your child to succeed.

Now I also have some tips for parents that will increase the chances of your child becoming a success on guitar and they are as follows; 
  1. Realistic expectations. Many children think learning guitar is all fun and no work. Dispelling this myth from the outset will set realistic expectations. 
  2. Get involved. Parents who leave it totally up to their child will usually be disappointed. Getting involved builds confidence and encourages practice because all children seek parental attention. At first sit with them everyday. Even better try learning with them. Overtime you can gradually back away.
  3. Be consistent and persistent. Set a time each day for practice and stick to it. E.g. 5 pm each weekday. If their routine is broken try to get back on track asap. 
  4. Make it a game. When they are doing a particular exercise make a game out of it. Clap along. Sing along. Point to notes and ask them the names of notes.
  5. Monitor their progress. If they know you are cheering them on they are more likely to want to practice. Children love to impress their parents but to impress you they need to see that their achievements matter to you. Applaud even the smallest of achievements.
  6. Praise behaviour over results. The behaviour we seek is simply daily practice. Try not to focus on results too much. Praising them for practicing will encourage more practice. If its all about results children are more likely to give up before they get a result.
  7. Communicate with their teacher. I (David Hart) have personally been teaching guitar for over 25 years and I have noticed that when parents ask questions they are better able to help their children in the learning process.
  8. Focus on the positive. Its best to look at what they are doing well and highlight the fact. E.g. "WOW! 3 hours of practice this week. Isn't that a new record?"
  9. Focus on practice. - Remember its the habit of practice we want to cultivate. Studies show that results come ultimately to those who practice the most.
  10. Ask your child to teach you. Children love to show off what they know. If you get them to give you a lesson every week it will reinforce their knowledge while also boosting their confidence.
You may also like the following blog:

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

How do you teach a young child to play guitar?

Check out this 5 year old boy

One person asked how do you teach a young child to play like this and here is my answer.

This boy is outstanding but its obviously the result of daily practice and parental support. I have taught many young children guitar using the g4guitarmethod  including my own daughter who is now 4yo has been learning since 3yo. The secret is to sit with them everyday learning just a few notes each time. Young children are very fast learners. In fact they learn much faster than adults. Its only their ability to concentrate, coordination and muscle development that hold them back. Start early and plant the seeds.

You might also like the following blog:

Would You Like A Structured Method For Learning Guitar?

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Your mental state affects your ability to learn guitar

Learning guitar is as much about mental training as it is physical. Scientists have known for some time that our physical and mental health are linked. In the 1960's a Dr Charles Garfield (computer analyst) joined the infamous Apollo moon project and found himself surrounded by people who were leaders in their respective fields. He notice that many of his colleagues shared similar characteristics. Garfield then decided to investigate this further by studying high achievers in sports, business, science and the arts.

Peak PerformanceIn 1984 he wrote a book called 'Peak Performance' he noted six capacities or aptitudes of high achievers:

  • Missions that motivate (Why are you learning guitar? What is your mission? Do you have a clear goal?)
  • Results in real time (Set small achievable milestones. A checklist is ideal)
  • Self-management through self-mastery (Practice each day at the same time and record your practice times)
  • Team building and team playing (Try and find a partner to learn with. Its never too early to jam)
  • Course correction (If you are not getting results try something different but don't quit too early and seek advice from a teacher)
  • Change management. (Its okay to have different teachers or at least try a different teachers from time to time just to compare. Each teacher offers a fresh perspective).
The Real Reason People Quit Guitar

The fact is our mental state can make or break us. I have for many years stated that the single biggest reason people give up guitar is not for the many reasons they claim. Students will often say "I don't have time" or "I can't afford lessons" or my favourite "I just don't have the talent". The real reason is almost always CONFIDENCE which is all about one's mental state. I say this because in my more than 30 years of playing guitar and 20 years of teaching I have seen almost every scenario possible. I have seen students with enormous potential give up because they say they just don't have the talent. I have also seen students who are often slow in the early stages (where even I have questioned their ongoing commitment) stick it out and become amazing guitar players. The difference is confidence. Its confidence that keeps them going and its persistence and a determination to succeed that ultimately brings about success.

