7 Tips for Success in Online Guitar Courses
Want to get your full money’s worth from any online guitar course?
Here are 7 tips to get the most from your course, and make it worth your time, energy and money.
No. 1: Define the Best Case Scenario
No single book, course or program will, on its own, be complete. We also have to bring our own time, focus and attention to it. No matter good the material, we still have to learn it.
Knowing this, what is the best case scenario for an online course? Here are three ways a course can be a success. There are others, but this is a start.
Success! Have fun
We play guitar for fun. So if we take a guitar course online, it should be fun.
And what makes something fun? Novelty, challenge, new perspectives….
Success! Learn something new
If we learn something new, it’s a success. This is, after all, why we take the course in the first place.
Just like reading a book or taking an in-person lesson, one good take-away can make it all a success.
Each course (or piece of music, or new skill) is not an end unto itself. Instead, it’s one small step in a life of learning guitar. Each piece of music we learn can build our skills. And we can ideally take these new skills into future pieces.
When we keep this long-term view in mind, we can relax and focus.
Success! Get skills that transfer to other pieces of music
We ideally find some skill, practice method, or technique that we can use going forward.
We may get a new way to shift from one position to another. Or a way to solve a certain kind of problem.
To learn guitar is to learn to practice guitar. And this means we collect an arsenal of movements, strategies, processes and formulas. We use these as we learn new pieces and polish current pieces.
If we can add one more “tools to the chest”, it’s a smashing success. (More on this below.)
No. 2: Set Realistic Expectations
When we first start nearly any project, we begin with zeal and optimism. We’re excited to dive in. And we may expect that elation to last.
But often, time and circumstances intervene. And things turn out different than we imagined.
So it’s good to set realistic expectations up front. Or, be willing to change our expectations at any point, to avoid frustration. (We can think of this as renegotiating with ourselves.)
How much time do I have?
Even if we only have a few minutes each day to begin with, we can still take an online guitar course.
But if our practice time is limited, it may take several weeks or months to get through the course. And this is fine. (More on this below)
How do I define my personal success right now?
Also, depending on our current abilities and situations, we will have a unique definition of success.
For example, Mr. Smith has a medical issue. Just enjoying the practice time and discovery could be full success for him.
However, for an advanced player in perfect health, the goals may be different.
We can explore our personal versions of success, and go forward with them in mind.
Examples of common goals are:
- Complete focus (getting one’s mind off of other things)
- Clocking time (fulfilling a personal agreement)
- Playing the piece of music (for love or money)
- New understanding (broadening one’s horizons)
No. 3: Practice One Lesson Before Moving to the Next
In any self-paced course, we run the risk of moving on before learning the lesson.
To get the most from a guitar course, we ideally go slow enough to get the value at each step.
It can be tempting to watch many videos at once. But we may come away not knowing exactly what to practice, or how to practice it.
It’s more useful, and we get more value from the course, if we practice each lesson before moving on.
But this doesn’t mean we have to master it just yet….
Overlap is fine – mastery not necessary
We may not fully master one lesson (or practice section of a piece) before moving on to the next. This is fine.
The important part is that we know what and how to practice that section. Then, in our daily practice, we can continue with the work of one lesson, while also working on others.
Our lessons can (and will) overlap.
So long as we can keep track of it all, there’s no limit. However…
Pause when needed
It’s also perfectly legal to pause in a course. If we have plenty to work on, it’s better to focus on mastering those skills.
We can return to the course when we’re ready. It will always be there, like a book on a shelf.
The danger of pausing is that we may lose momentum. We can counter this by reviewing previous lessons. This keeps us engaged with the course, and getting great value, while taking the time we need to practice.
No. 4: Take Notes: Write Down “A-ha!’s”
Often in a good course, we’ll get at least one “A-HA!” moment. These are fun and rewarding learning experiences.
So we should capture them. Write them down.
When we take the time to write down our discovery, we clarify it in our mind. To put it into words helps us to understand it. We assimilate it more deeply.
Even if we never look at our notes again, we’ll learn the new material better. We’ll remember it more readily.
And this means we’re more likely to make use of the lesson in the future, and in other pieces. Which leads us to…
No.5: “Where Else will This Work?” – Look for Similar Applications
Perhaps the best value in online guitar courses come from transferable skills. These were mentioned earlier. These are methods or strategies that we can use for other pieces, as well as the current one.
One of the best ways to lock in the learning, is to (after writing it down) find another place to use it. We can mine our current and previous pieces (repertoire) for other musical examples.
For instance, we may learn a new technique for scale passages (melodies). We can find similar scale passages (melodies) in another piece we already know. Then we can apply the new technique to it.
The more we transfer practice methods and techniques, the easier we’ll play new pieces. The new skill will pay dividends months and years to come.
The best tool is one you know how and where to use.
We can make loads of headway with relatively few “tools”, if we know how to use them.
For example, say we become comfortable using the 7-step process to learn new pieces. When we do, we have a useful skill we can apply to any piece going forward. We now have a clear strategy to tackle any new project.
Whenever we find anything that works, we can look for other places to use it. With practice, we’ll remember this tool when we need it. And we’ll have enough experience with it to enjoy consistent results.
One useful skill, well-learned is worth the price of admission
Playing classical guitar, there are a finite number of issues and challenges we see in music.
These issues may come in different forms. The context and notes will be different. But each will belong to a relatively small family of issues.
Over time, we’ll know how to solve rhythm problems, stretches, speed issues, memory obstacles, and several others.
The good news is this: Once we find a tool (method, skill, technique) that works for a particular type of problem, we have it forever.
And if a course gives us just one new tool, or a new use for one we already have, it’s well worth the time, money and effort.
No.6: Go Back and Review
When we complete a course, we have a new opportunity. We can now go back through the course a second time.
As odd as this may sound, there are virtually always new lessons to be found on the second go-round.
We are different players after the course. We have successfully gotten the notes, and worked through the material.
Now, having this knowledge, we often hear things in new ways. We get lessons that we were not ready for the first time.
For instance, assume our main focus to begin with was getting the notes in rhythm. Now that we’ve gotten this far, we can now explore phrasing and dynamics. We’re better able to learn the lessons on making the piece more beautiful.
No. 7: Important – It’s Fine to Not Finish
We talked above about success. It’s important to note: We don’t have to finish the course. We may find massive value and enjoyment without finishing the course. This is fine.
We don’t have to eat the full box of chocolates to get full value. And we can also stop before we finish a course.
We may get ideas on how to practice, or methods to change our tone. And we may be absolutely satisfied and excited about these.
A course may also motivate us to practice. Or renew our commitment to guitar. There are many ways it can help.
It’s more important what we DO get from the course, than checking all the boxes to complete the lessons.
Even more, there may be little value in completing a course, if we don’t stop and practice enough to gain new skills from it.
Guitar is a long road, taken one step at a time. If an online guitar course can help us take one small step forward, it’s a glorious success and worthwhile project!
Hi, I’m Allen Mathews.
I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two stellar teachers – one focused on the technical, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully. Click here for a sample formula.
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