Happy Birthday Tony Gwynn, “Mr. Padre”

Wishing Tony Gwynn a happy birthday today.

You may ask why a baseball player is being featured on a music website…

TonyAlicia
Visit Tony and Wife Alicia’s Foundation!

If you follow this blog you probably know I am a huge sports fan. Growing up watching the San Diego Padres, was/is not much to root, cheer, (insert verb) for!

But in 1982 along came Tony Gwynn. As a kid you watch and cheer for your favorites. But over the years of following the team there was a ‘Tony Gwynn’ work ethic that was always discussed.

Tony was a tireless worker at his craft…hitting a baseball. He spent hours and hours watching film, studying the game and working on his game. That made a huge impression on me growing up.

It made me want to work that hard at guitar and I began to listen to guitarists who had that same work ethic. The guys who put in HOURS & HOURS day in and day out playing guitar.

Not only that he was and is a loyal citizen of America’s Finest City, San Diego! My hometown!

So that said Tony was a huge influence on me personally and professionally and that is why he is being a wished a happy birthday from me.

Thanks Tony and Happy Birthday!

Guitar Practice Tip, It Ain’t Like That…

This guitar practice tip may be one of the most important to keep in mind when learning the instrument(or anything new). Unfortunately, for some it might be one of the hardest pieces of advice to truly grasp and put in your tool box.

Recently, I’ve been reading about how adults learn vs. how children learn, not just guitar, but, in other areas like language, as well. As is often suggested, do kids really have a larger capacity to learn than adults? Looking back upon my most successful students over the years they all have had one thing….

As previously mentioned, it is often said that kids learn things so much easier. Brain science and genetics aside this may not be a true statement. In my experience teaching both adults and kids it has a lot to do with learning style.

Adults have learned how to learn already. We learn how to study, play sports and drive for success. There are as many strategies for tackling new things as there are people trying new things.

Kids are more pliable in their learning styles. More willing to take to heart what teachers suggest. Without as much life experience, they are more open to just purely DOING something new and seeing what happens.

By the time we are adults we have developed certain preconceived notions how to learn  things. An athlete may learn by taking new experiences head on with brute force and strength. An engineer may face things analytically, breaking down problems, systematically and logically solving the unknown.

How we were brought up determines how we learn, as well…good ol’ nature vs. nurture.

Athletes pound it out, music ain’t like that…

Salesmen don’t take no for an answer, music ain’t like that…

Students work extremely hard studying to do well on tests, music ain’t like that…

Where am I going with all this? Teaching thousands of students from 4 year olds to elderly and all ages in between over the past 20 years one thing stands out.

To go Yoda on you, …”Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

Yeah it is kind of ‘use the force’ when learning music.

-You may need to check your learning and drive for success styles at the door when trying an instrument. (Although they may help some they may ultimately hinder you, as well)

-You need to be open to exposing yourself a bit by dropping your pre-conceived notions for success in other fields.

…So what is the one thing my most successful students possessed?

They had an adaptable approach…They knew when to push hard and when to let off the gas. When to listen and when to attack. On and on…

In essence they had a flexible approach rather than a rigid pre-learned approach to learning and achieving musical success.

Bottom line approach the guitar with an open mind!

Be willing to learn in a different way than you’ve previously had success in other areas of life, when needed.

Above all, at all levels of your journey enjoy playing!!

Guitar Practicing Tips – Know Your Open Strings

One of the first things you will want to learn as a guitarist is the letter names of each of the six strings.  Sure you can learn a bunch of tabs and chords and play songs but what about when you are jamming with your friends and they say something like, ‘your D string is out of tune?’ It sure would be embarrassing if you didn’t know which string they were talking about! I actually remember in college we had composer John Duarte pay us a visit. Some of the students who were playing his pieces were asked to perform for him in a master class setting. One student did a great performance of a Duarte piece. As is custom in a master class the composer/guest is to give some helpful critiques and suggestions. Mr. Duarte suggested the student play a certain passage on a different string to achieve a desired sound.

The student froze. In front of the composer, his teachers and an audience full of guitarists he froze. He couldn’t find the notes he needed and it was embarrassing for everyone there let alone the poor guy on stage.

