How do you achieve guitar success? This question in all its forms is the number question on a student’s mind when they first begin guitar. The following 5 rules should help.
Rule No.1 – Set a clear definable goal.
A student I spoke to recently had been learning with a teacher for around 6 months. She said she felt her progress was a little slow. My first question when I hear such a comment from a student is “What were you expecting after 6 months of lessons?” The purpose of this question is not so much to see if their expectations are unrealistic but just to see if they actually have a clear goal. The actual problem that I almost always uncover is they don’t have a goal therefore no clear expectation. They just know they want to be better. When I began working on the G4 GUITAR METHOD the first problem I wanted to solve was the one of ensuring there was a clear goal. But goals can be tricky because they are often very personal. How could I write a program that was personal for every student? The fact is although people have their own personal musical motivations we are all happy if we can achieve something. Anything at all. These early achievements build our confidence. Let me use a baby learning to walk as an example. A baby doesn’t care where they are going to walk to. They simply begin with the idea of getting to someone or something on the other side of the room. Small steps are all that is required and each small step forward in any direction is exciting. So the goal (the song, riff etc.) itself doesn’t have to be some huge achievement. There just has to be a goal.
Rule No.2 – Practice MUST become a habit.
There is only one way to improve your guitar playing and that is through practice. Once you have set the goal the amount of practice required is the distance between you and the goal. Practice can often seem laborious but once you establish the habit it soon becomes a natural part of your daily routine. If practice is not yet a habit for you it is probably because you stop and start, practicing some days and not others. Taking a shower is a daily routine and despite the fact that it take 30minutes or more out of you very busy schedule you are not going to skip it because if you do you will not feel right. You may even be clean but somehow you know that you still need to take that shower. That is habit.
Rule No.3 – Make sure you have a teacher.
Teaching oneself seems easy. The internet offers millions of free lessons, tabs and downloads that can teach you almost everything and anything you could ever want to know about guitar. The problem is the internet misses several key learning elements. Here are just a few. A teacher can correct your mistakes on the spot. A teacher can set a program that will work for you. The right level of difficulty if you will. You can ask a teacher questions. A teacher can motivate, inspire you and ultimately build your confidence. A teacher can connect you to other musicians. But here is an often unknown fact of science. We humans have what are called mirror neurons. When we see someone doing something our mirror neurons learn their actions so we become more like them. Mirror neurons are most effective in a real life face to face situation. So just being in the same room as a good guitarist helps you to become a better guitarist.
Rule No.4 – Listen.
It was once said that learning to play music is 50% listening. Listening in music is learning. Being a great musician starts with your ears. This doesn’t mean just listen to everything and anything. You should actively seek out the musicians who you most want to emulate. If you want to be a blues guitarist for example find the players who you most resonate with. Think of it like language. If you want to be a blues guitarist you need to speak (play) the language.
Rule No.5 – Choose your critics wisely.
Far too often people will criticise your efforts especially early on because what you are doing does not appeal to them in someway or worse they just want to come across as an authority on the subject. The best advice I can give you here is to always look at who is giving you the advice. If Eric Clapton was giving me advice on blues guitar I would certainly listen but if the advice was coming from Einstein I would be skeptical. Einstein may have been a scientific genius but that did not make him an expert on the subject of blues guitar. I hope you get my point.
Hope that helps and good luck.
David Hart – Program Director
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