The Excuses Guitar Students Make – Which Is Your Favourite?

 To be successful on guitar you need to be consistent with your practice and your lessons but more to achieve this you MUST put an end to the excuses you make.  I could write a book on the number of excuses I have heard over the years but here are some of the most popular ones you need to be aware of.


1. I had too much work/homework. Whether it be school homework or work homework this excuse is all too familiar. Too much home work is usually a case of procrastination especially if its a common occurrence. Perhaps you were given an assignment and had a month to do it but kept putting it off until the due date was literally the next day. Naturally guitar practice and everything else for that matters needs to take a back seat. Avoid procrastinating and you will usually have enough time to do most things.

2. I am just too busy. If you decide to learn guitar and find that you are just too busy to practice you may as well stop right now. Just are obviously trying to juggle too many balls. You need to decide what you have time for and what  needs to be eliminated. Guitar needs 30 minutes of your time each day. Anything less (except for young children who can do less) is really pointless.

3. Too many distractions. If someone or something in the house is a constant distraction you need to either make it very clear that your guitar practice time is a time for you to be left undisturbed or you need to find another place to practice or choose a time when the distractions are not present.

4. I didn’t understand what to do. While this is a legitimate excuse for not practicing a new exercise or song it is not a good reason for doing no practice at all. If this is ever the case review previous exercises or practice something that you do understand.

5. My guitar was out of tune. Students should not rely on their teacher to keep their guitars in tune.You should have a guitar tuner on hand and if you don’t understand how to use it this should be your first priority at your next lesson. If for some reason you can’t tune your guitar take it to a local music shop and ask and perhaps buys some picks in return.


What’s your No.1 excuse?



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How to get your child to practice guitar

Many parents worry that they may be too strict with their children when it comes to learning guitar. Their main fear is they will turn them off music forever. We have all heard stories of adults who say as a child they were forced to learn a musical instrument but many of these examples do not give the full story.Two ways to be strictMany adults who as children were forced to learn music associate negative feelings around the experience. The reality is there are two basic ways to be strict and the long term results can be dramatically different. As a parent you can be strict yet fair or you can be strict and cruel. There is a very big difference between the two. The mistake many parents make is lumping both types into together without making the distinction. 

Are you strict about teeth cleaning?

My guess is you have no hesitation in insisting your child to go to bed on time, brush their teeth, do their homework etc but do you treat guitar practice the same? There is nothing wrong with being strict about their practice just don’t be cruel. By cruel I mean there is no need to physically or mentally inflict punishment onto your child.  When your child does not practice simply send them to their room and withdraw all privileges like TV, Internet etc until they have done their practice. It really is that simple. Once they realise there is no negotiation they will practice without resistance and the result will be progress which in itself becomes the motivator. This strategy works but you may very well get a few tears and tantrums early on but its quite normal.

Tips on helping your child to succeed.

Now I also have some tips for parents that will increase the chances of your child becoming a success on guitar and they are as follows; 

  1. Realistic expectations. Many children think learning guitar is all fun and no work. Dispelling this myth from the outset will set realistic expectations. 
  2. Get involved. Parents who leave it totally up to their child will usually be disappointed. Getting involved builds confidence and encourages practice because all children seek parental attention. At first sit with them everyday. Even better try learning with them. Overtime you can gradually back away.
  3. Be consistent and persistent. Set a time each day for practice and stick to it. E.g. 5 pm each weekday. If their routine is broken try to get back on track asap. 
  4. Make it a game. When they are doing a particular exercise make a game out of it. Clap along. Sing along. Point to notes and ask them the names of notes.
  5. Monitor their progress. If they know you are cheering them on they are more likely to want to practice. Children love to impress their parents but to impress you they need to see that their achievements matter to you. Applaud even the smallest of achievements.
  6. Praise behaviour over results. The behaviour we seek is simply daily practice. Try not to focus on results too much. Praising them for practicing will encourage more practice. If its all about results children are more likely to give up before they get a result.
  7. Communicate with their teacher. I (David Hart) have personally been teaching guitar for over 25 years and I have noticed that when parents ask questions they are better able to help their children in the learning process.
  8. Focus on the positive. Its best to look at what they are doing well and highlight the fact. E.g. “WOW! 3 hours of practice this week. Isn’t that a new record?”
  9. Focus on practice. – Remember its the habit of practice we want to cultivate. Studies show that results come ultimately to those who practice the most.
  10. Ask your child to teach you. Children love to show off what they know. If you get them to give you a lesson every week it will reinforce their knowledge while also boosting their confidence.
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Deliberate’ guitar practice and why it makes all the difference