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU! The first step you need to take is to know your open strings! Once you memorize these there are easy ways to find any note you want on the guitar. If you want to play bar and power chords knowing all the notes on the 5th and 6th string is essential and again it starts by knowing the open strings.
Here are two acronyms that are helpful to remember your open strings. Both were created by students of mine. One from over 15 years ago and one from a recent class.

Here are the open notes starting from the 6th string(thickest) to the first (thinnest)

E   A    D    B    G    B    E

Starting on the 6th(thick) string to the first(thin) string …by Patty

Eat    A    Darn    Good    Breakfast    Everyday

Starting on the first(thin) string to the  6th(thick) string …by Orlando

Easter    Bunny    Gets    Drunk    At    Easter

Don’t like these? Create you own version, whatever it takes to get you to memorize the open strings!

Click here for past practicing tips.

Guitar Practicing Tips – If You Can’t Practice Everyday…

What is the most important day to practice? Well everyday of course!

If you are taking lessons or attending classes, however, there is a best day. It is either the day of(afterwards) or the day after your lesson. When you learn something new you need to reinforce the concepts and muscle actions ASAP. If you wait until the next day and then you get an unexpected invite, then the next day the kids need you, the next day you already had plans….etc., by now half a week or more has passed. It is easy to forget exactly what you were supposed to be focusing on. If you miss a day after you already practiced your new stuff you have a better chance of remembering everything.

So that said jump on it as soon as you can!

Keep practicing!!!

Guitar Practicing Tips – Put in an Extra 5!

When you are done with your practice session…put in 5 more minutes. These extra five minutes often turn into much more and can become very inspired. This might have something to do with the fact that you have done your regimented practice and are now playing for your own fulfillment on the instrument. Also it takes time for your brain and muscles to coordinate the way you want. It is no different than a workout. Those first 10 minutes of exercise can be rough before you hit your stride with endorphins being released, etc. Musicians and athletes both use the terms being locked in or being in the zone.

There have been countless times I was not having a great session and been ready to call it a day when I decided to add an extra 5. Some of my most productive sessions have come out of this practice.  I’ve written some of my best compositions and infused strong musicality when I have gotten into ‘the zone.’

Give it a try…if nothing else, you get an extra 5 minutes of practice!

Note to parents of guitar students: This may or may not work with young kids. Even if they love to play their guitar they are often driven to fill their duty i.e., a 20 minute practice session and can get frustrated over extending the time. Of course you know your kids and how they work best.

Let me know how this works for you!

Function of My Dysfunction

A note on setting up a good practicing atmosphere.

Tonight I’ve been working on a few things: practicing music, writing music, setting up my website, working some blog ideas, browsing the internet, researching some music.

Believe it or not I have been getting a lot of quality production in ALL these areas. Herein lies the function of my dysfunction-I get bored easy.  When I get bored my mind wanders and I get sidetracked. However, if I set myself up in a good chair for playing guitar, a computer nearby, my phone nearby, the TV on etc,. when my mind wanders it locks onto another project I need to focus on.

Even as a kid I remember doing this. I would have my stereo cranking down the hall, cuz I wanted to hear music, the TV on to keep my mind busy, some homework cause I had to and a guitar in my hand because I wanted to. Hearing the music would give me inspiration, watching TV would give my mind a break and playing guitar was my active focus and the homework got done as I’d take breathers from practicing. I remember this driving my parents nuts sorry mom & dad!

Of course I would never recommend that my students play in front of the TV. Well actually I have recommended it at times for students to keep them focused as it does for me.  In all seriousness there are times that complete and utter focus is needed. When I was getting ready for my college recitals there were times I practiced up to 10 hours a day. Most of this time was spent in quiet solitude, focused without all the ‘distractions.’

So a note to my student’s parents perhaps knowing your child’s work and focus habits you can decide the best environment for your kids to practice. Does your child function better in a quiet room or with a few slight distractions, such as, TV on, siblings playing in the same room, you and your spouse conversing???? Maybe mute the TV during commercials over the course of an evening and let them practice in intervals.  Sometimes sending your child to their room for a perfectly quiet, focused practice could be sentencing them to a boring solitary experience and never be afraid to comment, ask a few questions and praise your kids as they are working on their new skills. A more social experience may be what they need rather than a solitary ‘ideal’ working area. Then as their interest and skills grow they can develop their own ‘best’ habits.