Your brain constantly interprets a range of stimuli, from the feel of the chair you’re sat on to viewing the light from the screen to read these words, from the smell of old socks to the call of a crow. Some people have a tendency to learn better using some senses than others. There are three basic kinds of learning.
Three learning styles
Visual (drawing, watching, reading, writing),
Kinesthetic (moving, touching), and
Auditory learning might seem the one most people choosing to study music would lean towards. However, some “non-musical” people often have a passion and desire to learn an instrument, even though it might be more difficult for them than learning other things like a foreign language or a handicraft. An even if all your music students have a musical flair, things learnt in the classroom can be reinforced by appealing to a range of learning styles. While you might figure out that a student prefers one mode of learning over another, most people prefer a variety of activities. This prevents boredom, and strengthens weaker skills.
How to incorporate learning styles into lessons
For each learning objective think of an exercise that appeals to each learning style. For instance, you might want your student to recognises the features of a particular rhythm. You might achieve this by writing out the notes on a stave, or reading a phrase where the intonation follows the rhythm (visual), feeling the rhythm on a drumskin or play along themselves (kinesthetic), or listening to a short piece of music (auditory). Many students will be bright enough to pick up and remember the rhythm after one or two exercises, but it’s good to have a range of routes to go down depending on what questions or interests arise during the lesson.
Should teachers emphasise one learning style over others?
Sometimes students would like to focus on a particular mode, for instance a student might have a performance coming up and be tempted to practice playing their piece(s) over and over. It might be appropriate to devote most of the lesson to practice playing the whole piece, or running over particularly challenging sections. Or a student might really enjoy picking up new things in a certain way, like needing to hear a piece played before they can play themselves. Here teachers might begin to play everything before the student has a go.
Mix it up a little
You should punctuate a lesson with other activities, not just teaching one thing in one way. This can be refreshing, prevents them becoming “one-trick ponies”, and can even bolster the student’s preferred exercises. If your student is working towards an upcoming performance you might watch footage of a professional guitarist to see their fingering. Or you might write out the notation for a couple of lines from memory, and identify areas that were omitted or written incorrectly as areas to focus on. Or instead of demonstrating something first, you might encourage a student to sightread and play a new piece from scratch, or challenge them to include a twist into a piece they can already play.
I teach to a range of learning styles because it produces excellent, well-rounded musicians.
At this time of ear people often browse local book stores looking for last minute Christmas gifts, and maybe a music-related book is a possibility. You might also be searching for a guitar book to complement your guitar practice, advance your skills, or expand your knowledge? Here are my eight tips for beginner and intermediate guitar books:
Beginner guitar books should:
Cover multiple styles
Introduce the basics, not go too in depth
Describe various techniques without going into advanced details
Show you how to use some simple theory e.g. counting beats
Advancing on introductory books, intermediate guitar books should also:
Train your “guitar ears“
Include oral drills so you can sing as well as play guitar
Go more in depth into theory behind guitar
Coach you in sightreading
I’m reluctant to pitch certain books since peoples preferences vary a lot. What works for one person might be too casual a writing style, too anglicised, or not visual enough for another. But for what it’s worth I find Solo Guitar Playing to be an excellent introductory guitar book for beginners, even for those who might not yet know how to read music. I liked it so much I recently bought a fresh copy for myself! If you like that and want to continue learning classical guitar there is an intermediate version by the same author.
People are so pressed for time these days. With many guitar teachers to choose from, would-be students need to quickly discover which teacher is right for them.
Questions to ask potential guitar teachers
Often the first questions that come to mind are, “Where are they?“, “How skilled are they?” and, “How much do they charge?“. Less often people consider the style of teaching on offer. Ignoring the approach taken by a particular teacher is a mistake that could lead to a frustrating series of lessons, slow progress, maybe even a complete waste of money.
To find out a guitar tutor’s teaching philosophy you should find out about what they expect from students each lesson, how each lesson is planned, and how you will be assessed.
Reading a guitar teaching statement
Very few teachers seem to produce formal teaching philosophies, or if they do they don’t publish them online. It might seem like a high-brow pursuit reserved for those who dream about pedagogy. I found it an eye-opening experience to write one, and would encourage others to do the same. For you to see a bit of what I’m talking about I’ve posted a concise version of my teaching philosophy below.
Tim Griffiths’ Guitar Teaching Philosophy
A guitar student will be successful if they are taught correct technique, music theory, and do a lot of practice. To motivate students to progress I plan lessons around what they want to play, and cover many aspects of each piece including timing, scales, intonation, technique, and dynamics.
