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  1. #1

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    Teaching people how to practice. Beginners but also intermediate or sometimes more advanced players. Now obviously there's no one way to effectively or correctly practice, but there are very inefficient ways. With most students I can gently repeat myself till I'm blue in the face, but most just don't get it. Repetition. Subdivide, take small sections and do no more until you GET that one little chunk. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you have full conceptual understanding. Don't try and play the whole thing if you can't play bar 6. Work on Bar 6.

    Repetition is a hard thing for people to do. It's hard to sit and play a single phrase over and over and over. But that's what it takes. Students want to have fun and you want them to have wins. You also know that they'll start winning when they grok playing something. There's that make break point.

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  3. #2

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    Also the need for consistency. Every day, as much as possible. The same thing.

  4. #3

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    No doubt.

    When you encounter someone struggling with this, do you "practice them" in the lesson? Meaning, do you just have them do what they should do in practice, as a way to show them unequivocally?

    I've done that because there's nothing left to do. Well, almost nothing.

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
    Teaching people how to practice. Beginners but also intermediate or sometimes more advanced players. Now obviously there's no one way to effectively or correctly practice, but there are very inefficient ways. With most students I can gently repeat myself till I'm blue in the face, but most just don't get it. Repetition. Subdivide, take small sections and do no more until you GET that one little chunk. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you have full conceptual understanding. Don't try and play the whole thing if you can't play bar 6. Work on Bar 6.

    Repetition is a hard thing for people to do. It's hard to sit and play a single phrase over and over and over. But that's what it takes. Students want to have fun and you want them to have wins. You also know that they'll start winning when they grok playing something. There's that make break point.
    blue in the face... Yes sir...

    "If you practice the whole thing every time, you'll literally be 3x better at the A section no matter how many times you practice it". (On AABA form) If I had a nickel for every time I've said that one.

    I think musical "talent" is more about a serious love of practice than what most people consider "talent" to be. You really have to love the process almost more than the result. Hard to teach someone else that, but probably worth trying.

    I "practice" practicing for some portion of any lesson. Hoping I can give them a taste of what's possible if you do it the right way.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
    Teaching people how to practice. Beginners but also intermediate or sometimes more advanced players. Now obviously there's no one way to effectively or correctly practice, but there are very inefficient ways. With most students I can gently repeat myself till I'm blue in the face, but most just don't get it. Repetition. Subdivide, take small sections and do no more until you GET that one little chunk. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you have full conceptual understanding. Don't try and play the whole thing if you can't play bar 6. Work on Bar 6.

    Repetition is a hard thing for people to do. It's hard to sit and play a single phrase over and over and over. But that's what it takes. Students want to have fun and you want them to have wins. You also know that they'll start winning when they grok playing something. There's that make break point.
    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    blue in the face... Yes sir...

    "If you practice the whole thing every time, you'll literally be 3x better at the A section no matter how many times you practice it". (On AABA form) If I had a nickel for every time I've said that one.

    I think musical "talent" is more about a serious love of practice than what most people consider "talent" to be. You really have to love the process almost more than the result. Hard to teach someone else that, but probably worth trying.

    I "practice" practicing for some portion of any lesson. Hoping I can give them a taste of what's possible if you do it the right way.
    Loving the process (practicing) may be one of the most critical factors to long-term success. Everyone that I've ever known who became a good musician loved to practice.

    Another thing I would add is that it's essential to practice new material slowly. Even after all the years I've played, I still approach new stuff slowly.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    No doubt.

    When you encounter someone struggling with this, do you "practice them" in the lesson? Meaning, do you just have them do what they should do in practice, as a way to show them unequivocally?

    I've done that because there's nothing left to do. Well, almost nothing.
    I've tried. Sometimes. I feel too bad. I end up just lecturing and trying to explain what they need to do. But I really should. I feel guilty because the lessons are kind of expensive.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    blue in the face... Yes sir...

    "If you practice the whole thing every time, you'll literally be 3x better at the A section no matter how many times you practice it". (On AABA form) If I had a nickel for every time I've said that one.

    I think musical "talent" is more about a serious love of practice than what most people consider "talent" to be. You really have to love the process almost more than the result. Hard to teach someone else that, but probably worth trying.

    I "practice" practicing for some portion of any lesson. Hoping I can give them a taste of what's possible if you do it the right way.
    That's it. And I've also explained that too. I tell them it's the process. The journey is almost more important than the arrival. "If I can get you to love the process I've done my job as a teacher."