Confidence can make all the difference

Confidence is a mental state and is often the difference between success and failure yet very few people build it in to their guitar learning program. If you are not working on your mental preparation you are either one of the lucky few who are naturally confident or you are destined to give up or at the very least make little to no improvement. In my early years of teaching I noticed some teachers had high student retention rates where others had high dropout rates. The difference as I came to learn was confidence. Not confidence in the student but confidence in the teacher. A confident teacher knows that every student has the capacity to succeed and this in turns makes a student feel confident in achieving their goal. Tip: Find a confident teacher. Even an over confident teacher is better than a self-doubting teacher.

Hope that helps.

You might also like the following blog post; 

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Memorise the guitar fretboard

Memorizing the notes on the guitar fretboard will give you a big advantage. Once you have the notes memorised you will spend less time looking for notes and more time playing. The trick to memorising the guitar neck is to do it one note at a time. So here are the steps.

Step 1. Learn the chromatic scale. The chromatic scale consists of 12 notes. *A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#. To better understand the chromatic scale I recommend you check out the G4 Guitar Theory book. To receive a free copy subscribe via our website www.g4guitarmethod.com .

Step 2. Find all the A notes on each string and memorise their positions. Practice this for a week. 

Step 3. In the next week find all the B notes and practice everyday for a week. 3rd week find all the C notes and so on.

The idea is to rotate around the notes spending a week on each until you can find any note instantly then use the chromatic scale to locate the sharps and flats.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How to avoid quitting guitar by focusing on the process

Put the process before the goal

The above concept is one that many of us find difficult but is a critical factor in learning guitar. The percentage of students of guitar  who actually reach their goals compared to the number who actually  take up guitar would have to be one of lowest compared with other instruments and perhaps most pursuits. My educated guess in around 5% of guitar students ever achieve their goals. Compare that to mountain climbers,  joggers and probably even dieters you can see it's not a great result.

Understanding the process.

While there is no one simple answer as to why so many people give up guitar there are definitely some worthwhile answers to consider. One such answer that is worth discussing comes via Ellen J Langer (Harvard psychology professor and author of the book 'Mindfulness'). Langer points out that when we focus children on goals (E.g. past a test, recite your alphabet etc) we are missing a very important element. The process. Often when we look at someone who is good at anything we are blind to the process that got them to where they are today. When children see another person pick up a guitar and skillfully execute a difficult song and don't understand the process that got that person to that level of skill they can feel inferior which can lead them to stop trying and give up.


The sad reality is this childhood conditioning can be pervasive affecting many other areas of a child's learning. But worst of all such conditioning usually carries over into adulthood. As adults the condition  is so automatic that we do not even notice it. This is where we are in a state of mindlessness. I have seen it many times. Adults enroll for guitar lessons. Pay for their first 5 lessons and by the 4th lesson their automatic conditioning has kicked in and is giving them 101 reasons why they can't achieve success on guitar. "I am simply not good enough", "I don't have the time", "I can't afford the lessons", "there were no talented musicians in my family so I must have no talent" or my favorite "I am too old". Funnily enough at 14yo I thought I was too old.

Focusing on the process.

So the trick is to avoid obsessing about the goal and focus on the process. Goals are important of course but are greatly misunderstood. When pilots are flying planes they know the destination but they are focused on flying the plane in that moment. If they didn't they may easily neglect something important and next thing you know the plane is in a downward spiral. I use this analogy because it describes what happens to most people who take up guitar. They are so busy focusing on the goal that they neglect what is in front of them. Instead of trying to play your favorite yet inappropriate (too difficult) song focus on learning a basic chord, scale or even just how to count in time. When you focus on the process or better still get lost in the process you suddenly wake up one day and find yourself at the destination (goal).

Hope that helps.

David Hart - Program Director

You might also like the following blog post; 

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Monday, October 14, 2013

"How long does it take to learn guitar?"