One of my first students wanted to learn Fade to Black by Metallica. Using the intro riff I taught him timing, how to play the electric guitar more like an acoustic, and the scale being used by the lead guitarist in the solo.
In each lesson my students learn about how guitars work, new theory and technique. Recently one student wanted to know how chords and keys were related, so I taught him how the notes are laid down on the fretboard by drawing a diagram. Then we practiced playing in a particular key to hear and identify chord sequences matching each key. Another student focused on a particular scale, so we explored the different ways of playing those notes on the guitar, and we built riffs including new skills of bending notes and vibrato.
In my teaching I share my passion for current music technology with my students, for instance improvise with scales to backing tracks on Youtube, or recording chord sequences using Garageband on the iPad.
I am keen to share my guitar knowledge and skills with guitar students no matter where they’re coming from. I can teach bass, lead, and rhythm guitar and am open to many styles. I seek to create an inclusive learning environment by always giving students positive feedback and suggestions for how to improve. I take pride in seeing my students blossom and form their own bands. I look forward to helping many more students progress in the future.
What’s the most effective way to learn guitar? Here are my top three tips.
Little by little
Often we start out with big dreams, we say things like “I want to be like Jimmy Hendrix”. This is great, but don’t make the mistake of expecting to achieve this overnight. Keep the goal in mind, but know that it will take work to get there. Plan how you’re going to get there in bitesize chunks.
Little and often
Make sure you’re always making progress by practicing daily, or as close to every day as you can. Half an hour each day is much better than a whole afternoon on a Saturday. If you’re finding something difficult try a little bit, then put down the instrument as pick it up tomorrow. If you achieve what you want to, revisit it and improve on it in your next practice.
A little a lot
Okay, my use of the word “little” fell down a bit here, but I had to repeat it because this point is about small, repetitive chunks. Once you can do something, say you’ve learnt a new scale, then by all means go away feeling happy, give yourself a small reward. Make sure you play it again soon, and repeatedly into the future. This will train your body and mind, getting the musical patterns into your muscle memory.
To avoid boredom when you’re revisiting things, try and mix it up a little. You could add in a solo improvisation, strum instead of pick (or vice versa), include a crescendo up to your favourite line, change the words in lines of a song, play an arpeggio instead of a scale, mix the verses of different songs, etc. What should you include in your guitar practices? Ideally a full body workout (kind of): This blog contains great ideas for range of things you should include in your practices.
Putting this into practice
If you’re new to guitar, forging a new habit with your playing, or just starting to plan your lessons this might all seem overwhelming. Firstly, break to job down into little chunks, and get experienced guidance. Ask your guitar teacher to help you plan your practices between lessons. Get your hands on good written material. Your local guitar shop might stock some recommended books, and you might also like to try these:
Skeptical guitarist books by local Raleigh author Bruce Emery
Blog, including a free weekly email and a free cheatsheet ebook Scale Trainer
People I meet instantly recognise my British accent. I particularly like it when I meet someone new and conversation turns to British music. Some peoples’ knowledge is a little sketchy; the American music industry is notoriously hard for UK acts to break into. If you want to learn more about the UK’s fantastic music heritage, you can’t do much better than the 2012 London Olympic Opening Ceremony, which was masterfully directed by Danny Boyle and the soundtrack mixed by British electronic music group Underworld.
The tracks featured in the opening ceremony moved chronologically starting with notorious acts from the 1960s like The Beatles, The Who, and The Rolling Stones, then on to The Eurhythmics, The Prodigy, and more recent bands like Muse. Rappers like Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah aren’t really my thing, but they complemented the overall set very well. Olympic teams then paraded round the stadium to the tunes of Chemical Brothers, Adele, and David Bowie. The set is discussed here, including a link to listen on Spotify.
Maybe you’re starting out a with a new or renewed passion for guitar and would like some instruction. Maybe you want a rigorous training to be successful in music exams. There are many private guitar tutors around Raleigh, NC. Below I’ve listed websites, price, and location. You should also consider the teaching philosophy of any potential guitar tutor.
I started teaching guitar and bass this month at an introductory rate of just $35 an hour. No contract, membership, or registration fees. You can pay as you go or get a discount if you book a block of lessons. Compared to the above music schools I’m offering a great deal. Interested? Contact me and we can discuss how lessons from me will help you achieve your guitar playing dreams.