Practising well on the guitar does not come naturally and goes against what we instinctively want to do. Teaching people how to practice becomes very difficult as you ask people not to do what they have done all their lives when learning anything. It goes against that taught in schools and other learning environments, yet the foremost experts on learning state these methods are the best way to develop a skill. These experts also say that students who learn the quickest way and see great results would prefer to learn by the usual methods.
One of the critical points of learning is variation in learning. An example is learning chords and chord changes. It is instinctive to focus on the one set of chord changes to develop this skill before moving on to the next, yet we are trying to learn to change between ALL chords. Therefore, we should use different chords each time we practice our changing skills. Very frustrating as we feel like we are getting nowhere, yet the skill gained significantly faster and more adaptable to chords we have not learned yet.
The next critical point is time spent learning. Learning is a different skill from making a task instinctive. The first five minutes of learning is long term memory. After that, it becomes short term memory, so we need to limit our time spent learning a new skill. A timer is essential when learning a new skill to ensure we do not waste time. Most people have experienced this without realising it, “I managed to get this yesterday, and now I can’t do it again.” Sound familiar? The work and effort have gone into short term memory, and success is made and disappears as the skill gained is only short term.
A frequent question then is how do these people spend more than 5 minutes on a technique? The answer is by isolating the various aspects of the technique, working on each part for 5 minutes or less, with a brief interrupt exercise in between to refocus the brain and restart the clock. Learning how to do his part will make you a better guitar player. Unfortunately, it is the hardest part of these examples. Various aspects of any technique (not limited to this list) are left hand, right hand, synchronisation between each hand, the tension in each hand, efficiency of motion, accuracy. That’s 30 minutes on the one skill, excluding the short interrupt exercise between each 5-minute session. However, there will be a long-term improvement on each aspect, leading to a massive improvement overall.
This last skill of focusing on one aspect of what you are learning is challenging as we want to correct the other mistakes we make at the same time. Learning this focus creates a massive increase in learning ability
When changing my career to become a self-employed guitar tutor, I never had considered the thought of a global pandemic like what we are suffering from just now or how it would affect my business.
The first lockdown was a straightforward choice. I had to transfer all my lessons online or stop teaching. An experience I don’t think I will ever forget and certainly do not wish to go through again. With the support of my students and a lot of scratching heads about the technology involved, we got through it. Eventually, as Covid-19 was brought more under control and vaccination programme in place we could in the same room with many controls in place, and more recently, group classes resumed.
As the Omicron variant surges ahead with infections, to help stop infection, a lot of the controls have to go back in place. However, it is far more manageable this time as the experience is there and the controls are normal now.
The transition to go back to in-person from online was challenging last year. First, getting the screens was a minefield, but I eventually recognised the type of screens used on the television and ordered some.
The cleaning products were hard to come by, and courtesy of some industrial cleaners, I managed to get some washroom cleaner that met the requirements. The hand sanitiser came in a 5L container, and my hands became soft with its use, and I started to get sore fingertips when playing. Eventually, my skin adapted to the new regime.
The ventilation was initially with a wide-open door. However, this was not an option as winter approached. Research led to intake and extract ventilation installed in the dedicated teaching room with an external door.
One of my students unknowingly having Covid-19 during a lesson tested the controls. Track and trace got in touch and informed me to isolate. Environmental health got in touch to discuss my controls and risk assessment. They were happy I was doing everything I could, and more importantly, none of my students, or myself, caught Covid-19.
Putting the controls back in place, I can do with confidence this time. The screens are all back out. I am using 70% alcohol wipes as they are easy to purchase now. The ventilation is still in place, and all the chairs are easily wipeable.
The most important part – I have a tried and tested method of controlling Covid-19 back in place to protect my students and my family.
Learning a song is not quite as simple as “playing the music.” We also need to understand the feel and structure of the music to learn it properly.
The earlier a person starts learning the feel and structure of a song, the easier it is to learn. As the difficulty level of our playing increases, the challenges associated with learning the song increase correspondingly.
First, we need to listen to the song. Unfortunately, many people fail to start listening to the song and skip past this step, but doing this tells us a lot of information we need later.
Next, work out the chords. For a beginner, that requires finding the music as it can be challenging to work the chords out by listening. It would be best to try working the song out if you know some basic chords. Working out the chord structure of a song is essential for ear training. Then play these chords with single strums along with the music getting the chord changes in the correct place.
Now we have the chord structure in place. Next, we need to get the rhythm correct, a far more challenging task than learning the chords. Rhythm is far more noticeable to everyone when it is wrong than playing incorrect chords or making mistakes with chords. Attempt to work out the rhythm and strumming pattern by ear. Once learned, play along with the music to get the rhythm and chords correct and in time
A quick interrupt. In my years of teaching, one of the most common things a student does is not play along with the music because it is hard to do. The response is usually “I wanted to learn the song first.”, This method can work, but it is significantly longer, more frustrating, and generally, and the song learned inaccurately.
After playing the song with the music a few times, you now know the general structure. You know the chords, the rhythm, and at this point, the song will be recognisable to others. So now we can concentrate on fills, dynamics, lead breaks, all the fancy bits that people go for first.
And always remember, We are learning the whole song. We are not learning just the Intro, first verse and chorus…