Category Archives: Guitarticles

Choosing a Guitar Teacher

Choosing a Guitar Teacher

by Tom Hess

http://tomhess.net/Articles/ChoosingATeacher.aspx

The electric guitar has advanced far beyond the time when someone could teach himself (or herself) to become a world class guitar player. If your ambition is to become a competent guitar player and a competent musician, you need a competent guitar teacher. Even if your goals are more modest, you can reach those goals far more quickly, easily and efficiently with the guidance of the right guitar teacher. Much of the information that is needed to learn about guitar playing (and music in general) is available from many different sources. There are hundreds of books, instructional videos, CD-ROMs and, of course, the internet. Even though a lot of information is readily available, there exists a lot of incorrect, incomplete and otherwise bad information (this is especially true for a lot of information found on the internet!). You will need the aid of an excellent teacher to teach you how to fully understand and apply the correct information. You can save yourself a lot of unnecessary frustration and disappointment by studying with the good teacher. Remember that text books, CD-ROMs, instructional videos and the internet cannot answer your specific questions. They cannot offer you advice on your guitar playing, song writing, ear training, etc. They cannot listen to your playing and point out any mistakes or flaws that may be present. Some text books are great and I have seen some pretty good CD-ROMs out there too, but you still need the aid of an excellent teacher to guide you through everything and to help you to develop your abilities and musicianship correctly and efficiently.

Great guitar teachers manage and schedule new materials and effectively explain its importance and meaning. A teacher should encourage you when you are doing well and correct you where you may have gone wrong. Good teachers will show you how to better organize your practice materials and show you how to effectively manage your practice time (this is crucial to your progress!). They help you to build up your confidence level (even if you are not consciously aware that this is happening). A great guitar teacher will help you to become secure with your technical skills so that you can execute difficult techniques on your guitar comfortably. These guitar teachers emphasize creativity (song writing & improvising) and performing. Great teachers want to make sure that you fully understand what you are learning and, most importantly, teach you how to applyit by giving you detailed explanations and encouraging you to ask questions when something is unclear. A good guitar teacher sincerely cares about your musical growth and development. An experienced and competent teacher will take you far beyond what you could learn on your own.

Unfortunately, guitar teachers are not licensed and there is no organization that oversees or regulates them. Anyone can claim to be a good teacher and there are lots of people who make this claim. The number of competent teachers, however, is limited. This brings us to this crucial question; How can a student find, choose, and then accurately evaluate a guitar teacher?

Here are some questions that you should ask any guitar teachers that you are considering to study with. I have also included my own comments for each question:

  1. Can you please tell me about your teaching experience, such as: How long have you been teaching guitar and approximately how many students have you taught during that time? At least 3-5 years of teaching experience would be preferred. Certainly no less than 1 year of experience. It is good if the teacher has taught a moderate to large number of students. It takes time for a teacher to really learn how to teach well and the main way that someone learns to teach is by teaching for a while. So a young teacher’s first students are like experiments. The teacher learns how to teach on-the-job by trial and error. The teacher learns how to teach over time and will make some mistakes in the beginning of his or her career. You don’t want to be one of those first 30-50 students. Let that teacher gain his or her experience by making mistakes on someone else.
  2. What styles of music do you teach best? Make sure that you ask this question before telling the prospective teacher what style of music you want to learn. A lot of teachers claim to teach all styles of music well, beware of this. Do not be impressed by someone who tells you that he or she can teach every style of music well. If you really want to be a great rock guitarist, you want to take lessons from a rock teacher, not a blues or country player who claims to teach all styles well. Find yourself a good rock teacher. If you want to learn multiple styles of music that are not similar (like country, classical guitar and heavy metal) take lessons from more than one teacher for each of those styles. Unless you are a total beginner, you are better off with an expert teacher in your style of music, not a jack-of-all-trades teacher.
  3. What is the cost of lessons? Excellent teachers are in demand and usually already have a lot of students. These teachers often are not cheap. I can tell you that the going rates for good teachers in the Midwestern United States (where I live) is between $16-$24 per 1/2 hour private lesson (rates may be different in your state or country). There are a handful of teachers that offer correspondence guitar lessons for students who do not live in the same state or country as the teacher. Usually these lessons are less expensive in the long run (more about correspondence lesson programs later.) In general, don’t look for the teacher with the lowest rates, you usually get what you pay for. If you can’t afford to pay the higher rates for a really good guitar teacher, ask the teacher if you can take lessons on a bi-monthly basis instead of taking weekly lessons.
  4. Can you tell me how you teach the lessons? This is probably the most important question that you can ask a teacher. The answer to this question can really help you to determine if a teacher is competent because this is actually a trick question. Anyone can tell you that they have been teaching for 100 years and that they have had 10,000 students and the cost is $1,000 per lesson because they are the greatest teacher of all time, but an inexperienced teacher cannot trick you with his or her answer to this question (unless he or she is reading this article.) If a prospective teacher who does not know you, your musical knowledge, your guitar technique, your musical tastes, and your musical goals tries to explain how he or she will teach you, then this is not a competent teacher. Not even the best teacher on Earth could answer this question if that teacher knows nothing about you, your goals, your playing level, your knowledge of music theory, etc. So what would an experienced and competent teacher say to you when you ask the question? Well, I can tell you what I do when a new prospective student asks me this. I explain to him or her that I can’t formulate a lesson plan for anyone until I learn a lot more about that student’s playing, goals, musical tastes, knowledge of theory, etc. For my correspondence students (who I don’t see face to face), I send them a long list of questions about everything that I need to know about their music background in order for me to know what is the best way for us to begin. I also encourage the student to send me a tape or CD of his or her playing with a variety of his or her playing on it so that I have a clearer picture of what areas need improvement. Obviously, for my private students (whom I do see face to face), I can simply ask the questions that I need answers to and I can hear the student play in front of me. Only after all of this, I (or any other teacher) can really know how to teach that individual student. It seems obvious that you shouldn’t teach a 13-year-old-boy who has never played guitar before and wants to learn to play alternative rock the same way that you would teach a 27-year-old-man who has been playing for 16 years and wants to become a virtuoso in the style of Steve Vai or Yngwie Malmsteen.

In addition to asking the questions above, here are some other things to watch out for:

  • When students ask how to approach a certain technique or how to hold the pick correctly or how to most effectively mute strings that are not supposed to be sounding, the advice of some teachers is to do whatever feels natural to you. Sometimes what you may think is the natural way to hold your left hand may not be the correct way at all. It is the teacher’s job to know those types of things, the teacher should be teaching, not letting you do whatever you feel like. For most things, there is a right and wrong way and you will better off learning it the right way from the beginning.
  • Just because a teacher may have some talented students, does not mean that the teacher is good. This might seem like a good criteria for evaluating a teacher, but the fact is that sometimes advanced students were already good players before taking lessons from this new teacher. The only time that judging a teacher’s teaching skills, based on his or her student’s playing skills, is really a reliable criteria is when those advanced students started taking lessons from the same teacher since they were beginners.
  • Some teachers tell their students to try to learn from as many sources as possible and then leave it up to you to sort through it all and decide what works best for you. How are you supposed to decide that? How is a student to know what the best fingering is for a particular scale? Students typically won’t know how to determine what the right way is. This is one of the reasons why you have a teacher, it is his or her job to teach you these things, this is why you are giving the teacher your money!
  • Do not assume that someone is a good teacher just because he or she may be an excellent player or has good credentials. I know plenty of competent players with advanced music degrees that I don’t believe are good teachers. I was fortunate to have some truly great teachers, but I had some incompetent ones too, along the way. Whenever I realized that a teacher wasn’t good, I looked for a new teacher.