While there is no exact answer to this this question the best answer I can offer you is 2 years if you practice 30 minutes a day based on average expectations but there are ways to do it in less time. The term 'deliberate practice' refers to practicing guitar in such a way that your practice is meaningful and more focused. Its very easy to randomly practice different songs or exercises without really having a clear purpose or direction. A good example would be a scale. Your guitar teacher might give a scale to practice but do you really understand why you are practicing the scale? It may even be possible that the scale is a waste of time based on your interests. For example if you want to be a pure blues guitarists practicing a melodic minor scale is probably not the best use of your time.

Keeping you focused on the 20% that matters

The idea behind G4 Guitar is to halve the time it takes to learn guitar (1 year or less) through efficient practice methods. The Pareto principle (often called the 80/20 rule) suggests that 80% of results come from 20% of your efforts. G4 is all about focusing on the 20% that matters the most. The G4 Guitar Method works especially well for young children even as young as 4 years old. So if you or your child have even the slightest interest in guitar I recommend checking out the G4 Guitar Method especially if you are a beginner.

Free 5 week  Beginner Guitar Course
Please follow the link to subscribe to our free online course. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chicago’s Rock for Kids program helping underserved children

I discovered these guys online and was immediately impressed. Chicago’s Rock for Kids started out with a simple mission and that was to provide kids in underserved schools a free music education. Music I believe is every child's right in the same way language is a right. An education in music gives every child a chance to explore what could almost be considered a basic human need. Think about it. Every culture in the world has music. Music has been with us for thousands of years and passing it down to our children is essential so when children miss out on a music education it truly is a tragedy.

Chicago’s Rock for Kids began in 1988 with just a handful of student and today teaches over 5000 students across the city. Its worth noting that 86% of children in Chicago's public schools are classified as below the poverty line so they certainly have a lot more children who need their help.

To raise money Rock for Kids runs raffles. A rare John Lennon 70th Anniversary J-160E Vintage Sunburst guitar will be raffled off at their 25th Annual Rock and Roll Benefit Auction  on the 9th of November at the Park West. The guitar is one of only 500 in the world, is worth close to $4,000 and was donated by The Chicago Music Exchange. If you want a chance this collectors item  raffle tickets cost $25 and can be purchased now by calling 312-255-9454.

For more information on Rock for Kids visit http://www.rockforkids.org/

Free 5 week  Beginner Guitar Course
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Friday, October 4, 2013


One day for one of many possible reasons you decide to learn guitar. You say to yourself "How hard can it be? After all every second person and there dog seems to be able to play something on guitar." You buy yourself a guitar, a guitar book and maybe even some lessons with a guitar teacher. The salesperson in the guitar shop reassures you that learning guitar is fun and you will love it. The book you bought has a title like "Easy Guitar for Complete Idiots" and the cover assures you that within a few weeks you will be playing at least a few of your favourite songs. Finally the teacher you enrol with confirms that guitar is not hard as long as you put a few minutes of practice in each day and of course hand over a few hundred dollars to the teacher and you will be playing like Jimi Hendrix (behind your head) in no time.

Wasting your time perhaps?

A few months later you realise its all a scam. You can't play a single song and even the simplest riff (E.g. Smoke on the water) still only sounds half right. Your fingers are sore, you are frustrated and have come to the decision that you have no talent for guitar and have been wasting your time and money. It's time to quit while you are ahead. You are a little disappointed but life is too short to waste on regrets right? Its time to move on and put it down to experience.

You have been lied to and I am here to talk you out of giving up. We have estimated that 90% or more of people give up guitar in the first year and most feel exactly the same as you. The good news is those who get past the first year are unlikely to give up and there is a very good reason. The idea that guitar is easy is an urban myth. Sure its easy to play a few basic chords or riffs but the guitar is NOT EASY! Let me say it again . GUITAR IS NOT EASY.

Guitar is like learning to write
It takes at least 1 year of daily practice to get the fundamentals in place. Guitar playing is a complexed motor skill just like learning to write? Would you expect a child (who by the way learns faster than we do) to learn to write in a few weeks or even months? Of course not. We know that it takes a few years yet we put these unrealistic expectations on to ourselves. 

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Do your expectations for learning guitar match reality?

Early on in my guitar teaching career I realised many of the guitar students who came to me grew increasingly disappointed with their progress on guitar over time. This made me question my own ability as a teacher and led me to try and understand why. The answer became more obvious as I researched the problem.