    I've always loved the process. I love practicing. And most often I don't do it enough. I don't find all those things I'm terrible at and repeat them enough. But I work in the areas I need to work in, to a degree. I would bet if you went back to see the greatest musicians and what they do and or DID to get them where the got, you'd see an ability to persist and repeat. Now a lot of guys no longer have to do that. They've drilled so much they've forgotten. I think Bill Evans said he;d practice playing one tune all day if that's what it took. Playing a phrase over, and over, and over for hours in some cases. And then, I'e found, once you've done that a few times, you don't need to do the next ones quite to that extent.

    But most of my students don't trust me or just can't do it. The next week I see they still can't play it and they try to play the whole thing, when they STILL didn't get bar 6. Then I lecture again LOL! They look at me half comprehending and lost. I'm trying to figure out what the disconnect is. That's my job. Try to find the disconnect. The bug in their process.

  9. #8

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    Interesting thread! Glad that it's not just happening with me and my students (non-jazz but same problems).
    Being new to jazz guitar myself I have to do a lot of practicing (which I enjoy immensely) and am very aware of the process of learning myself. You have to build up the motor abilities and muscle memory until you don't have to concentrate on and think about that anymore before you are going to play actual music.
    Looking forward to hear more from you experienced teachers.
    Last edited by TOMMO; 10-09-2015 at 04:24 AM.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A long journey starts with the first step...and although I have long forgotten about my destination I'm still enjoying the journey.

  10. #9

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    Great thread.

    When I taught, the primary frustration was not having students show up.
    MG

  11. #10

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    At least 3 issues here.

    Probably some of your students are new to playing music, not just to guitar. Thus, even if a student has listened to a lot of music...(1) they can maybe hear stuff, but don't know vocabulary--i.e. the name for it, or how to do it (some theoretical construct), (2) can't do it (technique...physical execution), or (3) can't do it on guitar--learning the fingerboard.

    Unfortunately all this ties together...a lot of great players ended up on gtr. after doing other instruments. The physicality part has to come, but if you've played other string instruments, this will come a whole lot easier. If not, that is just time on the instrument.

    Playing an instrument is like learning a foreign language....the first one you learn is always the hardest. Once you've learned one, the next one comes a whole lot easier...etc.

    A lot of new students don't appreciate the three-fold nature of the task...they get discouraged....some explanation of what they're in for is helpful as a reality check....to the extent any intermediate drill, can use real musicality--that is very helpful...e.g. Conti's technique drills use violin etudes which are actually fun to play, and hear....and just doing them will help you learn to phrase...much better than just running scales, etc., IMO.

    Finally, the best teachers can remember what it was like to be not masterful....otherwise you end up with the Ty Cobb/Babe Ruth coaching phenomenon....great players but awful as managers and skill developers.
    Last edited by goldenwave77; 10-09-2015 at 11:33 AM.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by goldenwave77 View Post
    At least 3 issues here.

    Probably some of your students are new to playing music, not just to guitar. Thus, even if a student has listened to a lot of music...(1) they can maybe hear stuff, but don't know vocabulary--i.e. the name for it, or how to do it (some theoretical construct), (2) can't do it (technique...physical execution), or (3) can't do it on guitar--learning the fingerboard.

    Unfortunately all this ties together...a lot of great players ended up on gtr. after doing other instruments. The physicality part has to come, but if you've played other string instruments, this will come a whole lot easier. If not, that is just time on the instrument.

    Playing an instrument is like learning a foreign language....the first one you learn is always the hardest. Once you've learned one, the next one comes a whole lot easier...etc.

    A lot of new students don't appreciate the three-fold nature of the task...they get discouraged....some explanation of what they're in for is helpful as a reality check....to the extent any intermediate drill, can use real musicality--that is very helpful...e.g. Conti's technique drills use violin etudes which are actually fun to play, and hear....and just doing them will help you learn to phrase...much better than just running scales, etc., IMO.

    Finally, the best teachers can remember what it was like to be not masterful....otherwise you end up with the Ty Cobb/Babe Ruth coaching phenomenon....great players but awful as managers and skill developers.
    LOL. Exactly. All of my students, in the first several lessons we talk about the language of music and how learning any language can be difficult, especially when you're older and already KNOW how to communicate relatively well! In music it's especially challenging because we all know what good music sounds like. That's why we want to play. Also how much easier it might be if you've ever played another musical instrument, even if it was in grade school and you're 40+ years old. That challenge of learning when you've never used your fingers in this way or thought about music in terms of counting or pitch or scales. It's all so mechanical.