The following things are not required for someone to be a good teacher, but it certainly is to your advantage to have a teacher who, in addition to teaching you about guitar and music, can help you in some of these other ways:

  1. Guitar Pedagogy. This is learning how to teach guitar. If one of your goals is to be a guitar / music teacher then you would benefit greatly from a teacher who can teach you how to teach a variety of techniques, music theory, ear training, song writing, improvisation, etc. You will also need to learn about how to deal with a wide variety of personality types. Every student is different and each of those students may learn and comprehend information in different ways. It is important for any teacher to understand this. You need to know how to explain the same information in several different ways so that you will be better able to teach all of your students well.
  2. Recording advice. The better you become as a musician, the more likely it will be that you will want to record your guitar playing. If you have little or no experience in this area, then having someone who can help you is especially helpful.
  3. Music business. If you plan to record, release and sell your own CD, now or in the future, there is a huge amount of music business information that you will need to learn if you want to make any money. Some teachers who have released their own CDs, and are promoting it themselves, can be the best source of help for selling your CD. You can also learn other things like how to set up gigs for your band and how to get the press to write about you.

So now that you have a better idea about what to look for in a teacher, the next question is, Where do you look for a really good teacher? This depends on if you are looking for a teacher to teach you privately (face to face) or if you are looking for a teacher to teach you through correspondence. Both are good and there are advantages to both ways.

If you are looking for a private teacher to teach you face to face, check out these places first: Contact the music department at universities and colleges near you. Even if they can’t help you directly, they can usually refer you to someone who can help. Next, you can try your local music shops (where guitars are sold). Most music shops offer lessons, most of the teachers found here are not of the highest quality, but sometimes there are some really great teachers that you can find at these shops. When you call one of these shops, ask to speak to the manager or owner. Ask him or her, who are the most qualified teachers for you (your style of music and skill level). After you get the teachers names, make arrangements to speak to each of the teachers privately. Ask those teachers all of the questions that are written above. If you are not satisfied with any of those teachers, keep looking.

If you are looking for online correspondence guitar lessons, your search will be a little different (and these lessons are usually a little cheaper in the long run.) You can look on the internet for these types of guitar teachers and you can also contact universities (in any part of the world.) The best thing about correspondence guitar lessons is that you can take lessons from any teacher in the world (that teaches via correspondence)! What I would look for in a correspondence guitar teacher is someone who has been doing this type of teaching for a while. Even though correspondence guitar lessons are not face to face, the lessons should be personalized for you, your skill level, your musical knowledge, your style of music and your musical goals. Stay away from a one-size-fits-all method or the cookie-cutter style courses. Everyone is different and is at a different level, has different musical goals, likes different music, so the lessons (whether face to face or correspondence) should be tailored specifically to your needs.

After teaching guitar / music for over 19 years now, I can tell you that using the information above can really make a huge difference in finding an experienced high quality teacher. An incompetent teacher can severely hinder you ability to fully develop your guitar and music skills. If you are not progressing well, but you are spending a lot of time practicing, find another teacher. You can download the free guide on how to choose a guitar teacher

Article is written by Tom Hess

http://tomhess.net/Articles/ChoosingATeacher.aspx

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Why Aren’t You A Better Guitar Player?

Why Aren’t You A Better Guitar Player?

By: Tom Hess

If you are like most people, you desire to become a better guitar player. Through my own learning experience and through teaching well over 1,000 students, I have learned a lot on this subject. Students often ask why they are not at the level that they desire to be and what can be done about it. I have asked myself this same question many times over the years. A long time passed before I began to understand the answers. Like you probably have done, I have read many interviews with great guitar players and articles written by some of these same people. I often found it frustrating whenever the subject of learning to play guitar came up or when advice was offered on improving one’s guitar playing. With a small number of exceptions, very little time and space was offered on the topic. It’s not uncommon to see the advice be summed up in a grand total of three words: Practice! Practice!! Practice!!! Well of course we all know that practicing is the main ingredient. But rarely are we told much more than that. In my long quest to become an excellent guitar player and to help my students do the same I carefully took note of what worked and what didn’t. What parts of conventional wisdom are accurate and what parts (at least in my opinion) are not. I believe the twenty concepts that have proven to bring great results to those who use them are:
1. Educate yourself! No matter what level you are at today, you can be and should be learning more. If you are currently studying with a teacher or enrolled in a music program at a high school, college or university, you are on the right track. If you aren’t doing this (or if you feel that your current guitar teacher is not helping you enough in reaching your musical goals) I strongly recommend looking for a new guitar teacher. (Download the FREE guide on How to Choose a Guitar Teacher) I can’t stress enough how important it is to find the guitar teacher that is right for you! Your guitar teacher (or music program) should always be Goal Orientated. If it’s not, look for another teacher or school to study with! You don’t need a teacher to simply give you information or things to practice – you can get those things anywhere, what you need is a teacher who:

A. Knows what your goals are.
B. Cares about helping you reach your goals.
C. Knows how to help you reach your goals.

2. Listen to more music. Find more of the same music you already like. There is a lot of music out there that you haven’t heard. I am sure you can find something you really like and that would inspire you. Look on the internet if you can’t find it on the conventional radio. Check out internet radio, you can customize what you hear based on your preferences, it’s a great tool! Check out web sites that you know feature a lot of the music in the style you like.

3. Turn your musical frustrations into an asset in the form of a motivating force. I wrote a whole article calledMusical Frustration. I don’t want to repeat here everything that I wrote in that article, so read it if you haven’t already. If you have read it, it may be worth your time to read it again now.

4. Believe in yourself. You have probably heard that phrase many times before. It’s unfortunate how many people still refuse to invest their own beliefs into themselves. I wrote an article on Perseverance which deals indirectly with believing in yourself. Please read it if you have a problem believing that you can reach your goals.

5. Understand that becoming a better guitar player means becoming a better musician as well. When developing your musical skills, make sure to think beyond skills that are specific to guitar. Of course you will be working on many guitar skills: various guitar techniques, chords, scales, soloing, etc., but don’t neglect other skills that are not guitar specific like, ear training (also called aural skills), songwriting, improvising, creativity, reading, music theory, etc.

6. Surround yourself with better guitar players (or at least with those on your same level.) When you started out playing guitar, everyone was better than you, but now you have grown and there are less people better than you than before. The better you get, the harder it will be to find others who are superior to you to hang around or jam with. But no matter how good you get, there will always be something you can learn from someone else. Seek out those people, get to know them, jam with them, discuss music and guitar with them. Be willing to give as much (or more) as you want to take. If you are fortunate enough to be above the level of other guitar players in your area, seek out great bassists, pianists, violinists, drummers, etc. You can learn from them as well. (Even if you are not better than your guitar player friends, seek out musicians that play other instruments as well anyway).

7. Find out what inspires you and soak yourself in that. For me, going to concerts to see great guitar players or bands inspires me to practice more. Listening to great singers inspired me to refine my vibrato and phrasing. Listening and studying the music of great classical composers inspired me to study music composition. I wanted to write great music. Watching the movie Star Wars when I was a kid, reading Lord of the Rings, etc. inspired me as well. There are lots of non musical things that have been inspiring to me. The greatest source of inspiration has been my own personal experiences in life and within myself. The desire to express that was (and still is) a constant burning desire and powerful force that thrusts my desire to improve forward. Know what truly inspires you, seek it out, surround yourself with it and soak there.

8. Define your purpose. What is your definite purpose? Do you really know what it is? If I were standing in front of you right now and asked you this question, could you give me specific answers and explanations? Can you write it on paper in specific terms? This is critical to setting goals, planning strategy and monitoring the results, etc.

