Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The 10 minute a Day Guitar Practice Strategy.

Learn to play guitar 10 mins at a time
Procrastination is definitely high on the list of reasons why students fail to learn guitar. If you are guilty of skipping your daily practice due to procrastination the 10 minute a day strategy may just be the answer. 
One of the main reasons we tend to avoid any task is because we just don't feel like we have the time. I know this feeling come tax time. It feels like such a huge task that I just want to keep putting it off. These days I rarely have a problem because I now apply my 10 minute a day strategy and before I know it my tax return is done.

No time for guitar practice? Really?

Most students will cite a lack of time as the reason why they did not practice guitar. The truth is time is rarely the reason. It just feels that way. Its mostly likely procrastination. When you get home from school or work your first instinct is relax or attend to those things in front of you. E.g. Checking emails, Facebook or perhaps you grab a bite, watch a little TV, surf the net or chat to a friend. Before you know it several hours have passed and it feels like there are just not enough hours in the day. 

Changing your perception 

Those tasks that seem to require a good 30 minutes or more of time tend to get pushed back while we attend to the so-called 2 minute tasks like checking emails even though checking your emails will almost always take 30 minutes or more. Its actually all about perception. When we think about guitar practice we imagine that it will take a lot of our time so we put it off till later but later of course never comes. The solution is to turn what seems like a big task (30+ mins) into a small task (10mins). 

Do just 10 minutes each time. 

You can of course do more but you can stop after 10 minutes if you wish. 10 mins is such a short time period that you can fit it in almost anywhere on your schedule. In fact you will find it easy enough to do more than once a day when you get into the routine. Doing 10 mins a day will build your confidence and there will be days where you will not even notice the time and end up doing more. Over time you will almost certainly increase your practice. I say almost certainly because the hardest part about learning guitar is establishing the practice routine. Once your routine is in place going to 20 mins, 30 mins or an hour or more is easy. Remember what matters most is consistency. 10 mins a day is better than 70 mins once a week. If you are not practicing at least 6 days a week then give it a try. 

You might also like the following blog:

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

What do The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Van Halen have in common?

There was a time when I thought rockstars were lucky. I believed they were just born under the right star. As time went by and I read more and more about the path to success for almost every successful band and artist it became quite apparent that their talent and success was actually the result a lot of work. As AC/DC said "Its a long way to the top if you want to Rock n Roll." Author Malcolm Gladwell popularised what is known as the  10,000 hour rule which basically says that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in a given area. While this rule is a little hard to measure let alone prove it would seem that The Beatles, Hendrix and Van Halen all had spent at least 10,000 hours perfecting their craft prior to international success. 

The Beatles: They started out like any other band and to many seemed like an overnight success but the real story prior to Beatlemania shows the enormous amount of hours that went into creating the most successful band of all time. For years the Fab Four slugged it out night after night sometimes for 8 hours at a time in clubs in night clubs in the UK and Hamburg Germany. They would travel from Liverpool sometimes in freezing conditions to perform all night. Some say no band equalled The Beatles in terms of hours spent on stage during that period. Their success only came after thousands of hours of on stage performance. 

Jimi Hendrix: Jimi actually began his guitar playing with a broomstick. When he finally did get a guitar he practiced obsessively and apparently even  slept with his guitar. Jimi lived in Seattle and would go to see every guitarist he could taking his guitar to gigs with him and asking the guitarist to show him his licks and tricks. While a shy kid he was not backward in approaching these guitar players for advice. Jimi always knew he wanted to be on the stage and took every opportunity to play. While shy off stage on stage he would completely transform. At one point he managed to get a gig with Little Richard who at the time was a star but he got fired because he was stealing the spotlight. Eventually Jimi was discovered by Linda Keith (Keith Richard's girlfriend at the time) in a New York club who in turn introduced him to Chas Chandler who took Hendrix to the UK where he met Clapton and others. By that time Jimi had spent thousands of hours developing his guitar playing and was a season performer. He would have done more than 10,000 hours of guitar practice by that time. 

Van Halen: Eddie and Alex practiced their instruments for hours and hours everyday as kids. When they arrived in the US from Holland they could not speak English so this meant it was difficult to mix with other kids in their neighbourhood. Originally Eddie played drums and Alex guitar but they soon swapped. A close friend said in an interview that they were always inside practicing. When they finally started performing they played mostly parties in and around Pasadena California and were willing to play anywhere and everywhere often risking being arrested due to noise violations. Van Halen became popular and the parties they played sometimes had 2000+ people turning up. They soon landed a gig at a well known venue in Hollywood and their audiences continued to grow. What separated Van Halen from most bands at the time was they amount of time they spent on stage. They played almost every night for years.

