Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

 

It’s a new year- welcome to 2016! Lessons are starting back, classes have resumed, and activities are already filling up the calendar.

With all the looming homework, projects, activities, and fun things to do, you might be thinking: “Do I really need to continue to make time for my music lessons this year? With all the time allotted for practicing and driving to and from lessons, I could be doing a lot of other things!” If you’ve been looking at your lessons as just another time-filler, perhaps the new year is a great time for new perspective: Why do you take music lessons?

As an aspiring musician, you are an artist- one who works to create beautiful sounds out of strings, ivory keys, or rosin and a bow. To most of the world, a piano is nothing more than a pretty, large wooden box with neatly arranged black and white things. People admire the skill required to play it, and enjoy the beautiful music that escapes the wood, but only a pianist can truly appreciate the amount of practice and dedication required to make a cohesive melody or song out of the 88 black and white keys.

As an artist, you see your instrument as a vehicle for the sounds you love- rock, jazz, blues, folk songs, country, or classical- and you continually work to make better music. This year, share a little bit of your music with the world. Let people see more than just a guitar with strings or a drum with sticks- be creative, be original, and share your love of music with those who support you and your art!

Take it on as a challenge for 2016: share your music with those around you. Through charity events, hospitals or medical centers, religious events, or other community opportunities- you have a chance to make the world a better place by sharing your passion and musical talents!

Don’t just view your music lessons as a way to spend your time. Look at them as your unique

-Elizabeth Davis

Summary: No one wants to practice an instrument, but everyone wants to play. Parents are the key to succeeding during the six days between lessons.

About six years ago, I changed a core expectation as part of my teaching to beginning through early-intermediate students: I no longer asked them to practice. I completely eradicated the word ‘practice’ from every aspect of my teaching to students on this level. Of course, this required a monumental overhaul of how I taught, but in the most basic sense, I viewed the six days between lessons as an opportunity for each student to play the piano, not practice it. I only assigned music that was learned successfully in the lesson, could already be performed well, and used each piece to teach how a student would eventually come to practice so when the time came, the fundamentals were all in place. The success of this, however, is in the third party involved in the lessons: the parents.

There are really only two kinds of children who begin lessons: the first is the student who wants to play an instrument and the second is the student whose parents what him or her to play an instrument. Regardless, my job is to teach them how to do it and have it be a rewarding and positive experience along the way. The idea of practicing a sport and practicing an instrument are often compared, but I’ve never really believed these analogies hold up. Really, a better argument might be drawn that these analogies were created because many people quit music to play sports. Why? Practicing a sport is social while practicing an instrument is isolated. Playing a sport can result in a quantitative gain – a winning score, a total number of wins – where playing music has no measurement beyond personal growth. Private music teachers are left trying to find a way to tangibly or numerically show progress. We invent practice charts where minutes are recorded, wall charts where stickers are earned, or the antiquated check-mark that lets a student know they ‘passed’ a piece. A better comparison might be between practicing medicine and practicing music. Do you really want a doctor to ‘practice’ their craft on you? No! You want them to know what they’re doing just as I want my students walking out of the lesson knowing what they are doing. So, I beg all of the parents out there to no longer ask their child, “did you practice,” and, instead, I want to give you easy ways to get your child playing. This should be the first tip to parents.

Change the Question

Instead of asking, “did you practice,” ask a telling sentence. Try, “how was playing piano today” and listen to the response. The likely response will be, “I didn’t play piano.” We want to eventually transform that response into, “I didn’t play yet,” and finally to where they answer the initial question. How? A follow-up question: “why don’t you go play for a little bit and then tell me about it,” or, “we’ll talk about it at dinner.” The number of minutes played don’t matter since they can already play the piece successfully. This is just about building a positive relationship with time at the instrument. When they talk about playing is when they will develop how they talk about music even if it sounds like nonsense. This connection matters. Over time, the language will smooth out into correct terms and there will no longer be the response, “I didn’t play yet.”

Stop Designating a Practice Time ALL the Time

Yes, kids need structure, but this doesn’t always build a good relationship with playing. I had a friend in middle school who came home from school and had to practice piano for a half-hour every day from 3:30-4:00pm. I remember thinking, “gosh, that’s awful,” and I even liked the piano. Kids are busy and busy minded, so remind them when they haven’t played, but don’t force time at the instrument. The point of playing is to engage the busy mind, but designating a set number of minutes can be torturous when they already know how to play their music.

Ask for a Private Concert

A private performance is a special time with Mom or Dad. Alone time with kids and one parent is sometimes more meaningful than any activity. This special time where a student gets to perform for a parent is their own private showcase where they are the star. Does it need to happen every week? No, but sometimes this can be the greatest motivator on the weeks when a student just doesn’t want to play.

