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.

You might also like the following blog:

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Limit Your Options For Guitar Success.

To reach your goal of succeeding on guitar limit your options. Thomas Schelling a behavioral economist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 believes that to reach our goals we must limit our options. We live in a world where the options seem infinite and are rising rapidly every year. 

Life in the 1920‘s
My Grandmother who is now 100 years old lived in a very different world. When she was a young girl there was no Internet, video games or TV. They were restricted in travel due to the expense and time involved. She lived in a small country town so the options for females were limited to arts and crafts. As a result my Grandmother became exceptional at needlework. Her knitting was amazing, often extremely detailed and super fast. She could knit you a jumper in less time than it took to get in the car, drive to the shops, make a selection, buy the jumper and return home. 

Too many distractions
These days everyone has a mobile phone with 20 or more apps. Most visit dozens of websites everyday. Most people have four or more regular activities such as school, work, sports, fitness, Facebook, Twitter, hobbies and so on. Even those who manage to focus on just a few areas don’t effectively focus on one area within that interest. For example most people who learn guitar jump from one song to another and have little to no discipline in their practice. They will visit dozens or even hundreds of websites and sign up for various courses rarely getting past the beginner stage before moving on to the next course.

The desert island scenario
Imagine you were on a desert island where everything you need is provided in terms of food and shelter. No also image there is no TV or Internet or any other distraction for that matter. All you have is a guitar and a single method of learning to play guitar from beginner to advanced. The odds are you will stay very focused. Not because you suddenly become good at focusing but because you have nothing else to distract you. When our options are limited we have very little choice other than to focus.

Limit your options for success on guitar
To help limit your options and succeed on guitar I recommend the following. Choose a room in your house where there are no distractions. No TV, no Internet etc. Now choose just one method of learning guitar. E.g. The G4 Guitar Method. Each day go to that room for one hour with your guitar and the method. Make sure you can not be disturbed or distracted in any way and see what happens. Let me know how you go. 

You might also like the following blog:

Would You Like A Structured Method For Learning Guitar?

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

7 Ways to Become a Better Guitar Student

1. Make sure your guitar is in tune before the lesson starts-this means at home tune before your teacher gets there, or tune either once you get to the studio/store or at home before you put your guitar in the case. This saves valuable minutes-especially if you take 30 min lessons! 4-5 tuning minutes can equal 13% or more of your lesson time! Buy an electronic tuner to help you. This will pay for itself when you think about saving 4-5 minutes per lesson:

2. Show up on time-this one is pretty obvious, but I feel like it needs to be stated anyway. If your teacher comes over, make sure your space is set up and ready to go.

3. Make sure you have all of your things with you. This includes your guitar (obvious I hope!), picks, folder, music you're learing, notebook, iPod, CD, tuner, capo (if needed), etc. Just make sure you have your stuff with you!

4. Make sure your teacher writes down your assignments- this will keep you accountable in your practice time during the week. You will have the assignments clearly in front of you and that helps with being scatter-brained. (Your teacher should be doing this too!)

5. Be sure to have some goals in mind. You should work on these with your teacher. Be realistic, but also dream big. If your goal is to tour the planet you might obviously have to start with some shorter term goals, but your teacher will benefit knowing you are serious about guitar. If your goal is to play songs for your friends at parties, your teacher will work with you to pick good solo sing-a-long songs instead of classical pieces or guitar solo heavy songs.

6. Make sure to practice the recommended time. This will vary depending on level, age, goals, etc but a very basic time frame for a person around the age of 12 and up would be 3 or 4 times a week for 20-30 minutes. This would be a minimum time, but the consistency is the key! The more OFTEN you play, the better you get. If you practice 4 days a week for 30 minutes, you'll get far more out of it than one mega practice session of 2 hours per week.

7. If you're investing in regular guitar lessons, also invest in the 'must-have' tools to help your lessons: metronome and tuner. I've already talked about a tuner, but the metronome can be equally important. It will help you steady your time feel and rhythm. You will probably need some help on using it, and getting used to playing with a metronome can be frustrating at first. BUT you will be much better off in the long run if you stick with it. OPTIONAL:Capo, useful mostly for students who sing and play. Written by Sam Smiley from Brookfield, IL 60513 USA.

You might also like the following blog:

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

What Will Your Future Guitar Self Look Like?

