Successful guitar students seem to be predictable

GuitarIts surprising how much we underestimate our own predictable behaviour. Numerous well known studies have been done which prove that we simply don’t know ourselves as well as we think. In fact perfect strangers know us better than we do. Consider the fact that in categories such as IQ, driving ability and even looks the greater majority of us believe we are above average. When it comes to New year resolutions most believe they will succeed yet an overwhelming number fail at sticking to their resolution. In another study researchers found they could predict the success of your marriage simply based on your high school photo. See ‘Smiles predict marriage success‘. Most couples who get married would believe they are the best predictor of their marriage’s success yet a researcher who doesn’t even know them seems to know them better.

So what is going on here? 

Researchers say the problem is we think we are different. Even as you are reading this chances are you believe you are the exception. We see ourselves as an observer of statistics not an actual statistic. While I am not a researcher and I have no hard evidence I will say after 25 years of teaching I can guess with surprising accuracy which students are more likely to succeed. Some of the predictable signs of successful students in the making are as follows;

Predictors of Success

*They enjoy the practice.
*Their positive attitude seems consistent from week to week.
*They keep a record of their practice times.
*They rarely if ever miss a lesson.
*On the rare occasion when their practice time is low they don’t blame outside forces.
*They are not focused so much on the goal but instead enjoy the process.
*They ask questions and seem curious.
*They rarely seem frustrated and genuinely enjoy a challenge.
*They stay on an exercise until they can do it.
*They seem proud of each small achievement.
*They usually have at least one keen supporter (a parent, relative or friend)
*They know why they are learning. E.g. Have a favourite guitarist, band or style of music.
*I look forward to teaching them.

Sorry but YOU are predictable

Knowing the above can help you to succeed on guitar because knowing you are indeed a homosapien and therefore likely to display predictable behaviour you can prepare and defend yourself against or even change your behaviour. One way to change behaviour is to change your environment. When people emigrate to a new country they suddenly find themselves in a new environment. The new environment can literally change their behaviour overnight. Perhaps the food they eat, the activities they pursue and the customs they follow are just a few examples. Considering your practice environment can also make a significant difference to both the quantity and quality of your practice. I like to think of it in terms of time and space.

TIME

By time I don’t mean how you spend your practice time (although important that is not the topic at hand) but instead how you manage your time to ensure you get to practice. Far too often the biggest challenge for guitar students is finding the time to practice. The standard excuse of the struggling student is “I had a crazy week and simply didn’t get the time”.There are a multitude of ways to avoid the time issue but the one that stands out above all others in my experience is simply planning your week. I know, you don’t have time to plan your week because you are too busy but when you start taking time to plan you will realise how much of it you waste. I recently visited an old friend and he and his family live in a 6 bedroom house with a Granny flat. Each room was cluttered with stuff most of which had been there for one or more years. His wife said to me that they needed a bigger house with extra storage. The reality is they just need to get rid of all the ‘stuff’ they don’t use. This same concept applies to your time. By getting rid of the time wasting activities in your life you will find more free time for the important things. Too often we try to cram more activities into our lives before freeing up time.

SPACE

Where do you practice? Bedroom, lounge room, garage? Do you have distractions like TV or Internet? Are you comfortable? Is the lighting good? Do you have everything you need at hand? Is the room inspiring and free of clutter?  Choosing your space can be critical. If for example the room includes distractions like say the Internet it is likely you will be checking your Facebook or searching Google while also attempting to concentrate on your guitar practice. My suggestion is to avoid the Internet altogether. If you need to search for information related to your practice then do it separately. Keep a note pad next to you and jot down anything you need to search and do it later. Next make sure the room is comfortable and the lighting is good. Avoid a dimly lit room. We get this idea that practicing guitarists sit in rooms that look like New York jazz basements. While this is a great atmosphere for a late night jazz gig practice should be done in a room where you feel clear and alert. Next having everything you will need on hand such as learning materials, a drink and anything else will help you to avoid unnecessary stops and starts. Lastly make sure the room is inspiring. Have some music playing before you start to get you in the mood, posters on the walls and even some inspiring quotes.

David Hart – Program Director

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