When all the enemies of progress start to creep into your mind, you will need to bring your definite purpose to the forefront of your thinking. I have seen procrastination, fear of failure, self doubt, lack of motivation, temporary setbacks, and other negative things bring people with great potential to a halt. Knowing your definite purpose and reminding yourself of it when a negative thought comes into your mind will help you overcome it.

9. Define exactly why your purpose exists in your mind. I specifically choose to list this separately from defining your purpose because I did not want you to let the why get lost in the act of defining. Trust me, this is important.

10. Create a strategy! You need a strategy that will layout exactly how you are going to reach your goals. Dreaming alone won’t take you anywhere. Telling yourself that you are going to play your guitar everyday isn’t enough. There is a lot more that goes into being an excellent player than simply playing your guitar. Ultimately you should work backwards. State your ultimate goals (on paper) then make a bunch of short and medium range goals. Think of reaching your goals as a relay race, not as a marathon. Each short term and medium term goal is the end of one segment of your plan and the beginning of the next segment (just like a relay race.) There are many benefits of looking at things this way as you will discover for yourself in your own way.

If you clearly know what your ultimate goals are, you can do this yourself. But if you need help in planning out the short and mid term goals to plan your strategy, consult a teacher whom you trust and believe can help you with this – it’s worth it, believe me. If you can’t find a teacher who can do this for you, pay someone (yes, I said pay) to help you develop a specific plan to do this. The best person to approach for this is someone who is already doing whatever it is that you want to be doing.

Remember that it’s OK to daydream and fantasize about where you are planning to go, but it can’t stop there. Don’t wish without planning! Don’t dream without doing! And always, always, have a strategy. You may need to revise certain aspects of your strategy as time goes on and that’s OK, but don’t try to go forward without one if you want the maximum results in the shortest amount of time. In my early days learning to play guitar, I wasted a lot of time aimlessly desiring to get better without having a clue as to how to plan for it. Sure I practiced a lot, but without direction and without an efficient path to follow. Most of my substantial progress as a musician came only after I developed a strategy and worked with it. If you are wondering why I haven’t given you a detailed explanation of the strategies I used in the past, it would be pointless for me to tell you what my strategy was, because it was specific only to my goals. Chances are, your goals may differ greatly from mine in many different ways. That is why you need your own strategy for your own personal goals. One last piece of advice before we move on, write everything on paper and read it everyday! It will keep you focused and on target.

11. Imagine yourself having the skills that you desire. Focus on that and concentrate. Convince yourself that you can do it. Convince yourself that you are already on your way to reaching your first goal – because you are. It’s easier to manifest your desires when you can imagine yourself already in possession of it. Keep your positive mental attitude always.

12. Define what you plan to do with your musical skills once you have them. If you plan on releasing your own CD or making a living in music, learn and study music business right now! The fastest way to do that is to actually take music business lessons at a college and take private lessons from a pro (or at least a semi-pro guitarist) Yes you can take lessons in this just like you can for learning guitar, songwriting, etc. Do not wait until you are a great guitar player to start learning about this business! I cannot tell you how many players make this mistake (I made it myself at first and have been studying it intensely for the past few years to get my own career to where it is today.)

13. Find out how your favorite guitar players reached their goals. Often times this is hard to do since you can’t always sit down and talk to some very famous musicians. But interviews exist as well as a few biographies on some musicians (especially dead ones). Despite the fact that many successful don’t really talk much about this, you can find some that do. Believe me, becoming successful is a lot more than just practicing and luck! Remember that their strategies won’t necessarily work for you because your goals may be different than theirs were. Still you can learn from it.

14. Don’t compare yourself to others. There is no need to do this anyway. Music should not be a competitive sport among people, only within yourself. Compare yourself only in relation to where you are in your strategy! Are you on your way to reaching your next short term and medium term goal towards your ultimate goals? Are you on schedule, does your strategy need to be revised?

15. Make sure you are practicing efficiently. Do you really know how to practice the guitar? Are you focused on setting daily and weekly objectives and then practicing in such a way that you will be working towards those goals? These are questions you should ask yourself. The two biggest practicing mistakes I have seen in students (besides not practicing enough) are:

A. Practicing is not goal orientated.
B. Not understanding the difference between playing one’s guitar and practicing one’s guitar.

If you are having any difficulties with practicing, talk to your teacher about it. He/she should be able to help you.

16. Play with others in a band or some type of ensemble. It is important to have experience playing with others. It can be in a band or some other ensemble setting. Formal or informal. The main thing is to be doing it. (at least once a month). Some things you just can’t fully practice alone. Besides the fact that this can be really fun, it will also help you overcome stage fright if you have it.

17. Measure your progress. Document your practice time. Keep a record of how much you practice each day. For technique things, use a metronome to see how fast you are able to play a particular scale, exercise, lick, arpeggio, etc. cleanly. Write down the result, practice it all week and see if you can play it one or two beats per minute faster by next week (or next month). Keep a record of all the technical things you are currently working on. You will clearly see if you are progressing and at what rate. For other items that are not so easily recorded with a metronome, paper and pencil, record yourself on tape or on your computer each week. Keep the tapes for a long time. Listen back in 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, etc. Listen to how much you have grown.

18. Do not pander to your strengths while ignoring your weaknesses. It is not necessary to be able to play all styles of music or every technique to be a good player, but certain aspects are universal, such as: technique, ear training, knowledge of theory, creativity, improvising, etc. Some musical styles will rely more heavily on certain aspects than other styles, regardless, it’s important to be balanced. If you are a heavy metal guitarist, chances are sight reading won’t be as high on your list of priorities as technique. Likewise, a strict classical guitarist won’t have much use for improvisation (unfortunately). But make sure you don’t avoid weaknesses that you should be paying attention to because if you do – you will be sorry, sooner or later.

19. Discipline yourself. Unlike a sport, you do not have a coach or a trainer to work with you all the time. Nobody is there to make sure you are practicing the way you need to, when you need to, and how often you need to. You need to be totally self reliant. If this is not a normal part of your personality, fortunately there is help for you. Only you can stop yourself from procrastinating. Take the initiative now to go forward.

20. Never give up! Never say can’t. Never say I can’t. Never say someday. Never say if. If your IQ is higher than room temperature, if you have all of your fingers and if you really want to succeed, you can.

It seems strange to me how many incorrect assumptions and teachings there are about becoming a better guitar player. Here are a few things that are often not true.

A. You should be a well rounded player and learn lots of different styles of music to become a good guitarist. This is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard on the subject. Segovia (the classical guitar master) wasn’t well rounded – he didn’t waste his time to master jazz or bluegrass for example. Yngwie Malmsteen didn’t study intense jazz guitar. Most great jazz guitarists don’t study classical guitar or heavy metal guitar. Stevie Ray Vaughn never learned to play fusion or metal. Great country players usually don’t study Progressive Rock. Of course there are examples of guitar players that do learn and play in more than one or two styles, but most of the really great guitarists are known for the style they focused on. They are masters of their style, they are specialists, not a jack-of-all-trades type of player. Don’t listen to people who say something like, “You must learn blues before you can learn heavy metal or classical guitar.” You do not have to be well rounded.

The only time one needs to learn lots of different styles of music is because your goals require it. If you truly love a lot of styles and want to learn them all, then go ahead and do that. If you want to be a studio musician or a jobber, then you will need that versatility. It’s very hard to be really good at many styles.