    I've been teaching since I was in high school. So for me, I've always kept the remembrances of being a beginner and how it was, even though for me it was different. And that's one of the frustrating things. I am not exactly like the students I'm talking about. My mom couldn't get me to put the guitar down. zI tended to work through the problems, or just jammed. But I did my lessons for the most part. BUT Ive always had some students and friends who played and we all suffered from some of these same thing.

    We work on ear by tuning. I force them to not pull out the electronic tuner. Train your ears to hear the pitches. We look at what PITCH actually is. Look at waveforms and the difference in waveforms sounds between slapping the desk and playing A 440. Even wave periods vs crazy. I define the elements for them. Time. what time is and rhythm. We look/listen to examples. We define pitches on the fretboard. I'm thorough. I try, the best I can, to make absolutely CERTAIN the student understands this stuff. But you know, students lie. LOL. Then I say the ONLY WAY to REALLY UNDERSTAND this stuff is to drill. Practice. It can't be like studying history where you can read a chapter and be done with it. You have to know it conceptually and that only happens through practicing. People don't get this point.

    I talk through examples of how we seem to learn as human beings -- walking, talking, driving, eating. We learn by doing. Thinking is a basic effort that happens at the BEGINNING of drilling. Then we just continue. Learning to drive a car you have to think about where the gas pedal is, brake, how far to turn the steering wheel, figuring out exactly where the lanes are, how much pressure to exert on the pedals, how to parallel park and the rules of the road. Looking at youtube and reading the manuals can help. BUT you REALLY CAN'T LEARN IT UNTIL YOU GET BEHIND THE WHEEL AND DRIVE! Hopefully with good teachers by your side. SAME EXACT THING WITH MUSIC.

    But music is a language. The best players, especially jazz where it's all about improv, know it as well, or better in most cases, than talking. You can't think about it. But for students, the way to get better is to drill, or practice. Over and over until you understand it.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
    LOL. Exactly. All of my students, in the first several lessons we talk about the language of music and how learning any language can be difficult, especially when you're older and already KNOW how to communicate relatively well! In music it's especially challenging because we all know what good music sounds like. That's why we want to play. Also how much easier it might be if you've ever played another musical instrument, even if it was in grade school and you're 40+ years old. That challenge of learning when you've never used your fingers in this way or thought about music in terms of counting or pitch or scales. It's all so mechanical.

    I've been teaching since I was in high school. So for me, I've always kept the remembrances of being a beginner and how it was, even though for me it was different. And that's one of the frustrating things. I am not exactly like the students I'm talking about. My mom couldn't get me to put the guitar down. zI tended to work through the problems, or just jammed. But I did my lessons for the most part. BUT Ive always had some students and friends who played and we all suffered from some of these same thing.

    We work on ear by tuning. I force them to not pull out the electronic tuner. Train your ears to hear the pitches. We look at what PITCH actually is. Look at waveforms and the difference in waveforms sounds between slapping the desk and playing A 440. Even wave periods vs crazy. I define the elements for them. Time. what time is and rhythm. We look/listen to examples. We define pitches on the fretboard. I'm thorough. I try, the best I can, to make absolutely CERTAIN the student understands this stuff. But you know, students lie. LOL. Then I say the ONLY WAY to REALLY UNDERSTAND this stuff is to drill. Practice. It can't be like studying history where you can read a chapter and be done with it. You have to know it conceptually and that only happens through practicing. People don't get this point.

    I talk through examples of how we seem to learn as human beings -- walking, talking, driving, eating. We learn by doing. Thinking is a basic effort that happens at the BEGINNING of drilling. Then we just continue. Learning to drive a car you have to think about where the gas pedal is, brake, how far to turn the steering wheel, figuring out exactly where the lanes are, how much pressure to exert on the pedals, how to parallel park and the rules of the road. Looking at youtube and reading the manuals can help. BUT you REALLY CAN'T LEARN IT UNTIL YOU GET BEHIND THE WHEEL AND DRIVE! Hopefully with good teachers by your side. SAME EXACT THING WITH MUSIC.

    But music is a language. The best players, especially jazz where it's all about improv, know it as well, or better in most cases, than talking. You can't think about it. But for students, the way to get better is to drill, or practice. Over and over until you understand it.
    Excellent post!
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A long journey starts with the first step...and although I have long forgotten about my destination I'm still enjoying the journey.

  14. #13

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    Henry, your response is interesting, and I think well thought out.

    I think learning to play an instrument ought to be called "Neuro-acoustical and physical programming". Consider Django....did not know "names" of musical concepts...could not READ music (or in fact, read or write ANY language, at all) but he UNDERSTOOD music at the highest level....i.e. he could hear, and respond in real time...to call him "naïve" or "untutored" or the like...is ridiculous....his understanding took place at the highest level.