Conclusion: The 10,000 hour rule does appear to be a common denominator. While there are never any guarantees determination, persistence and hard work seem to be basic requirements of success. Luck does perhaps play a role but if you are persistence the odds of luck turning up are greatly increased. 

You might also like the following blog:

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

5 Ways to Inspire Yourself to Practice Guitar

The majority of people who take up guitar do so because they were inspired by a guitarist, band or song. When they made their guitar purchase they were excited and imagined themselves practicing everyday but somewhere along the way the fire went out. Guitar practice began to feel like a chore. Even when they could find a spare 30 minutes they no longer felt inspired. For most guitar students this is where the story ends but it doesn't have to be that way. Your desire to play guitar has not disappear. In nearly every case you will regret not sticking with it. The real question is 'How do you stay inspired to practice? Here are my 5 tips; 

1. Commit to daily practice

You might be saying that committing to daily practice is hardly inspirational but I can assure you the more consistent you are the more inspired you will become. You will feel yourself improving and even the smallest incremental improvements are inspiring.

2. Listen to more guitar music

Think of your brain as having several different personalities all with their own agendas and all competing for your attention.  Listening to guitar music is likely what inspired you in the first place so listening to inspiring guitar music will switch on that part of the brain that wants to practice guitar. 

3. Learn with a friend

When you share the experience of learning guitar its not only more fun but you have someone who will keep guitar top of mind. They say the biggest challenge with most things is keeping it front and centre. If you are learning by yourself its easy to forget to practice but if you and a friend are learning together it will come to mind a lot more often.

4. Check out guitar performances

When I attend a performance from a favourite guitarist or guitar band I can confidently say my inspiration to practice is at its highest. I have at times come home from watching concerts at 1AM and sat up all night practicing. Seeing a good concert even once every few months is enough to keep most people inspired.

5. Learn with a teacher

I can say without a doubt that my first guitar teacher made the difference between failure and success. He kept me inspired from week to week often when I was ready to throw in the towel. I remember quite clearly how I felt after each lesson. Some weeks I would go in feeling frustrated and ready to quit but by the end of the lesson I was pumped. If you seriously want to stay inspired find a great teacher.

                      You might also like the following blog:

                       "When will I be able to play a song?"

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

3 Reasons Why Children Quit Guitar

If you are a parent with a child learning guitar or any musical instrument for that matter its important to understand the reasons your child may possibly decide to quit. There are of course many reasons why a child might fail to learn to play guitar but if you are a parent I want to point out just 3 reasons that if understood can often be avoided.

Focusing on results rather than practice

Results can take time and are somewhat unpredictable. When students focus too much on results they can easily become frustrated and want to give up. Instead we should encourage children to focus on the practice because this is achievable. For example if I say to a child that I want them to be able to play this song by next week verses I want them to practice this song for 30 minutes a day which seems more achievable? The 30 minutes a day of course. If I had said the former and after a few practice sessions they were struggling with the song they may very well become frustrated and even conclude that guitar is too hard.

Loss of confidence 

When children learn guitar they often don't get the fact that they are learning. They falsely believe its some kind of test. They think that they can either do it or not. When they fail after a few attempts their confidence drops. Watch children with a new game or puzzle. If the puzzle is not easily solvable they will generally move on to something new. There is no doubt an evolutionary reason for this but when it comes to learning a skill confidence matters. When a child loses interest what is generally happening is a loss of confidence in their ability to master the challenge. The remedy is to adjust the level of difficulty by giving them steps. Creating easier exercises is the best solution which leads me to the 3rd reason children quit guitar.

Communication with your child's guitar teacher

Parents who meet and discuss the ups and downs of their child's motivation to practice guitar dramatically increase their chances of success. You might be involved at home and even attend lessons but its important to speak to the teacher and communicate any problems you see. Guitar teachers work with children everyday and will usually be able to recommend a workable solution. The problem sometimes is that teachers don't know what is going on at home so its important to speak up. Early in my teaching career I would expect a few phone calls at the end of each term from parents saying their child wasn't continuing lessons due to a lack of interest, practice, progress or a combination of all three. In many cases it came as a complete surprise and I had no idea the their child was struggling at home. I realised after a few years that I needed to ask more questions and communicate more with parents to avoid this situation and it worked.  My student drop out rate decreased dramatically once I began communicating more with parents but it works both ways. Have you spoken to your child's guitar teacher lately?

