Build it up!

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Principles of good guitar learning – Principle 1: Build it up!

Every day I learn something new about playing the guitar, I play sometimes more than 2 hours, go to classes regularly, and one topic is catching my attention and interest in the last months more than others: how to be effective learning it, I mean, how to learn it without losing time or using too much effort.

I have been reading a lot about this topic, I bought books, I read other blogs, and I must say there is a lot in the web to read and review.

I learn differently today than 20 years ago, for sure, at least when we are talking about learning a new skill.

I am going to share with you in this blog the knowledge, tools, and thoughts I have been collecting until now, stuff that I have been testing and keeping developing. I also want to mention that next to my profession as a singer and musician, I am a psychologist and a coach with more than 12 years of experience in the field of improving performance, applicable to my guitar learning sometimes.

You can spend hours and hours trying to learn every scale and every chord by heart, but the first step is to build on what you know already. Don’t start too high-level, you will have troubles understanding or playing it, don’t start too low, you’re not experiencing any challenge. In both cases you can experience profound frustration.

When I started to learn guitar years ago, I had a lesson with a teacher recommended by a friend. I was starting my playing with the knowledge of the typical open chords, knew how to read notes, and some other basics about guitar learning which were not really a big deal.

I was so motivated and wanted to start with at least 2 hours a day when I had my first class with this teacher. I went out of the class with frustration and a lot of negative thoughts and doubts. He started to teach me 9th and 7th chords on different positions on the neck, explaining inversions and I cannot remember anymore. I had no idea what he was talking about!

I recognize that it was not the best start for me. He should have spent the first class reviewing some basics and trying to understand my level of knowledge. I guess he was used to more advanced students. Anyway: I cannot remember a word of what he explained to me, this is the result.

I thought at that time I had thrown away the money of a class. I know it was a good way of understanding that I need constantly to build up on what I already know if I really want to understand more about the stuff.

It sounds easy and obvious, but many times we try to make more because we are not patient enough, and we end up with frustration and judging our performance negatively.

According to the principle BUILD IT UP, following you can read the best 10 pieces of advice I have been collecting and I have been using in my daily routine:

  1. Write down the tempo you are doing certain exercises and build it up slowly
  2. Write down the parts you don’t understand, or which are difficult for you to play now, you’re going to get back to them later realizing you are improving
  3. Ask for explanation to a teacher or a peer when there are details you don’t understand: it is useful to analyze what you have been playing and to take that knowledge with you for the future
  4. Dedicate some time to repeat easier old stuff every now and then, realizing how many new steps you have done
  5. Try to learn something new every day, even if it is only a new chord or a new rhythmical pattern
  6. Don’t exaggerate with new stuff, take it slow and elaborate it gradually
  7. Write down the time you are spending on new stuff and rate it easy/advanced/very advanced (but learnable for you) and have a mix of the 3 levels every week
  8. Explain what you learnt new to yourself loud or to someone else, it is a good way to retain new content
  9. Keep track of your exercises recording you every now and then listen to it and take note of your progress
  10. Dedicate some time to theory and listening to good music, analyze it, listen to it critically.

I hope it can help, I am sure you know already many of this points, and maybe I could give you new ideas of improving!

I will be very happy to read your comments and observation, let’s support each other!