Great expectations

Everyone has an expectation. For some to be able to play a few basic chords and strum out some simple songs is enough. For others they set the bar very high and as a result become disappointed. I would say the great majority fall into the later. We also compare ourselves to others believing if we are not progressing at the same pace we are failing. Fact is we are all very different. Some will pick up the guitar quickly while for others it will be a slower process. The trick is to lower your expectations and treat it like an experiment and do not compare yourself to anyone.

How feedback will help you

My students were not always aware but I was constantly reassuring them and giving them feedback in regards to their progress on guitar. This is critical because it keeps things in perspective for the guitar student. When they imagined being able to play guitar like their favourite guitarists they often overlook the fact that the guitarist they imagine has had years and years of experience. Some practicing for thousands of hours. Expecting to be anywhere even close after say 20 hours of learning is just totally unrealistic. I would begin by putting things into perspective for students by explaining that learning guitar takes time and then reassuring them of what they needed to do to move closer to their goal.

Staying on track

Constant feedback also helps you to stay on track. Our minds are easily distracted. Having someone keeping you focused and on task will literally shorten the amount of time it takes you to achieve your goals. Even if a teacher teaches you nothing new the value of them being there and keeping you on track will be worth the cost of the lesson. After all the goal is simply to be able to play guitar in the shortest amount of time. 

You might also like the following blog:

Would You Like A Structured Method For Learning Guitar?

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why guitar practice is better than Facebook

I know you love Facebook and nothing compares to the hours of pleasure you get but hear me out. Facebook has been shown to be addictive, largely time wasting and offers little in return for the time invested (the exception being if you are in business).  Our brain produces dopamine when it anticipates pleasure. We perceive Facebook as a pleasure activity in the same way we might find eating a sugary snack pleasurable. The dopamine in our brain is what motivates us to eat one more donut or read one more Facebook post. The problem is we are rarely left fulfilled. In fact we almost always feel worse. The donut is unhealthy and realising you just wasted 2 hours on Facebook creates a feeling of guilt.

So what about practicing guitar?

Guitar practice on the other hand creates the opposite. We might prefer Facebook in the moment and it might feel good compared to doing our guitar practice but I guarantee you that you will feel much better after even 90 minutes of guitar practice compared to 90 minutes of Facebook. If you don't believe me try it.

We are programmed for Facebook

Throughout our evolution our survival was largely the result of our ability to work in social groups. Our ancestors lived in tribes and  Facebook plays on our social instinct to be part of a tribe. The problem is that Facebook exaggerates this reality so we end up investing way too much time in to our network of so called friends. Times have changed and today we need to be aware of such technological traps. Facebook is fine in moderation but try matching your time on guitar with your time on all devices and I imagine you will become pretty damn good on guitar in a year or two.

 You might also like the following blog:


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Friday, September 13, 2013

Why online guitar lessons are starting to become popular

When I speak to students many say that they are not interested in online lessons because it feels strange and impersonal. I then follow up by asking if they have tried an online lesson and in almost every case the answer is no. I now teach exclusively online as do many teachers across a range of industries and it is highly effective but comes with a few added benefits. 

The benefits of online learning

Online learning is very convenient for both teacher and student. Guitar teachers for as long as I can remember have had a conflict of interests. Guitar teachers want to be playing gigs which often means touring. This leads to lesson cancellations and students being forced to change teachers mid way through their learning. Kids especially will often quit guitar when their teacher leaves because they don't like change. Online lessons solve this problem. Guitarists can now take their students with them wherever they go. 

But wait...there's more

A big benefit students get is the convenience of learning from home. This saves parents having to organise their busy schedule to get kids to and from lessons. Guitar lessons are typically 30 mins and if you allow for travel its at least an hour out of the parent's day that could be better spent I am sure. Learning online while not the same as having a teacher in front of you is just as effective and I believe will become the standard in the next 5 years.

 You might also like the following blog:

Would You Like A Structured Method For Learning Guitar?

 5 week Structured Beginner Guitar Course
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Monday, September 2, 2013

What Are Modes And How Do They Apply To Guitar?