B. You should be able to play all the techniques of the guitar. Van Halen did tapping but not with all his fingers as others have done. He didn’t play finger style much either, but we still regard him as an important guitarist, the same thing can be said for Vai and many others. Classical guitar master John Williams probably doesn’t play well with a guitar pick (I am assuming this to be true, I have no proof of it), but he is considered one of the greatest classical guitarists alive today. Skills like improvisation, songwriting and playing with a guitar pick or not going to be high on his list of skills to acquire. This is because classical guitarists generally don’t do those things – and don’t need to be great at what they do. These players are great players in their own ways and they have spent many years developing their skills. Learning everything about guitar playing would have taken away precious practice time from the things they needed to focus on to reach their goals.

C. Teaching yourself is the best way to be original. This is so obviously false it’s hard to believe that anyone could actually believe it – yet some people still do. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is the best way to learn. This is the most close-minded philosophy I can think of. Musical skills are tools. One should want to obtain and master as many of these tools as will be needed to reach your goals. Doing that alone won’t work well and even if it does eventually work, it will take 10 times as long! Besides, how will you know if what you are trying to do is original if you don’t learn about what has already been done?

D. To be great means I have to be better than everybody else. We already touched on this one above, but it is worth mentioning again here. What matters is reaching your goals, not someone else’s goals. Who cares if you are or are not better than someone else? This is not the Olympics. Music is the art of expression (or for some people, the science of entertainment).

E. You need natural talent to be a great (or even a good) musician. Don’t believe this. It is true that some people possess more natural abilities in one or skill or another. For example, some athletes are naturally fast sprinters. Others are great marathon runners. Others can swim faster or longer. Others can jump higher. Others are stronger. Others are smarter. Others have faster reflexes. Others can throws football better. Others can shoot a basketball better, etc. The point is athletes with great abilities have them usually in one area. For example, Michael Jordan (arguably the world’s greatest basketball player of all time) was not very successful when he tried to play baseball (or golf for that matter). Think about athletes in the Olympics, they are specialists. They have found their natural ability and developed it to it’s greatest potential, but that natural ability is usually limited to one skill.

Music is very different from a skill or a sport. There is no such thing as musical skill. There exists only a large set of musical skills. Think about some of the very different types of skills a musician needs to have: a highly developed ear, good physical technique on his/her instrument, heightened creativity, the ability to improvise well, songwriting/composing skills, the ability to play in time, the ability to play with others, the comprehension of music theory, a good memory, the ability to read music, etc. The list goes on and on. Some players have a natural ability to play fast, some have naturally good ears, some have good voices, some are naturally more creative than others, some are natural improvisers, etc. Nobody has natural talent in all of the necessary areas to be a complete musician.

Think about the masters of music. Mozart was probably most naturally gifted in only three of these areas: technical skill, a great ear (perfect pitch), a great musical memory. But he had to work hard at all the other areas of music just like everybody else.

Chopin’s natural ability was his ability to improvise. He was the master, but he worked very hard to become the virtuoso pianist that he would later become. Chopin also was the master at small forms, but struggled with large scale forms.

Beethoven probably had no natural ability known to himself for a long time. He didn’t even begin composing much until around the age of 30! He was not a child prodigy like Mozart and Chopin were. Beethoven was, of course, a master, but did not enjoy the fruits of any natural talents. He constantly edited his works over and over, trying to perfect them. Mozart, by comparison, very rarely ever edited anything he wrote.

Each of us has some natural ability of some kind. You may already know what yours is or you may not  have yet discovered it. If being a better musician is not coming easy for you that simply means you are like the rest of us.

In the game of reaching your goals, there are only two real players… You and Time.

This article was written by Tom Heff

http://tomhess.net/Articles/WhyArentYouABetterGuitarist.aspx

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Why Aren't You A Better Guitar Player?

Why Aren’t You A Better Guitar Player?

By: Tom Hess

If you are like most people, you desire to become a better guitar player. Through my own learning experience and through teaching well over 1,000 students, I have learned a lot on this subject. Students often ask why they are not at the level that they desire to be and what can be done about it. I have asked myself this same question many times over the years. A long time passed before I began to understand the answers. Like you probably have done, I have read many interviews with great guitar players and articles written by some of these same people. I often found it frustrating whenever the subject of learning to play guitar came up or when advice was offered on improving one’s guitar playing. With a small number of exceptions, very little time and space was offered on the topic. It’s not uncommon to see the advice be summed up in a grand total of three words: Practice! Practice!! Practice!!! Well of course we all know that practicing is the main ingredient. But rarely are we told much more than that. In my long quest to become an excellent guitar player and to help my students do the same I carefully took note of what worked and what didn’t. What parts of conventional wisdom are accurate and what parts (at least in my opinion) are not. I believe the twenty concepts that have proven to bring great results to those who use them are:
1. Educate yourself! No matter what level you are at today, you can be and should be learning more. If you are currently studying with a teacher or enrolled in a music program at a high school, college or university, you are on the right track. If you aren’t doing this (or if you feel that your current guitar teacher is not helping you enough in reaching your musical goals) I strongly recommend looking for a new guitar teacher. (Download the FREE guide on How to Choose a Guitar Teacher) I can’t stress enough how important it is to find the guitar teacher that is right for you! Your guitar teacher (or music program) should always be Goal Orientated. If it’s not, look for another teacher or school to study with! You don’t need a teacher to simply give you information or things to practice – you can get those things anywhere, what you need is a teacher who:

A. Knows what your goals are.
B. Cares about helping you reach your goals.
C. Knows how to help you reach your goals.

2. Listen to more music. Find more of the same music you already like. There is a lot of music out there that you haven’t heard. I am sure you can find something you really like and that would inspire you. Look on the internet if you can’t find it on the conventional radio. Check out internet radio, you can customize what you hear based on your preferences, it’s a great tool! Check out web sites that you know feature a lot of the music in the style you like.

3. Turn your musical frustrations into an asset in the form of a motivating force. I wrote a whole article calledMusical Frustration. I don’t want to repeat here everything that I wrote in that article, so read it if you haven’t already. If you have read it, it may be worth your time to read it again now.

4. Believe in yourself. You have probably heard that phrase many times before. It’s unfortunate how many people still refuse to invest their own beliefs into themselves. I wrote an article on Perseverance which deals indirectly with believing in yourself. Please read it if you have a problem believing that you can reach your goals.

5. Understand that becoming a better guitar player means becoming a better musician as well. When developing your musical skills, make sure to think beyond skills that are specific to guitar. Of course you will be working on many guitar skills: various guitar techniques, chords, scales, soloing, etc., but don’t neglect other skills that are not guitar specific like, ear training (also called aural skills), songwriting, improvising, creativity, reading, music theory, etc.

6. Surround yourself with better guitar players (or at least with those on your same level.) When you started out playing guitar, everyone was better than you, but now you have grown and there are less people better than you than before. The better you get, the harder it will be to find others who are superior to you to hang around or jam with. But no matter how good you get, there will always be something you can learn from someone else. Seek out those people, get to know them, jam with them, discuss music and guitar with them. Be willing to give as much (or more) as you want to take. If you are fortunate enough to be above the level of other guitar players in your area, seek out great bassists, pianists, violinists, drummers, etc. You can learn from them as well. (Even if you are not better than your guitar player friends, seek out musicians that play other instruments as well anyway).

7. Find out what inspires you and soak yourself in that. For me, going to concerts to see great guitar players or bands inspires me to practice more. Listening to great singers inspired me to refine my vibrato and phrasing. Listening and studying the music of great classical composers inspired me to study music composition. I wanted to write great music. Watching the movie Star Wars when I was a kid, reading Lord of the Rings, etc. inspired me as well. There are lots of non musical things that have been inspiring to me. The greatest source of inspiration has been my own personal experiences in life and within myself. The desire to express that was (and still is) a constant burning desire and powerful force that thrusts my desire to improve forward. Know what truly inspires you, seek it out, surround yourself with it and soak there.

