Learning to Play the Guitar: Week 3

I had the chance this past week to read a classmate’s blog post who is also trying to learn the guitar. She has a completely different approach to the task than I do. It appears she is just trying to learn the song without learning the basics. I, however, have focused on learning the basics before trying to learn the song. I did look at videos for the song, but the videos made me realize it would be better for me to learn the basics first. In many ways, this parallels what I have witnessed in the classroom. A good portion of what I teach centers on teaching students design software. Some students will jump right in and try to create their project with little to no effort on learning the basics. They just want to feel like they have accomplished something and completing a full project makes them feel that way. Others are more like myself and wade in by learning the basics before attempting anything more substantial. Like me, they feel they cannot advance without wrapping their brains around how everything works and connects together. One way is not better than the other. The different methodologies reflect the different approaches to learning of the students. I also think it depends on what you are learning. I tend to jump right in when it is something that I can reference other knowledge I already have. When I have no base to draw from, like with music, I only feel comfortable wading in slowly.

I think this project is helping to remind me what it is like to learn something completely new. I had no base on knowledge going into this other than a year of playing the clarinet when I was ten. None of what I learned before stuck with me. This part of the reason I wanted something so outside my usual interests. I was hoping the struggle might better connect me with the struggles students sometimes have when learning new material. It has reminded of the difficulty of learning something new when you have nothing to connect it to, but it also reminds me of the strategies I have learned over the years to help overcome this hurdle. These are the same strategies I suggest to students that struggle. I recommend and currently use the following strategies:

  • Seek help from multiple sources. If you don’t understand how one person explains something, try other sources to see if another method works better for you. I often direct students to some of the best video and written sources I’ve found and encourage tutoring from someone besides myself. It doesn’t mean that I’m not doing my job effectively. It just allows students to hear things in multiple ways from multiple people. One of the ways is bound to help. It also helps encourage students to seek out sources when I’m not around to go over the steps. I tried new sources when the main source was lacking the information I needed. I also tried multiple sources for the song to see which one I liked best.
  • Take notes. If you don’t think you can remember something, write it down for later. You take the best notes to jog your memory. I do this with everything.
  • Practice, practice practice. I always tell students that the couple hours a week that we use software in class is no where near enough time to get proficient at the software. The students who take this to heart and do spend time outside of class usually excel. Practice does make perfect. I remind myself of this everyday to keep from getting discouraged. I do try to practice every day even if it is only for a short period of time.

Videos Completed
Again, I am mainly using a series of videos I found on YouTube’s Howcast channel that takes a learner from the basics to actually playing a song. I did finally move forward this week. Much to my frustration, I find learning to play the guitar a slow process. I tend to have an easy time learning things, but I also tend to stick to things that I know I have the skills to complete. This represents a departure from my comfort zone. This week, I reviewed the How to Play the Chromatic Scale on a Guitar Video (View Video) and I’m happy to report that I am improving, but it is still a slow awkward progress, but at least I can get through it. I have also moved on and viewed the following videos:

Whole and Half Steps on Guitar (View Video)

How to Read Guitar Chord Charts (View Video)

Guitar Strumming 101 (View Video)

Learn Your First Guitar Chords: G (View Video)

I did look at videos of people teaching how to play the song I selected, “1, 2, 3, 4” by the Plain White T’s. I’m having trouble understanding how they connect everything together despite watching a few times. This is where I would prefer to have a person who can explain things to me and to whom I can ask whatever questions occur. This is one of those things that seems like it would be better learned by teaching from a person. I’ve also noticed that many of the song videos assume basic knowledge that I did not have. I think this is why I’m struggling more with the song. This something I have observed in the classroom. You can’t assume a student knows something. You really need to explain everything until you get a better feel for a group of students’ skill level. The videos clearly fail on this aspect of effective teaching.

Plain White T’s – 1, 2, 3, 4 Guitar Lesson (View Video)

Plain White Tees – 1234 – Acoustic Guitar Tutorial Lesson easy song (View Video)

How to Play “1, 2, 3, 4” by Plain White T’s on Guitar (View Video)

Here is my attempt at playing the chromatic scale as well as a little strumming. I’ve made some progress, but I think it is evident that I am still struggling. I hope it will start to click soon.

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