You might also like the following blog:

Would You Like A Structured Method For Learning Guitar?

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guitar Improvisation for Beginners.

Here is a good little lesson for beginners on the topic of improvisation presented by Guitar Coach Mag.

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5 Tips To Finding Your Own Guitar Sound

"How do I find my own sound?" This is a popular question from the more advancing student who has a grip on the fundamentals of guitar playing but wants to discover their own sound:  Here are 5 tips that should help.

  1. What do YOU like? Not your friends, neighbours, the masses or critics. Its what you like that counts. Identify what truly excites you. Other people's opinions matter if you are trying to appeal to a particular audience or gain a record deal but ultimately if you are not playing music you are passionate about you will lose motivation. Staying true to the music you love will set you on a clear direct path to discovering your own sound.
  2. Focus on the guitar rather than the guitarist. It helps to listen to different guitarists but try not to judge. Some of my favourite guitar solos, licks and riffs have appeared on the records of artists of would not normally have listened to. Also just because a guitarist is famous and respected doesn't mean every note they play has to appeal to you. Pick out what you like about their playing and avoid copying everything they do. Brian May of Queen is one of my favourite guitar players but I only like certain elements of his playing.
  3. DO NOT try to be good at everything. Recognise your personal strengths and run with them. The key to success they say is focusing on your strengths and minimising your weaknesses. This doesn't mean you avoid working on your weaknesses. Just don't sweat on them too much and invest most of your time in to your strengths. BB King for example doesn't know chords but boy he can do a sweet bend. Eddie Van Halen master tapping but the odds are he is not much of a jazz guitarist but hey I could be wrong.
  4. Pay attention to your sound. The quality of your sound can make all the difference. When I say your sound I am referring firstly to the way you actually play. For example the way you attack notes and hold them. How does it sound? Try playing just one note. Next is the equipment you are using. The guitar itself, the amp and also the guitar/amp combinations. Don't compromise. Keep searching for 'that' sound.
  5. Jam whenever with whoever. Playing with other musicians is like a good conversation. When you are in good company chances are you will lift your game and pick up ideas from other players. Plus its a lot more fun.

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Power of Tracking your Guitar Practice

Tracking yourself is extremely underrated. When you decide on a goal but have no tracking system in place your chances of reaching that goal are dramatically reduced.  I have seen it time and time again with myself, my students, my business, my health and the evidence is everywhere. I am going to give some examples to strongly persuade you that tracking your practice and progress when learning guitar (or anything for that matter) will make all the difference.

My own guitar journey.

As a young teen I took up guitar and drums around about the same time. With guitar I decided to teach myself and with drums I signed up for formal tuition. With guitar I would watch friends whereas with drums I worked from a book that had specific exercises. On the drums I was given a set number of exercises to complete each week so I was able to clearly track my progress through the book. A year later I was drumming professionally (at 14yo) and my guitar playing was going nowhere. Although I really enjoyed the drums the guitar was more attractive but I needed help. I didn’t realise it at the time but I had succeeded on drums because I was tracking my progress thanks to my teacher. My guitar teacher helped me to do the same for guitar and a year later I was playing professionally as a guitarist and also started teaching guitar.

Measuring equals progress

When I began teaching I still did not realise that tracking student progress was the key. For a number of years I simply gave students riffs, songs, scales, chords etc and hoped they would do the practice. I eventually worked out that great teachers and coaches had something in common. They tracked the progress of their students. Whether it be piano teachers who use a book with specific milestones or a swim coach who records times or a weight loss trainer who measures BMI they all seemed to be getting results. I must confess that I do a lot of reading so this realisation was not my idea. I probably read it a hundred times in various ways before I got it. When I did finally get it I knew I was about to join the ranks of successful coaches. Its a simple formula but does take work.

Why does it work?

The reason measuring works is because it keeps you motivated. If you say that you want to be able to play guitar by 2013 well enough to be able to play say 5 of your favourite songs that is a nice goal. Problem is that along the way you are likely to get frustrated, bored or just feel like you are going no where. If you track the amount of time you practice each day even if you don’t feel immediate progress you will feel good because you can see the investment of time you are making. This keeps you motivated. I know this to be true not just for myself but for my students. I made it compulsory for my students to write down their practice times each day. A few ignored my requests and they were the same ones who gave up. Almost every student who tracked progress stayed the course. Cause and effect at its best. But to be scientific you need to look at it from another angle to be sure. You could say that those who used the practice log were just more motivated to begin with but I was able to observe other teachers who did not use practice logs or enforced them to varying degrees and they on the whole had greater drop out rates.