8. Define your purpose. What is your definite purpose? Do you really know what it is? If I were standing in front of you right now and asked you this question, could you give me specific answers and explanations? Can you write it on paper in specific terms? This is critical to setting goals, planning strategy and monitoring the results, etc.

When all the enemies of progress start to creep into your mind, you will need to bring your definite purpose to the forefront of your thinking. I have seen procrastination, fear of failure, self doubt, lack of motivation, temporary setbacks, and other negative things bring people with great potential to a halt. Knowing your definite purpose and reminding yourself of it when a negative thought comes into your mind will help you overcome it.

9. Define exactly why your purpose exists in your mind. I specifically choose to list this separately from defining your purpose because I did not want you to let the why get lost in the act of defining. Trust me, this is important.

10. Create a strategy! You need a strategy that will layout exactly how you are going to reach your goals. Dreaming alone won’t take you anywhere. Telling yourself that you are going to play your guitar everyday isn’t enough. There is a lot more that goes into being an excellent player than simply playing your guitar. Ultimately you should work backwards. State your ultimate goals (on paper) then make a bunch of short and medium range goals. Think of reaching your goals as a relay race, not as a marathon. Each short term and medium term goal is the end of one segment of your plan and the beginning of the next segment (just like a relay race.) There are many benefits of looking at things this way as you will discover for yourself in your own way.

If you clearly know what your ultimate goals are, you can do this yourself. But if you need help in planning out the short and mid term goals to plan your strategy, consult a teacher whom you trust and believe can help you with this – it’s worth it, believe me. If you can’t find a teacher who can do this for you, pay someone (yes, I said pay) to help you develop a specific plan to do this. The best person to approach for this is someone who is already doing whatever it is that you want to be doing.

Remember that it’s OK to daydream and fantasize about where you are planning to go, but it can’t stop there. Don’t wish without planning! Don’t dream without doing! And always, always, have a strategy. You may need to revise certain aspects of your strategy as time goes on and that’s OK, but don’t try to go forward without one if you want the maximum results in the shortest amount of time. In my early days learning to play guitar, I wasted a lot of time aimlessly desiring to get better without having a clue as to how to plan for it. Sure I practiced a lot, but without direction and without an efficient path to follow. Most of my substantial progress as a musician came only after I developed a strategy and worked with it. If you are wondering why I haven’t given you a detailed explanation of the strategies I used in the past, it would be pointless for me to tell you what my strategy was, because it was specific only to my goals. Chances are, your goals may differ greatly from mine in many different ways. That is why you need your own strategy for your own personal goals. One last piece of advice before we move on, write everything on paper and read it everyday! It will keep you focused and on target.

11. Imagine yourself having the skills that you desire. Focus on that and concentrate. Convince yourself that you can do it. Convince yourself that you are already on your way to reaching your first goal – because you are. It’s easier to manifest your desires when you can imagine yourself already in possession of it. Keep your positive mental attitude always.

12. Define what you plan to do with your musical skills once you have them. If you plan on releasing your own CD or making a living in music, learn and study music business right now! The fastest way to do that is to actually take music business lessons at a college and take private lessons from a pro (or at least a semi-pro guitarist) Yes you can take lessons in this just like you can for learning guitar, songwriting, etc. Do not wait until you are a great guitar player to start learning about this business! I cannot tell you how many players make this mistake (I made it myself at first and have been studying it intensely for the past few years to get my own career to where it is today.)

13. Find out how your favorite guitar players reached their goals. Often times this is hard to do since you can’t always sit down and talk to some very famous musicians. But interviews exist as well as a few biographies on some musicians (especially dead ones). Despite the fact that many successful don’t really talk much about this, you can find some that do. Believe me, becoming successful is a lot more than just practicing and luck! Remember that their strategies won’t necessarily work for you because your goals may be different than theirs were. Still you can learn from it.

14. Don’t compare yourself to others. There is no need to do this anyway. Music should not be a competitive sport among people, only within yourself. Compare yourself only in relation to where you are in your strategy! Are you on your way to reaching your next short term and medium term goal towards your ultimate goals? Are you on schedule, does your strategy need to be revised?

15. Make sure you are practicing efficiently. Do you really know how to practice the guitar? Are you focused on setting daily and weekly objectives and then practicing in such a way that you will be working towards those goals? These are questions you should ask yourself. The two biggest practicing mistakes I have seen in students (besides not practicing enough) are:

A. Practicing is not goal orientated.
B. Not understanding the difference between playing one’s guitar and practicing one’s guitar.

If you are having any difficulties with practicing, talk to your teacher about it. He/she should be able to help you.

16. Play with others in a band or some type of ensemble. It is important to have experience playing with others. It can be in a band or some other ensemble setting. Formal or informal. The main thing is to be doing it. (at least once a month). Some things you just can’t fully practice alone. Besides the fact that this can be really fun, it will also help you overcome stage fright if you have it.

17. Measure your progress. Document your practice time. Keep a record of how much you practice each day. For technique things, use a metronome to see how fast you are able to play a particular scale, exercise, lick, arpeggio, etc. cleanly. Write down the result, practice it all week and see if you can play it one or two beats per minute faster by next week (or next month). Keep a record of all the technical things you are currently working on. You will clearly see if you are progressing and at what rate. For other items that are not so easily recorded with a metronome, paper and pencil, record yourself on tape or on your computer each week. Keep the tapes for a long time. Listen back in 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, etc. Listen to how much you have grown.

18. Do not pander to your strengths while ignoring your weaknesses. It is not necessary to be able to play all styles of music or every technique to be a good player, but certain aspects are universal, such as: technique, ear training, knowledge of theory, creativity, improvising, etc. Some musical styles will rely more heavily on certain aspects than other styles, regardless, it’s important to be balanced. If you are a heavy metal guitarist, chances are sight reading won’t be as high on your list of priorities as technique. Likewise, a strict classical guitarist won’t have much use for improvisation (unfortunately). But make sure you don’t avoid weaknesses that you should be paying attention to because if you do – you will be sorry, sooner or later.

19. Discipline yourself. Unlike a sport, you do not have a coach or a trainer to work with you all the time. Nobody is there to make sure you are practicing the way you need to, when you need to, and how often you need to. You need to be totally self reliant. If this is not a normal part of your personality, fortunately there is help for you. Only you can stop yourself from procrastinating. Take the initiative now to go forward.

20. Never give up! Never say can’t. Never say I can’t. Never say someday. Never say if. If your IQ is higher than room temperature, if you have all of your fingers and if you really want to succeed, you can.

It seems strange to me how many incorrect assumptions and teachings there are about becoming a better guitar player. Here are a few things that are often not true.

A. You should be a well rounded player and learn lots of different styles of music to become a good guitarist. This is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard on the subject. Segovia (the classical guitar master) wasn’t well rounded – he didn’t waste his time to master jazz or bluegrass for example. Yngwie Malmsteen didn’t study intense jazz guitar. Most great jazz guitarists don’t study classical guitar or heavy metal guitar. Stevie Ray Vaughn never learned to play fusion or metal. Great country players usually don’t study Progressive Rock. Of course there are examples of guitar players that do learn and play in more than one or two styles, but most of the really great guitarists are known for the style they focused on. They are masters of their style, they are specialists, not a jack-of-all-trades type of player. Don’t listen to people who say something like, “You must learn blues before you can learn heavy metal or classical guitar.” You do not have to be well rounded.