10,000 hoursThe term ‘Deliberate Practice’ can at first seem a little confusing because one would assume all practice is deliberate right? Apparently not. Firstly deliberate practice is now a recognized term and the most prominent researcher on the subject is Professor Anders Ericsson of Florida State University in the USA. Ericsson and his team have focused on the question of what makes people great. They wanted to know what makes a Tiger Woods or a Michael Jordon. I think most guitarists want to know what makes a John Petrucci or a Steve Vai or a Steve Morse or a Paco Pena. Well the conclusion is Deliberate Practice.

Secrets of greatness

Here is a quote from a Fortune article entitled ‘Secrets of greatness’ ‘The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call “deliberate practice.” It’s activity that’s explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one’s level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.’

10,000 hours of practice

Lets apply it to guitar (of course) to help gain a better understanding of the real meaning of deliberate practice. Most researchers agree that to earn the title of a master in almost any field takes around 10,000 hours of practice. But as we all know just strumming a guitar for 3 hours a day on your lounge for 10 years won’t necessarily make you a master guitar player. The practice has to be focus and goal oriented. In other words ‘deliberate’. Just going through the motions is not enough. In fact if every practice session you did was well planned with both a short term and long term goal you will almost certainly reach mastery if you are prepared to do it everyday for several hours for around 10 years or in some cases less. The researchers agree that no one masters anything without hard work. Ericsson quotes, “Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends.”

Natural talent

It appears natural talent only takes you so far. Those with a natural talent often have an advantage in the early stages but this advantage tends to diminish over time and deliberate practice becomes the deciding factor. This is good news for the majority of us have very little natural talent for music. There are also many factors that influence so called natural talent that are actually the result of our environment more so than any inborn talent.

Hard work is understated

Here is a quote form Will Smith (Actor) in a interview a few years ago. “I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. I’ve viewed myself as slightly above average in talent. And where I excel is ridiculous, sickening, work ethic. You know, while the other guy’s sleeping? I’m working. While the other guy’s eating’? I’m working. While the other guy’s making love, I mean, I’m making love, too. But I’m working really hard at it,” he tells Kroft, laughing. Conclusion If you want to be great its really has little to do with talent. One of the great guitarists of all time was Django Reinhardt and he only had 2 and a half fingers. Deliberate practice is about focus. Students should practice with a clear goal in mind so their practice actually makes sense.


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Memorizing the note names on the guitar fretboard

Guitar fret boardMemorizing the notes on the guitar fretboard will give you a big advantage. Once you have the notes memorized you will spend less time looking for notes and more time playing. The trick to memorizing the guitar neck is to do it one note at a time. So here are the steps.

  • Step 1. Learn the chromatic scale. The chromatic scale consists of 12 notes. *A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#. To better understand the chromatic scale I recommend you check out the G4 Guitar Theory book. To learn more visit our website
  • Step 2. Find all the A notes on each string and memorize their positions. Practice this for a week.
  • Step 3. In the next week find all the B notes and practice everyday for a week. 3rd week find all the C notes and so on.

The idea is to rotate around the notes spending a week on each until you can find any note instantly then use the chromatic scale to locate the sharps and flats.


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Are you mentally prepared to learn guitar?