Generating Positive Responses from other People

When I was a kid, the most technology we had was the GIANT Macintosh computer with the floppy disks that were the size of an average face. That hass changed and technology is everywhere, including in my teaching. When playing at home, why not record a performance and send it to Grandma or Grandpa or even the teacher? Yes, I know this isn’t ground breaking, but most people miss the point of the recording. It’s not so the child can be recorded and shared; it’s that they get a positive response back from whomever you send it to. This feedback can be critical for students who don’t like to perform and can build a positive relationship with the process. Furthermore, they can record their own teaching video showing you or a family member how to do something musical. A seven second “Vine” finding D can be all the motivation in the world.

Integrate Playing into Daily Life

This idea comes from another teacher friend who gave me this advice. Sometimes spontaneous activities with a quick goal can be all it takes. Imagine it’s just before dinner and your child is walking past you. All you have to do is say, “I totally forgot! I was thinking about your song you played the other day. How super-fast do you think you can play that? Can you do it before dinner?” Yes, it’s going to sound terrible fast, but it doesn’t matter. They’re engaged at the instrument again and Mom or Dad has shown that they remember a musical performance from before and not just making them do a task. Does this playing use good technique? No, but that’s not the goal here. The goal is a positive feeling associated with playing. Let me fix technique and I’ll let you know when issues arise.

Talk to the Teacher After Music Lessons

One of the biggest things that makes me feel defeated in my teaching is when I haven’t inspired a parent enough to be outside the door asking how a lesson went and the child is instead walking out to a parking spot. I have one of the few professions where I am able to give you a weekly progress report on how your child is doing and the more I can involve you, the better the experience for all of us. Plus, this isn’t a classroom; this is one of the few things in a child’s life that is literally one-on-one and I am giving you 100% undivided feedback. Take the time after the lesson to hear about how we made music this week. Even more importantly, take five minutes in the car to ask the child what they learned with details and not just “how was the lesson?”

Whenever I hear a parent wanting to withdraw an early student for lack of practicing, I ask them, “what have you done to make it a positive experience?” I usually hear, “well, I ask him/her to practice and he/she just doesn’t want to,” and I have to continue to emphasize how my expectation is that a student plays piano, but doesn’t practice. I’m hoping that these few ideas might help parents see that the goal isn’t to practice early on, but to play and to play enjoying what they do. Remember, when someone signs up for lessons, they want to play the piano, not practice it. In time, and by teaching skills that aren’t even obvious to the student or the parent, it’s my job to create the path to practicing. In the meantime, it’s the parent’s job to help them love to play.

Other Articles by David Pacfic:

“Completing the Circuit”

“Beware of the Bark Side!” or Digital Pianos

“This One Looks Nice” Setting the Stage for Piano Purchasing Prowess

David Pacific is the Assistant Director of The Southeastern Piano Festival. Make sure to check out the SEPF!

The relationship between a teacher and his/her students is the central component to a private music instructor’s career and the linchpin to success in this profession.

Students vary in age, but there are some constants that affect the opinion that they have of their instructors: personal appearance, demeanor, enthusiasm, organization, punctuality, and the ability to confidently demonstrate any and all topics discussed in a lesson. The conscientious instructor will be objective about his/her ability to project a positive version of each of these assets.

Personal Appearance

Let’s begin with the asset that affects a student’s opinion of his/her instructor before the lesson can even begin: personal appearance. A line of work such as private music instruction has certain “perks” that other professions with more formal atmospheres cannot offer. The most obvious is a relaxed personal appearance/dress code. Dressing similarly to how students will be dressed is one way to create a relaxed environment that encourages communication between instructor and student; however, a private instructor can damage the respect students should have for him/her if their appearance is too unkempt or they are wearing inappropriate clothing. Never underestimate the affect that your appearance has on your students and/or your students’ parents.

Demeanor

An instructor’s demeanor is closely related to his/her personal appearance, but it isn’t as easy to recognize initially. Personality determines how an instructor will communicate whatever training he/she has acquired. This communication can either be helped or harmed by the way an instructor behaves during his/her interaction with students. Empathy and genuine concern combine for a great foundation for an instructor’s relationship with students, but are not the only way to establish a meaningful connection. Generally speaking, being pleasant and likeable go a long way to endearing an instructor to his/her students and that likeability starts with an instructor’s attitude.

Attitude

Having an enthusiastic attitude about teaching is one of those all or nothing propositions; you cannot fake it. Any student can sense whether their instructor is genuinely concerned with and excited by his/her musical development. That isn’t to say that a musician that has never considered teaching privately can’t discover some real interest or passion for it, however. If there were one single linchpin that holds all of these pertinent qualities together, it would have to be sincere enthusiasm for the process of sparking students’ imaginations and motivations.

Organization and Punctuality

Organization and punctuality go hand in hand. No private teacher can successfully maintain a student roster of any size without organizing a schedule, a method of instruction, their teaching philosophy, regular reviews of student development, public student performances, clinics or other opportunities to inspire motivation, personal study time, “maintenance” and “improvement” practicing, etc. The list goes on, but you get the point.