The only time one needs to learn lots of different styles of music is because your goals require it. If you truly love a lot of styles and want to learn them all, then go ahead and do that. If you want to be a studio musician or a jobber, then you will need that versatility. It’s very hard to be really good at many styles.

B. You should be able to play all the techniques of the guitar. Van Halen did tapping but not with all his fingers as others have done. He didn’t play finger style much either, but we still regard him as an important guitarist, the same thing can be said for Vai and many others. Classical guitar master John Williams probably doesn’t play well with a guitar pick (I am assuming this to be true, I have no proof of it), but he is considered one of the greatest classical guitarists alive today. Skills like improvisation, songwriting and playing with a guitar pick or not going to be high on his list of skills to acquire. This is because classical guitarists generally don’t do those things – and don’t need to be great at what they do. These players are great players in their own ways and they have spent many years developing their skills. Learning everything about guitar playing would have taken away precious practice time from the things they needed to focus on to reach their goals.

C. Teaching yourself is the best way to be original. This is so obviously false it’s hard to believe that anyone could actually believe it – yet some people still do. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is the best way to learn. This is the most close-minded philosophy I can think of. Musical skills are tools. One should want to obtain and master as many of these tools as will be needed to reach your goals. Doing that alone won’t work well and even if it does eventually work, it will take 10 times as long! Besides, how will you know if what you are trying to do is original if you don’t learn about what has already been done?

D. To be great means I have to be better than everybody else. We already touched on this one above, but it is worth mentioning again here. What matters is reaching your goals, not someone else’s goals. Who cares if you are or are not better than someone else? This is not the Olympics. Music is the art of expression (or for some people, the science of entertainment).

E. You need natural talent to be a great (or even a good) musician. Don’t believe this. It is true that some people possess more natural abilities in one or skill or another. For example, some athletes are naturally fast sprinters. Others are great marathon runners. Others can swim faster or longer. Others can jump higher. Others are stronger. Others are smarter. Others have faster reflexes. Others can throws football better. Others can shoot a basketball better, etc. The point is athletes with great abilities have them usually in one area. For example, Michael Jordan (arguably the world’s greatest basketball player of all time) was not very successful when he tried to play baseball (or golf for that matter). Think about athletes in the Olympics, they are specialists. They have found their natural ability and developed it to it’s greatest potential, but that natural ability is usually limited to one skill.

Music is very different from a skill or a sport. There is no such thing as musical skill. There exists only a large set of musical skills. Think about some of the very different types of skills a musician needs to have: a highly developed ear, good physical technique on his/her instrument, heightened creativity, the ability to improvise well, songwriting/composing skills, the ability to play in time, the ability to play with others, the comprehension of music theory, a good memory, the ability to read music, etc. The list goes on and on. Some players have a natural ability to play fast, some have naturally good ears, some have good voices, some are naturally more creative than others, some are natural improvisers, etc. Nobody has natural talent in all of the necessary areas to be a complete musician.

Think about the masters of music. Mozart was probably most naturally gifted in only three of these areas: technical skill, a great ear (perfect pitch), a great musical memory. But he had to work hard at all the other areas of music just like everybody else.

Chopin’s natural ability was his ability to improvise. He was the master, but he worked very hard to become the virtuoso pianist that he would later become. Chopin also was the master at small forms, but struggled with large scale forms.

Beethoven probably had no natural ability known to himself for a long time. He didn’t even begin composing much until around the age of 30! He was not a child prodigy like Mozart and Chopin were. Beethoven was, of course, a master, but did not enjoy the fruits of any natural talents. He constantly edited his works over and over, trying to perfect them. Mozart, by comparison, very rarely ever edited anything he wrote.

Each of us has some natural ability of some kind. You may already know what yours is or you may not  have yet discovered it. If being a better musician is not coming easy for you that simply means you are like the rest of us.

In the game of reaching your goals, there are only two real players… You and Time.

This article was written by Tom Heff

http://tomhess.net/Articles/WhyArentYouABetterGuitarist.aspx

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3 Reasons Why You May Not Be Getting Big Results From Taking Guitar Lessons

3 Reasons Why You May Not Be Getting Big Results From Taking Guitar Lessons

By: Tom Hess

Have you ever tried taking guitar lessons and ended up quitting in frustration, because you felt you weren’t making enough progress? Or perhaps you have considered taking guitar lessons but because someone you know had a disappointing experience with a guitar teacher, you began to doubt if lessons are worth investing your time and money. This perception prevents you from getting all that you want from your guitar lessons.

There can be many reasons why people quit guitar lessons.  Sometimes it is because the teacher failed to inspire you, or because the lessons weren’t focused enough on your specific musical goals, or because the teacher was only mediocre and didn’t know how to help you achieve a specific result. (To avoid this problem download this free guide on how to choose a guitar teacher) However, another (often misunderstood) reason might be that your own approach to guitar lessons wasn’t as effective as it needed to be in order for you to make real progress.

After teaching tens of thousands of music lessons to all types of guitarists and also mentoring guitar teachers around the world on how to teach more effectively, I began to notice similar and consistent patterns used by most students for learning to play guitar.

I also noticed that the specific approach the students applied to studying with a teacher had a direct influence on their progress. Very often 2 different people can get very different results by studying with the same guitar teacher, because the ways in which the students approached the learning process in general are very different. For example, one student believed that he knew better than the teacher did about how to reach his musical goals and resisted some of the instruction his teacher was giving him.  It later became very clear to him that he did not know better. The other student soaked up everything his teacher was instructing him to do and quickly became a world class guitar virtuoso.

I have found there are 3 types of students who become easily frustrated with their guitar lessons.  As you read the rest of this article, be honest and ask yourself if any of these 3 descriptions sound like you.  I’ll be the first to admit that at one point I had the characteristics of each of the “ineffective student behaviors” presented below.  Looking back many years later, I now understand that one of the reasons why it took me as long as it did to master the guitar (more than 20 years), was due to my own inefficient approaches to learning when I began the journey.

The “Teach Me Something New Today” Student Type

You may think it is common sense that guitar lessons should consist mainly of presenting new content, and expect that the guitar teacher’s primary job is to show you things that are “new” to you.  However, if we examine this approach a bit deeper, you will see that focusing “only” on seeking out new information will not bring big results long term. 

First of all, too much new content quickly leads to overwhelm and burn out (and does not allow enough time to apply the information you are learning).  This feeling of overwhelm is what causes you to become frustrated and quit lessons (or worse yet, quit guitar).  Second, simply “learning new things” does not lead to mastery.  I have had many students come to me being able to do some cool things on guitar.  For example, they may have good technique, or a good understanding of how music works, or have good ears.  But more often than not, their ability to APPLY and INTEGRATE what they “know” to playing music was very poor. At this point, “learning more new things” is not going to help these students to significantly advance their guitar playing.  Simply being “aware” of a concept is not enough.  You don’t truly “know” something until you can apply and integrate it with your other musical skills fluently.

This type of training in applying and integrating what you know is probably the single most valuable thing you get out of music lessons and is one area of musical development that is almost universally lacking in many guitarists. This results in massive frustration and disappointment that many guitar players often experience (but often do not realize WHY they are frustrated).

When you take lessons for the first time, you may think that it is great that your teacher shows you something new in each lesson.  But if your teacher does nothing else than “show you things”, then as more lessons go by, you will start to notice that you are not really making any significant progress (because no application and integration is taking place).  Most people will quit lessons at this point, and will continue to perpetuate the myth that guitar lessons are ineffective, without really understanding the real reasons for their lack of progress.