Learning guitar is as much about mental training as it is physical. Scientists have known for some time that our physical and mental health are linked. In the 1960’s a Dr Charles Garfield (computer analyst) joined the infamous Apollo moon project and found himself surrounded by people who were leaders in their respective fields. He notice that many of his colleagues shared similar characteristics. Garfield then decided to investigate this further by studying high achievers in sports, business, science and the arts.

Peak Performance

In 1984 he wrote a book called ‘Peak Performance’ he noted six capacities or aptitudes of high achievers:

  1. Missions that motivate (Why are you learning guitar? What is your mission? Do you have a clear goal?)
  2. Results in real time (Set small achievable milestones. A checklist is ideal)
  3. Self-management through self-mastery (Practice each day at the same time and record your practice times)
  4. Team building and team playing (Try and find a partner to learn with. Its never too early to jam)
  5. Course correction (If you are not getting results try something different but don’t quit too early and seek advice from a teacher)
  6. Change management. (Its okay to have different teachers or at least try a different teachers from time to time just to compare. Each teacher offers a fresh perspective).

The Real Reason People Quit Guitar

The fact is our mental state can make or break us. I have for many years stated that the single biggest reason people give up guitar is not for the many reasons they claim. Students will often say “I don’t have time” or “I can’t afford lessons” or my favourite “I just don’t have the talent”. The real reason is almost always CONFIDENCE which is all about one’s mental state. I say this because in my more than 30 years of playing guitar and 20 years of teaching I have seen almost every scenario possible. I have seen students with enormous potential give up because they say they just don’t have the talent. I have also seen students who are often slow in the early stages (where even I have questioned their ongoing commitment) stick it out and become amazing guitar players. The difference is confidence. Its confidence that keeps them going and its persistence and a determination to succeed that ultimately brings about success.

Confidence can make all the difference

Confidence is a mental state and is often the difference between success and failure yet very few people build it in to their guitar learning program. If you are not working on your mental preparation you are either one of the lucky few who are naturally confident or you are destined to give up or at the very least make little to no improvement. In my early years of teaching I noticed some teachers had high student retention rates where others had high dropout rates. The difference as I came to learn was confidence. Not confidence in the student but confidence in the teacher. A confident teacher knows that every student has the capacity to succeed and this in turns makes a student feel confident in achieving their goal. Tip: Find a confident teacher. Even an over confident teacher is better than a self-doubting teacher.Hope that helps.

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How Children Learn to Play Guitar

How Children Learn to Play GuitarChildren learn music very differently to adults. I have been teaching guitar and studying the art of teaching for close to 30 years. One of my strongest findings is the fact that children learn primarily by association. That is they associate some kind of meaning to learning music. If that association is positive they will most likely continue to pursue music their whole life. If it is negative they will probably give it away at the first opportunity. This means that its vitally important that we build positive associations to music early and yes I understand this is easier said than done.

Its not what you know…
Those closest to us have the strongest influence over our behaviour. Numerous studies have shown that everything from spending habits to obesity are heavily influenced by those around you. This is even more profound with children but children are easily influenced by their peers. Many parents decide to enrol their child for guitar lessons believing private lessons are better when in fact the opposite is true. When a child learns guitar alone they are less motivated especially if most of their friends don’t actually play guitar. This means the best thing you can do for your child in terms of learning guitar (or anything for that matter) is to put them in good company with other likeminded kids. In this case kids learning guitar and this means group learning.

The parent’s role
A parent’s challenge is to a build positive association to the experience of learning guitar. The good news is what matters most to children are their parents. Parents who work with their children especially in the first 6 to 12 months will generally have far greater success because this builds the positive association. Learning guitar equals happy times with Mum and/or Dad. The benefits of working with your child go beyond just the ability to play guitar. In most cases your relationship with your child will grow and strengthen as a result. Make sure your child practices daily but as much as possible keep the experience positive.

What to do if your child loses motivation
The most common reason children want to stop guitar is a loss of confidence. Perhaps the current challenges are too hard. When this happens just chat to their teacher and explain the situation. Don’t give up because in most cases with a few adjustments to their practice material they will soon be back on track.

Getting your child started on guitar
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