It’s hard to believe that the end of another decade is drawing near…
I’ve been playing and teaching guitar for more than 3 of those decades, and I’ve seen a lot change…
But what I find more interesting are the things I’ve found that haven’t changed.
Now, you might think that the methods of teaching and learning guitar really haven’t changed, but there have been a couple of big things that have really changed the way you learn and the way I teach:
First – I’m sure you’ve heard me say it a dozen times or more by now, but timing and counting is everything.
When I used to only teach privately, it never came up because I just expected my students to count and there was no other option in my studio. But I learned the hard way after the first couple of years online that most people are not inclined to count while they learn.
Most of my online students (yes, that’s you reading this) have learned bits and pieces from a variety of sources online – YouTube probably, and maybe some other premium sites like TrueFire or GuitarTricks and maybe some “old school” books or videos.
Well it might surprise you to know that I, too, have a membership to most of those sites and I’ve bought hundreds of “old school” books and videos in my lifetime.
And it never ceases to amaze me how few of them talk about the rhythm and the counting behind the riffs or the licks.
I get it… it’s not sexy, and it’s not fun. But it works, and it works every time. Without counting, the lesson might work, and it might not…
But the worst part is, if you really don’t have a good internal clock and the ability to count, then you probably won’t even know you’re playing something way out of time. You may not even know that you’re playing it wrong at all!
It’s that classic case of, “you don’t know what you don’t know… so it most certainly will hurt you.”
So let me say it one more time – there is a reason I count through every example in every lesson, and you should do it too.
If you’re not sure if you should still count out loud, then you should.
Now the other, second thing that has really changed more recently, is that more teachers and players are starting to realize there isn’t always one right way to play a guitar.
Those of us who grew up playing jazz or classical guitar know the pain of trying to contort your hands into just the right position to play things “correctly.”
But now we see guitar players from all parts of the globe who have adapted their technique to their own “Guitar DNA” and can play easily and effortlessly and breathtaking speeds with control and expressiveness.
This was something I discovered, quite by accident, as a teenager. When I “broke” the rules, I could play much more relaxed and at much higher speeds, so I went with it.
For new players, of course you want to start with a generally acceptable playing position, but from there make adjustments as they suit you.
As for things that haven’t changed?
You still have to practice… there’s no getting around that. But there are a lot of great ways to make practicing more fun than it used to be playing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat!”
Telling yourself you want to “master the fretboard” still doesn’t work out… you need to focus your practice in more specific ways – especially with all of the available information at your fingertips. Setting specific goals will always yield the best results.
Playing with other people regularly is one of the best ways to improve. Yes, it will shine a really big light on your weak spots, but then you have those specific goals set for you.
Using your own ear to try and figure things out is still one of the best skills you can learn. TABs are great, but developing your ear is a skill that pays off year after year. Don’t worry about being right all the time, just keep trying and it gets better.
Above all remember that we call it playing guitar for a reason – make it fun!