The type of student who is only interested in learning new things, typically does not stick with guitar lessons for very long.  If a guitar teacher begins to talk about a concept the student may already be familiar with, the lesson is perceived to be a waste of time.  Because these students may have heard about this concept from somewhere else, they believe that they “already know it”.

Of course, receiving new information is a part of any comprehensive lesson plan (and certainly you will learn a lot of new things by taking lessons), but it is the order in which this information is presented, and the way you are trained to USE, APPLY and INTEGRATE that information that makes guitar lessons with a good teacher so valuable.  If learning “raw data” in a linear fashion (and practicing) was all it took to become a great musician, then anyone could buy some books and after studying them for a few years and practicing on his/her own become a highly advanced guitarist.  Of course most of the time, this doesn’t happen.

The moral of the story here is to remember that you came to your teacher to learn and grow as a guitar player. In order for this to actually happen you will need to have some patience through the process and realize that sometimes when you ‘think you know something’, you in fact may not really know it yet to the point that you can apply it and integrate it with your other musical skills.

“The Perfectionist”

The next type of student wants to master every little thing their teacher presents in a lesson (or that they discover on their own) before working on anything else.  While on the surface this seems like a good idea, it is far from the most efficient approach to becoming a great musician.  Learning music is best done in a non-linear approach, meaning that multiple things should be worked on simultaneously without stressing out about totally mastering everything in a linear order.  Discover more about why the typical linear approach guitar players follow often fails in this video about how to learn and master guitar playing.

I like to compare learning music to baking a cake.  You don’t make a cake by cooking one ingredient at a time and then finally putting them together when each one is ready.  If you baked your cake in this way, it would take you a long time to finish and more importantly the cake would not taste as good as when the ingredients are cooked together!

The same goes for musical skills.  If you waited until you became a great virtuoso master of technique before beginning to work on (mastering) music theory, then turning to songwriting, and then switching to improvising, it could take you many decades to finally become really good and your skills would not likely be integrated together.  What I recommend to you is to follow a non-linear approach (as described in the video above). When learning a new skill, don’t wait until you completely master it; only make sure that you have the fundamentals down and begin immediately to look for contexts to apply it.  Then work on integrating this new skill with everything else that you know how to do/play.  Application and integration are unique skills that must be practiced separately.  This key link will enable you to go from being “the student” who is able to “do lots of things” on the guitar, to becoming a great player who can use all of his musical skills to achieve complete musical expression.

This (non-linear) approach will also prevent you from getting out of balance with your skills and at any level of your musical development, you will be able to apply and integrate everything you know.  It is important to note that a ‘non-linear approach’ is not an ‘illogical’ approach. So if you are looking for a systematic and logical approach to learning guitar, you should understand that this systematic, geometric (non-linear) strategy IS in fact the most effective, most efficient and most logical path possible.

The Challenger

This personality type often comes out in a player who has been playing for a while and has studied with other guitar teachers in the past.  This student may come into their first lesson full of preconceived ideas about what lessons should be like, and dictating to the teacher what and how to teach.  I should clarify here that I am not talking about asking questions when you don’t understand something or telling your teacher about your goals.  There is a big difference between doing that, and trying to dictate to the teacher what and how to teach.  If the student knew that much more about teaching than the teacher, then the student would BE the teacher, right?  If you know how to successfully learn guitar on your own and you are TRULY happy with your progress without a teacher, then maybe you don’t need guitar lessons.  But if you seek help from a qualified guitar teacher, this means you realized that whatever you were doing on your own wasn’t working as well as you wanted it to.  Therefore, you should accept the fact (or at least the high probability) that your guitar teacher knows many times more about guitar  playing and teaching guitar than you do and can successfully teach you to play well.  (Otherwise, why would you give the teacher your money?)  Of course not all guitar teachers are the same, and some are much more qualified to teach than others.  If you follow the advice I give in the guide for choosing a guitar teacher, you will be sure to find the best teacher for you.

I always tell my students that in order for them to receive the most benefit from working with me, it is their job to articulate to me their specific musical goals and list their musical challenges.  Then it is MY job to come up with the most effective strategy possible to solve their problems and get them to their stated goals as quickly as possible.  But in order for that to happen, they need to have faith in me as a teacher, and commit themselves to moving forward together through the learning and training process.  My most satisfied and advanced students all followed this advice.

If your guitar teacher has already created many great musicians, chances are, he knows what he is doing and will be able to help you as well.  But his ability to help you will be limited (and the process will take much longer), if you constantly challenge everything he tells you to do.  Again, asking questions about something you don’t understand is normal, and is part of the learning process.  But creating the overall lesson plan is your teacher’s primary responsibility, not yours.

In many of my previous articles, I mentioned that working with a guitar teacher is the fastest and most direct way to achieve your goals.  But if you want to truly maximize your rate of progress, you should also analyzethe way in which you approach studying with a guitar teacher.  Even if you choose to study on your own, I still strongly encourage you to analyze your approach to learning and practicing the guitar and see if it can be improved.

There are many variables that affect the rate of your improvement while learning to play guitar.  If you align all of them in your favor (by studying with a great teacher, adapting the most effective approach to learning, developing powerful practice habits, and more) then you will become really unstoppable!

If you recognize yourself as one of the student types described above, think about your current approach to learning guitar and if necessary, make the decision to change that mindset.  On the surface it may seem like a small action to take, but the difference this can make to your guitar playing may be greater than you have ever even imagined before!

Want to know how to choose the right teacher for you? Download the free guide for choosing a teacher.

http://practicegenerator.com?pid=7&ai=41

This article was written by Tom Hess

http://tomhess.net/BigResultsFromGuitarLessons.aspx

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11 Damaging Mistakes Guitar Players Make and How To Avoid Them

11 Damaging Mistakes Guitar Players Make and How To Avoid Them

By: Tom Hess

Do you know how some guitar players practice most days of the week, work hard, and are passionate about their guitar playing, but they always struggle to be able to play guitar the way they want? They are frustrated because they don’t improve fast enough, begin doubting their guitar playing potential, or even feel discouraged or angry with themselves when thinking about how long it is taking them to become a better guitar player. 

Can you relate to that? I sure can, I just described myself 15 years ago.

There are specific reasons why guitar players go through such frustration and disappointment. Here are 11 key mistakes guitar players make and repeat over and over again that you should definitely avoid.

