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The right things, in the right way, in the right order for maximum results in the shortest possible time ...
1. Get help with developing a plan that works – Imagine setting out to Myrtle Beach with this plan: just start driving, and select turns based on hunches, tips from your passengers, and directions from equally lost drivers, until you arrive at Myrtle Beach. Most likely ... you will give up before getting there. On the other hand, the aid of a map drawn by an expert cartographer will direct you to the most efficient route. Follow the map and you will definitely reach your goal. Learning music is similar in that you will not get far without a good plan, consisting of measurable “landmarks” that are known to lead to your final destination – being empowered to make the music that you feel inside.
2. Get expert assistance with setting up an effective practice routine - If there is any “secret” to progress with guitar, it is this: practice. And yet, some kinds of practice can yield very minimal results. Why? Because of practicing the wrong things, the wrong way, in the wrong order, without any overall goal or context. For instance … practicing an endless loop of the bits and pieces of a dozen or two songs that you have been able to pick up with the least amount of effort, never bothering to learn the whole song. This will not yield the mastery of various techniques and knowledge that is necessary to play complete songs and solos with fluency, and it will not lead to true self expression. An effective practice routine involves a goal oriented approach to efficiently covering multiple areas relevant your musical goals.
3. Learn proper physical technique for maximum control and efficiency - Physical technique refers to all aspects of the way our body interacts with the guitar, from holding the guitar to the finer details of finger control. Aspiring guitarists tend to repeat the same handful of technique errors, such as gripping the guitar neck like a baseball bat and picking with a scooping motion. Improper physical technique can be forced with enough effort to get the job done up to a point. However, it will make the job much harder than it has to be, and will ultimately impose a needless barrier on peak performance. Proper physical technique will enable you to control your fingers with maximum efficiency and minimal effort, such that your fingers will become a powerful musical tool rather than a frustrating barrier to self-expression.
4. The Human Element – If you want to get the most out of your musical endeavors, it is critical to include a social aspect to your experience. The built in accountability of a regular program of lessons will help keep you in the game, when you might have otherwise allowed yourself an extended break to the great detriment of your hard-won collection of skills.
5. Avoid the common, predictable pitfalls of trying to teach yourself – A well performed piece of music will look and sound like an effortless outpouring of emotion, similar to the way we express emotion through speech. However, music is in fact NOT an effortless means of communication that grows naturally out of our inherent human characteristics. Contrarily, communication through music requires highly developed mental and physical skills. It is not something that we easily just “pick up” by experimentation, the way we learned speech as toddlers. Few people would set out to teach themselves engineering or medicine. Yet many tend to feel that learning music is instinctive and will thus try to “teach” themselves. I will admit with regrets to the fact that I tried this approach. When I met my first really good teacher years later, I deeply regretted not having the critical information early in my musical pursuits that my teacher revealed to me in a short time.
6. Accountability for following the instructions – Many students of guitar attempt to pick out the easiest or most satisfying parts of a given learning resource and concentrate on those things to the neglect of others. Six months later they have improved in those few things but can not move forward because they are still at introductory level on the other things. A regular meeting with a teacher will inherently encourage you to build up a comprehensive set of skills.
7. Avoid confusing temporary barriers with “lack of talent” – Most musicians by far achieve their goals through persistent effort. Some students of music feel that if it gets difficult, frustrating, or tedious that these things betray a lack of natural ability. This is simply wrong. All of us, even the very gifted ones, go through struggles with various aspects of building up skills. We all reach plateaus where we seem to hang out for a while and can’t make any progress despite our best efforts. This is a normal part of the process. The key is not “natural talent”. The key is persistent effort, and a teacher will provide the encouragement to get you through the more challenging times.
8. Motivation – If you want to be good with the guitar you are going to have to make regular practice high on the priority list of things to get done throughout the week, for as long as it takes to achieve the desired results. Your odds of getting your practicing done are much higher when you know you will be sharing your results with your teacher each week.
9. Learn critical skills in the right order – With some hobbyists from about age mid teens and up there is a tendency to want advanced playing skills in a hurry. Accordingly they will often wish to bypass the basic and intermediate level skills and go straight to working on advanced songs or techniques. The results of this approach are predictable: frustration, poor skills across the board, and a guitar gathering dust in a corner. If you want to play at an advanced level then get help from a teacher with mastering the basics.
10. Overcome aversion to music theory – Knowledge is Power. Knowledge of music theory grants one the power to know how to achieve a desired effect before striking a note on the fretboard. Music theory is not nearly as complicated and boring as some make it out to be (if you know the name of a single chord, you already know some music theory). Contrarily, a good teacher will make it interesting by presenting it in relevant pieces as part of a comprehensive approach to learning guitar.
Greenville, SC 29609
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