The inspiring teacher

Some teachers had inspiring personalities that kept students hanging in there but the students were usually only inspired in the lesson but not to practice at home. They enjoyed the lessons and liked their teacher but were still not confident about their ability to learn guitar. You see the student needs to become confident in their ability to learn guitar and that comes from knowing they are in control. When you teach a student to track their own progress they begin to correlate that with progress. Knowing that your progress is in your hands and under your control is ultimately what drives you to work harder and eventually achieve your goals.


You don’t have to look far for examples of where tracking works. Watch shows like ‘Biggest loser’ or check out bestseller books by Tim Ferris (4 hour fitness) or Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers). Look at any sport today and its full of statistics. Players are constantly measuring their vital statistics. It has been shown that people who weight themselves each day are less likely to gain weight. Tim Ferris says that measuring is far more powerful than any kind of motivational tool. You can watch Tim Ferris doing a Google talk by clicking here. I hope I have convinced you but please feel free to email any questions you have. g4guitar1@gmail.com

Start Tracking Your Guitar Practice - Free PDF

To help you get started follow this link to download a FREE PDF to start tracking your practice times.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Learning Guitar Starts With Listening

Listening is severely underrated when it comes to learning to play guitar. If you truly want to succeed on guitar you must be an active listener of guitar music. As a guitar teacher I have even found myself neglecting to both listen and to advise my students to listen. There are two types of listening and both are important so let me explain in more detail.

Type 1. Listening for inspiration

In this case you are listening for the pure enjoyment and inspiration the music brings. The idea is to find guitar music (when I say guitar music I mean anything with a guitar in it which could be a band, singer/songwriter, solo guitarist etc) that you personally like. It does not matter what others think. It only has to inspire you. Music should also be a journey of discovery. When I hear something new and fresh that inspires me I can't wait to jump on my guitar. Start with the music you already like and search online to find similar music or perhaps look at who influenced the artist.

Type 2. Listening to learn

When we listen to learn we are basically trying to understand the elements of the music. Firstly we want to identify the guitar and whether or not there is more than one guitar. We need to work out the tuning of the guitar, the key of the song, the chords and scales being applied etc. The aim is to take what we hear and transferred it to the guitar. The difficulty of this exercise will depend on your experience and the complexity of the song itself. When I started learning guitar in the 80's I would listen to AC/DC working out the riffs, chords and scales literally one note at a time. At first it was difficult but the more I did it the easy it got.

How much listening should you do?

With type 1 listening you should do this whenever possible. Music should be a passion for you so this should never be a chore. I think most days I spend time just listening and becoming inspired by music and if I miss a day I actually feel something was missing so daily type 1 listening is my preference. With type 2 I believe you should spend about 20% of your practice time listening and trying to work out what you hear. I strongly recommend finding a teacher to help you especially in the early phases because they will be able to correct and guide you either way make sure you do it every few days if possible.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When is the BEST time to START learning GUITAR?

I love this question because the obvious answer is RIGHT NOW! The problem is the 'right now' answer does not always feel right wouldn't you agree? Perhaps you are moving house, about to go traveling, having a baby, have no money or are just not in the right head space. Well let me give you my reply to all of the above and just about any other reason you can think up.

 Is there ever a good time?

Think of guitar like a relationship. When you find that special person do you say "Sorry but I am busy at the moment so let me get back to you when I have more time." The guitar love affair starts now and you need to adjust your life to allow for it. If you keep putting guitar off it will probably never happen. Guitar is something that we do or don't do. Life is not going to be any less busy tomorrow or next week or next year. Life will always be busy.

Dabbling doesn't cut it.

I am not a fan of dabbling especially with guitar because you will only be disappointed. It pains me to see guitar students who dabble for years only to end up frustrated. They never do enough practice to make any meaningful progress. In some cases they realise dabbling is the source of their frustration and become committed to daily practice but in most cases their guitar playing dies a slow death.

Step up or step off.

My advice is to put aside 30+ minutes a day to do what is known as 'deliberate practice' and commit for 6 months. After 6 months reassess whether or not you want to continue playing guitar. If at anytime in that 6 months you decided to quit early give yourself one more week. Say to yourself "I have decided to quit guitar but I will make practice for one more week and make my final decision in a week from now." You will be surprised what a week will do. The reason I say to commit for 6 months is because if you practice everyday for 6 months you will feel real progress. You will find it difficult to quit at this point because you will feel like you are halfway up the mountain so to speak. You will want to keep going and it will feel a lot easier.

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