Basic Introduction to Modes
Modes are simple in theory but can take a little time to understand. Think of the major scale as the first of 7 modes known as Ionian. If you were to play for example a C major scale you would also be playing a C Ionian mode. The 7 mode names are as follows;
1. Ionian  2. Dorian  3. Phrygian  4.Lydian  5. Mixolydian  6. Aeolian  7. Locrian
The second mode Dorian simply starts on the second note of the major scale. The Phrygian starts on the 3rd note of the major scale. The Lydian the 4th note of the major scale, Mixolydian starts on the 5th, the Aeolian the 6th and the Locrian the 7th.
Lets use the key of C to better understand the modes.
  1. C Ionian mode (Same as a C major scale): C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.
  2. D Dorian mode (starting on the 2nd note of the C major scale): D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D.
  3. E Phrygian mode (starting on the 3rd note of the C major scale): E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E.
  4. F Lydian mode (starting on the 4th note of the C major scale): F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F.
  5. G Mixolydian mode (starting on the 5th note of the C major scale): G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G.
  6. A Aeolian mode (starting on the 6th note of the C major scale): A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A.
  7. B Locrian mode (starting on the 7th note of the C major scale): B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B.
Begin by learning the modes above that relate to the key of C. This will get your ear familiar with each mode as well as helping  you to learn the shapes. Once you are comfortable with each mode shape move to a different note using the same shape. For example D Dorian is D to D but if you take the same shape and start on E it will now be an E Dorian and will relate to the key of D major. Understanding which modes fit which keys will depend on the notes in the mode and this will take a little more explanation.  
The above example uses the key of C. The challenge is learn each mode associated with each key. Example if you playing an B Phrygian do you know that it relates to the key of G major? Once you understand which mode fits with which key theoretically you will have mastered the modes. Practicing them on guitar then becomes the real challenge.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

What is 'Deliberate' guitar practice?

The term 'Deliberate Practice' can at first seem a little confusing because one would assume all practice is deliberate right? Apparently not. Firstly deliberate practice is now a recognised term and the most prominent researcher on the subject is Professor Anders Ericsson of Florida State University in the USA. Ericsson and his team have focused on the question of what makes people great. They wanted to know what makes a Tiger Woods or a Michael Jordon. I think most guitarists want to know what makes a John Petrucci or a Steve Vai or a Steve Morse or a Paco Pena. Well the conclusion is Deliberate Practice.

Secrets of greatness
Here is a quote from a Fortune article entitled 'Secrets of greatness' 'The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call "deliberate practice." It's activity that's explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one's level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.'

10,000 hours of practice
Lets apply it to guitar (of course) to help gain a better understanding of the real meaning of deliberate practice. Most researchers agree that to earn the title of a master in almost any field takes around 10,000 hours of practice. But as we all know just strumming a guitar for 3 hours a day on your lounge for 10 years won't necessarily make you a master guitar player. The practice has to be focus and goal oriented. In other words 'deliberate'. Just going through the motions is not enough. In fact if every practice session you did was well planned with both a short term and long term goal you will almost certainly reach mastery if you are prepared to do it everyday for several hours for around 10 years or in some cases less. The researchers agree that no one masters anything without hard work. Ericsson quotes, "Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends."

Natural talent
It appears natural talent only takes you so far. Those with a natural talent often have an advantage in the early stages but this advantage tends to diminish over time and deliberate practice becomes the deciding factor. This is good news for the majority of us have very little natural talent for music. There are alos many factors that influence so called natural talent that are actually the result of our environment more so than any inborn talent.

Hard work is understated
Here is a quote form Will Smith (Actor) in a interview a few years ago. “I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. I’ve viewed myself as slightly above average in talent. And where I excel is ridiculous, sickening, work ethic. You know, while the other guy’s sleeping? I’m working. While the other guy’s eatin’? I’m working. While the other guy’s making love, I mean, I’m making love, too. But I’m working really hard at it,” he tells Kroft, laughing.

If you want to be great its really has little to do with talent. One of the great guitarists of all time was Django Reinhardt and he only had 2 and a half fingers. Deliberate practice is about focus. Students should practice with a clear goal in mind so their practice actually makes sense.

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