  1. Teaching Yourself To Play Guitar. Many people attempt to teach themselves how to play guitar. Yes, it’s true that some well known players were ‘somewhat’ self taught, but I do not suggest following that strategy even if your favorite player was self taught.  If you are 100% sure that you can build powerfully effective learning and training systems on your own, that’s great. However, if you are like most of us, doing it alone is the hardest, most time-consuming, stressful, and frustrating way to learn anything. This is a mistake that you should avoid.  Some guitar players think it will impress others if they say, “I am a self taught guitar player”. That statement might impress a few inexperienced people, but being self taught is not a ‘badge of honor’. Would you rather impress others with your guitar playing or with an unimportant  statement about your guitar playing? I’m not criticizing self taught guitar players, I’m only saying that there is no advantage to being self taught… and no, it is not true that being ‘self taught’ makes us more ‘original’. In fact, the opposite is usually true.
  1. Taking Guitar Lessons From Ineffective Guitar Teachers. Unfortunately, most electric guitar teachers receive ZERO training on how to teach guitar. What is worse is that the vast majority of teachers do little or nothing to improve their guitar teaching skills. Want some proof? Use google’s keyword tool . Type in this keyword phrase: ‘improve guitar teaching skills’, ‘guitar teaching skills’, or ‘guitar teaching training’ and you will find that less than 10 searches per month are done for these topics at google!  Of course there are some highly effective electric guitar teachers around, but there are a whole lot more ineffective teachers.  Here is a free resource on how to tell the difference between the good guitar teachers and the mediocre ones, Free Guide: How To Choose A Guitar Teacher
  1. Seeking New Guitar Information (tricks, tips, tab) Without A Proven Strategy To Reach Your Specific Musical Goals.  We need information, advice, help and music to play, but without a proven strategic learning and training process that is specific to you, your skill level, your musical style and what you want to be able to do as a guitar player, information won’t get you where you want to go. It is better to first seek help in developing a customized strategy for you to become a better guitar player. After that strategy is in place, then it is time to deal with learning the right information.
  1. Not Knowing Specifically What You Want To Be Able To Play. Most guitar players are not specific enough when they think about (or tell others about) what they want to be able to do with their guitar. To say, “I want to play whatever I wish to play” is too vague. How can you (or your guitar teacher) develop a specific and effective guitar training strategy unless the goals you have are specific? It’s like saying you want to be a great athlete, how can you effectively train with such a vague goal? Sure there are things you can do to become faster, stronger, more flexible or whatever, but it’s much easier if you first get specific such as, I want to train to be a gymnast, or a long distance runner, or a body builder. Yes you can still improve without a strategy, but it will take a lot longer and be much more frustrating.  You can always change your goal later if you discover you want to do something else instead.
  1. Not Enough Focus On Things That Matter Most To Making You A Better Guitar Player. Have you fallen into the trap of practicing guitar without focusing on the specific things that can quickly begin to improve your guitar playing? Many people really do not understand and apply this concept in enough detail…. for example, I have a student named Mark who used to take lessons from another teacher in the past. Mark was studying sweep picking arpeggios with his previous teacher, and was making some progress. However Mark did not understand what ‘specific’ things he needed to focus on first before attempting to master the sweep picking arpeggios he was practicing. This was holding him back and making him feel very frustrated.  Mark’s previous teacher only knew how to ‘teach’ arpeggios and general sweep picking concepts. He did not really know how to “train” Mark with the specific things to focus on and how to overcome the challenges Mark was having. If you would like to see a small sample of this check out this short sweep picking video guitar lesson.
  1. Too Much Focus On Things That Are Not Core To Your Goals. In addition to not focusing on specific things, many guitar players focus on the ‘wrong things’.  Some enthusiastic guitar players become temporarily obsessed with things which are distractions from other things that could be helping their guitar playing much more. Here is an example: I used to get so frustrated and angry when I could not play something perfectly, I’d lock myself in my guitar practice room and say, “I’m not coming out of this room until I master this damn lick if it takes me the next 19 hours! No breaks! No food! No human contact! I’m gonna nail this!”  And I did master it.  On the surface, it might seem like I was on the right track and practicing in a good way…. But in reality, I was spending my time only to stop being angry and frustrated. I was not investing my guitar practice time wisely by focusing on the things that mattered most to making a better guitar player. In other words, my perseverance was commendable, but my strategy to master important long-term goals was weak. I allowed myself to be distracted. I don’t make this same mistake anymore, and I urge you to also avoid it! Focus on the things that really matter for your guitar playing right now. If you are not sure how to do this, seek out a proven guitar teacher today.
  1. Focusing On The Right Things, But in The Wrong Order. This is a common mistake that even many advanced guitar players make which causes a lot of wasted time and frustration. Imagine you want to improve your ability to create your own cool guitar solos. Let’s assume that you are advanced enough to truly understand all the primary and secondary elements of composing guitar solos (or you have a guitar teacher to help you). Each of the many elements need to be learned and/or practiced in order to easily create awesome solos that you like. Where should you begin? What should you focus on first, second, third? Which of these things should you practice simultaneously? There is always a specific order in which musical skills should be learned and mastered in order to EXPLODE your musical skills. Unfortunately, that order is totally different for every person, style of music, musical goal, skill set and knowledge, so giving an example here would be pointless. My advice, find the best teacher you can and study with him/her in order to be able to do what you want to do with your guitar much faster and easier.
  1. Not Isolating Problem Areas. Few guitar players are aware of the small things that hold them back in big ways. Because these little imperfections seem insignificant to us, we often ignore them. The truth is, small hinges open big doors.  In the video mentioned above I explained how allowing your guitar pick to lose its momentum when you are ‘not picking’ a note on the guitar makes your playing slow and sloppy…. which will make you feel very frustrated.  This is why I was sure to make a special point to help you avoid that mistake. Check out the small sample sweep picking video guitar lesson for more details.

Professional guitar players practice for different reasons than most amateur players do. For example, before recording a new album I will practice very differently compared to the period before going on tour. Once I’m actually on tour my practice routine changes drastically again. The rest of the year my practicing schedule changes yet again. This happens because in each case my challenges and goals are totally different. When my guitar students ask me, “Tom, how do you practice guitar?” I’m careful not to let my students assume that they should practice the same way that I do. Your practice schedule and strategy needs to be built around YOU and you only!  If you need help building your own practice schedule, email me directly.

  1. Learning And Practicing Guitar In A Step By Step Linear Process.  Does following a linear step by step approach to learning, practicing and mastering guitar seem like common sense good to you? Yes it does… And that is why guitar players who follow such a path are NOT great guitar players. I’m going to let you in an insider’s secret… The truth is, following a linear approach to learning guitar, practicing guitar, and mastering guitar is the NUMBER ONE REASON WHY “GOOD GUITAR PLAYERS” STRUGGLE TO BECOME “GREAT GUITAR PLAYERS”… I originally thought I would write an article on this one point alone, but I think you will learn this concept better in another short video I recorded while I was doing  a recent guitar instructional clinic tour a few months ago. Check out this free sample from my “How to Master The Guitar” clinic.
  2. Practicing Guitar In The Same Way Your Favorite Guitar Players Practice Guitar.  Have you ever read about how your favorite guitar players practice guitar and then tried to repeat the same practice routine? Yes, I’ve made this mistake too!  It seems natural to use a similar guitar practice schedule that our favorite guitar players are using. This is a mistake, because your current guitar skill level and knowledge of music is probably very different from your favorite player. His/her challenges and needs are likely not the same as yours.
  3. Learning From Too Many Different Sources Of Information.  There will always be many learning opportunities and various paths to take, but it is critical that you do not get distracted into following a piece of advice from one person, then another piece of advice from another person and then follow more resources from somewhere else and so on and so on… while different people may have some good ideas to offer, the fact is, distraction is a big reason why many guitar players who are actively learning, don’t really move forward quickly… these people are always busy following totally different resources, teachers, philosophies, instructional videos, free online guitar lessons, but all of this leads them to take one step forward, then 2 steps to the right, then one step forward, then 3 steps to the left, then one step backward, then two to the right, then 1 step forward and then another step to the left…

An illustration of this is shown below. The first path is obviously the most direct way to arrive to your goals. The second path is the inefficient approach filled with many distractions that come from various pieces of advice from many sources:

 

 

Once you have an effective strategy to become the guitar player you want to be, ALWAYS stay focused on it (unless your goals radically change)!!  The very best way to do this is to have ONE primary guitar teacher who helps you to become the musician you really want to be.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take advice from other people too, but you should have one ‘primary’ source of information, training and coaching, and see the other advice as an additional resource, but do not become distracted by it.

Download this free guide How To Choose A Guitar Teacher to find a guitar teacher with proven teaching strategies, proven training strategies and proven results so that you become the awesome guitar player you want to be and play the guitar the way you’ve always wanted to play.

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This article is from www.tomhess.net

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