Did you know pride actually increases willpower? According to the book 'The Willpower Instinct' imagining yourself in the future reaching your goals creates a sense of pride which increases willpower.  It actually makes perfect sense because the only reason any of us picked up the guitar in the first place was because we imagined our future selves succeeding.  Its only when that vision starts to fade that we lose motivation to practice its therefore important to stay in touch with your future self by tapping into your imagination.

Keeping your future self alive and well.

Try imagining yourself in the future being an accomplished skilful guitarist. Think about how hard you worked. The hundreds even thousands of hours of disciplined practice it took to reach guitar mastery. Imagine how your friends and family will react when they see you playing on a stage in front of thousands of admiring fans. Imagine any scenario that makes you feel proud. Practice imaging everyday to get you motivated. Try the following. Record yourself describing your future guitar self. Now play this recording back to yourself before you start your practice. The more vivid the image of your future self the more likely you are to practice and the more motivated and focused you will become. Try it for a month and let me know how you go.

You might also like the following blog:

Would You Like A Structured Method For Learning Guitar?

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Friday, August 16, 2013

The Excuses Guitar Students Make - Which Is Your Favourite?

To be successful on guitar you need to be consistent with your practice and your lessons but more to achieve this you MUST put an end to the excuses you make.  I could write a book on the number of excuses I have heard over the years but here are some of the most popular ones you need to be aware of.

1. I had too much work/homework. Whether it be school homework or work homework this excuse is all too familiar. Too much home work is usually a case of procrastination especially if its a common occurrence. Perhaps you were given an assignment and had a month to do it but kept putting it off until the due date was literally the next day. Naturally guitar practice and everything else for that matters needs to take a back seat. Avoid procrastinating and you will usually have enough time to do most things.

2. I am just too busy. If you decide to learn guitar and find that you are just too busy to practice you may as well stop right now. Just are obviously trying to juggle too many balls. You need to decide what you have time for and what  needs to be eliminated. Guitar needs 30 minutes of your time each day. Anything less (except for young children who can do less) is really pointless.

3. Too many distractions. If someone or something in the house is a constant distraction you need to either make it very clear that your guitar practice time is a time for you to be left undisturbed or you need to find another place to practice or choose a time when the distractions are not present.

4. I didn't understand what to do. While this is a legitimate excuse for not practicing a new exercise or song it is not a good reason for doing no practice at all. If this is ever the case review previous exercises or practice something that you do understand.

5. My guitar was out of tune. Students should not rely on their teacher to keep their guitars in tune.You should have a guitar tuner on hand and if you don't understand how to use it this should be your first priority at your next lesson. If for some reason you can't tune your guitar take it to a local music shop and ask and perhaps buys some picks in return.

What's your No.1 excuse?

You might also like the following blog:

Would You Like A Structured Method For Learning Guitar?

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Why Successful Guitar Students EXPECT to FAIL

But hang on a minute. Aren't successful people positive thinkers? What about the idea of self fulfilling prophecies where if you expect to fail you probably will? Well it turns out that a sign of a successful person is someone who is actually expecting to fail. They don't want to fail of course and failure is certainly not their goal but they understand that failure happens even with your best efforts.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

I would like to elaborate on these over used words of wisdom and say that 'Preparing to fail leads to success'. When commercial pilots start out they first learn how to fly a plane. They then spend the rest of their career training in simulators that mimic potential disasters. In other words pilots train for failure so when something like engine failure occurs they can respond and avoid disaster. When we learn to expect failure (and I don't mean being pessimistic and always expecting the worst) we are not surprise or unprepared.

Failing guitar.

In terms of learning guitar preparing for failure means that you are not going let set backs derail your long term plan to succeed. As a guitar teacher to help beginner students I will ask a question like "What will you do, if in 6 months when you feel like a failure because you can't learn a particular skill or song? Will you just quit?" Many students will respond by saying they won't want to quit but I reply with "but what if you do want to quit? What then?" I persist with the question until I get an answer because the fact is almost every student will want to quit in their first year usually on more than one occasion for some reason and the reality is most do quit.  If the student has a plan for those moments that will inevitably come their chances of success rise dramatically. Do you have a plan?

You might also like the following blog:

Would You Like A Structured Method For Learning Guitar?

If yes please follow the link to subscribe to our free online course.