    I'm curious, do you use/require singing in your musical instruction?..from an educational/neurological perspective...this is multi-modal learning....and would help with skill acquisition...(consider, in HS foreign language classes, the shy student often ends up suffering...he doesn't want to speak, and ends up learning less than the "loudmouth" who's not afraid to try, and to suffer mistakes, but who ends up picking up a better accent, vocablulary, etc.)....how many musicians were schooled, through weekly church music?!...choirs, etc..... I know for damn sure that Charles M. was heavily influenced by black church music...it is all over his music....Ray Charles, etc.....the list is endless. Interesting also the instrumental players who hum their lines, even if their pitch is off.

    I ask because I've considered taking singing lessons just to help other aspects of my musicality...(also I'd drive my kids less crazy on long car rides).
    Last edited by goldenwave77; 10-15-2015 at 10:45 AM.

  15. #14
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by goldenwave77 View Post
    I think learning to play an instrument ought to be called "Neuro-acoustical and physical programming".
    That sounds a bit sinister to me, but I'd buy "Neuro-acoustical and physical coaching".

    I think learning is always autonomous - even when they intervene (puposefully and strategically), teachers only foster and facilitate learning.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by goldenwave77 View Post
    Henry, your response is interesting, and I think well thought out.

    I think learning to play an instrument ought to be called "Neuro-acoustical and physical programming". Consider Django....did not "names" of musical concepts...could not READ music (or in fact, read or write ANY language, at all) but he UNDERSTOOD music at the highest level....i.e. he could hear, and respond in real time...to call him "naïve" or "untutored" or the like...is ridiculous....his understanding took place at the highest level.

    I'm curious, do you use/require singing in your musical instruction?..
    LOL. That sounds too psycho-babble to me. But that's just me. But yeah, I get it. LOL.

    No, I don't do singing with my students, perhaps in part because my singing is so bad. But I do try to get them to internalize the sounds, starting with tuning. I get them to see you have to make a copy of the sound in your head, and sometimes singing the pitch you're trying to tune to helps internalize the sound.

    I try to keep one thing one thing and separate out the others. In other words when we work out musical problems I ask what it is they're looking at to figure out the problems. I think we ALL think visually. So when I ask, what is the perfect 4th above G? Invariably I see the student look, with concentration off to some place, out the window or something. I ask what they're looking at, or how are you figuring this out? Some say they looking at a piano keyboard, or some are counting notes by letter (bad) or by intervals (better). Then I point to the guitar in their lap and ask them why don't you look at that? "Oh, I can do that?" LOL. 99% of the time the guitar is going to be in your lap when you're working these things out. Look at it. But more importantly it's important to learn to THINK on the instrument you're playing. Look at the interval of a 4th. Look at the shape. Once you know that thought is instantaneous. You're looking, not thinking.

    All's this is to say, singing is not guitaring. I'd rather work on guitar and keep it on guitar, not some other thing.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by destinytot View Post
    That sounds a bit sinister to me, but I'd buy "Neuro-acoustical and physical coaching".

    I think learning is always autonomous - even when they intervene (puposefully and strategically), teachers only foster and facilitate learning.



    Well, the programmer, in reality, is the student. So, we really agree on this point. "Programming" or "developing" those neural pathways CAN'T be done by someone else--no matter how great a "teacher" they are.

    Esp. in jazz, the sum of how one plays is a combination of talent, work expended, musical background, technique, physique, etc. so, for e.g., the idea that a jazz student is going to end up sounding exactly like some other famous player, is really pretty small.

    I think any formal program of study can give people a foundation, but to really become a mature stylist/artist takes some insight and effort. Someone like Clifford Brown who was pretty much the complete package at a pretty early age, say-22-ish---is just astounding to me.

  18. #17

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    Sometimes the interest in practice is tied to what the student has to practice. I recall my first lessons in classical guitar...I was making great progress and could not wait to practice. Then suddenly out of nowhere my instructor put "Danse Macabre" by St Saens in front of me. I tried practicing this but found it too difficult. I explained this to my instructor but he insisted I master this piece. I begged him to place it aside for a while and work on more melodious music. He steadfastly refused. He insisted that I would learn this piece well enough to perform an entire duet with him before we moved on. So I stopped taking lessons.

    He would have made a wonderful military drill instructor.

    In retrospect I think he may have been tapped out on his teaching repertoire and decided to make me go away.
    Last edited by Eddie Charles; 10-09-2015 at 08:24 PM. Reason: Add a thought
    Eddie Charles

    "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is. "