While punctuality is commonly thought of as only applying to the beginning of a lesson and maintaining a consistent lesson flow between scheduled lessons, there is also the punctuality involved in other important aspects of these relationships: consistent communication via texts, phone calls, or e-mails about schedule changes or other info that should be sent (or replied to) in a timely manner. As a matter of fact, promptly replying to any communication from current or prospective students is paramount in sustaining success as a private instructor. Develop the habit of replying to any and all messages as soon as you can, even if to postpone a more thoughtful reply. This habit separates the most successful instructors from the rest. Then, there is showing up for the lessons more prepared as the instructor than the student is prepared to learn.

Demonstrate and Discuss

The ability to demonstrate and thoroughly discuss topics that occur during a lesson are the hallmarks of an accomplished instructor and build the confidence of that instructor’s students that they are in qualified hands. Honesty about any limitations that you might have will also go a long way in assuring students that they can trust your guidance. In other words, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MISLEAD OR BLUFF A STUDENT WHEN YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO PROPERLY DEMONSTRATE A TECHNIQUE OR ARE NOT KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT A TOPIC. Students are usually very perceptive to this unnecessary tactic because it is completely obvious to most people, regardless of their experience. Rather, when you don’t feel prepared to demonstrate or discuss something, use that incident as inspiration to become more knowledgeable and increase your technique. This honesty will keep you sharp and produce more confidence among your students.

The relationship between an instructor and student (and that student’s parents, if applicable) can be a wonderful, positive connection. The most reputable teachers have positive relationships with their students, without fail. Strive for this strong bond with all of your students and your teaching career will flourish.

In Private Music Instruction: A Primer Part 3, the logistical aspects of the teacher/student relationship will be considered.

Also check out:

Private Music Instruction: A Primer (Part 1)

“If you can dream it, you can do it”
– Maggie Melogy (guitar student at Freeway Music)

That’s right. This quote doesn’t come from a famous, wise person, but rather one of my guitar students. This was the theme of her newest original song, and it resonated with me. I often spend time discussing this topic with my students who are serious about pursuing their dreams and careers during our lessons.

DISCLAIMER!
If you are not serious about pursuing your dreams and goals, this blog is not for you.

Set Your Dream Goal

“Having an unusually large goal is an adrenaline infusion that provides the endurance to overcome the inevitable trials and tribulations that go along with any goal. Realistic goals, goals restricted to the average ambition level, are uninspiring and will only fuel you through the first or second problem, at which point you throw in the towel. If the potential payoff is mediocre or average, so is your effort.”
Timothy Ferris-The 4-Hour Work Week

Don’t set a small goal. Set out that big “unrealistic” goal that excites you. If you set the bar low, then that is as far as you will go. So, aim high. Then, take it a step further. Go from “I want to make an album” to “I want to sell a platinum record.” Then, work backwards from there. Does this sound scary to you? Yes, of course it does…but doesn’t it also seem exciting?!

Down with the Naysayer

Naysayer: “a person who says something will not work or is not possible; a person who denies, refuses, or opposes something”

Naysayer: “Don’t make that move to Nashville; you’ll never survive.”
Result: Jesse Isley appears on the Letterman show and gets offered a position on an international tour.

Naysayer: “You can’t have a music lesson studio separate from a retail store. It will never work”
Result: Freeway Music is born and will soon open its fourth location.

Anyone who tells you that “you can’t” is simply jealous and, frankly, doesn’t have the guts to make a move themselves. Fear is what drives most people into complacency. They don’t want to see you succeed because they haven’t succeeded. The old saying “It’s lonely at the top” is often true. If you can will yourself into taking that leap of faith and pushing yourself to the next level, you will find that a lot of people aren’t there. This truism is the result of the fact that it takes a lot of will power and belief in one’s self. So strip yourself of anyone who is negative or holding you back and move towards your dreams.

Start Yesterday

What are you waiting for? What excuse are you giving yourself today? Start at your dream goal, work backwards, and figure out what the very next step you need to take to achieve that goal. For example, I want to create an instructional book and video series for guitar. Let me rephrase that: I AM going to create an instructional book and video series for guitar. That’s a better mentality. Before I begin putting my lessons into a book or video, I need to develop and refine my curriculum. Before I do that, I need to set aside the time. So, I set aside time each week to work on it. This is my way of taking course of action. If I don’t do this, I will surely fill my time with something else…generally something that will likely be a waste of my time. Figure out your first course of action and do it!

Take a moment to ponder your dream goal and make sure it is the highest point you can imagine. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Move them out of the way. Work backwards from your dream goal and set your course of action. Start ASAP! No one knows how far you will go, but you will certainly make it MUCH further with a higher bar, no negative baggage, and the guts to take action. Best of luck with your dreams!

Check out these other blogs:

7 Essentials to Making it Big
Set Goals

Practice Makes…

Matt Nelson’s Wisdom

My friend referred me to a guy named Matt Nelson that lived in Columbia, SC who used to hang with jazz legends. He said I should spend some time with him. So, I got his number and gave him a call. I drove over to his house near the airport. It was such an amazing time! Apparently, Matt was friends with two of jazz’s greatest guitar players, Wes Montgomery and Grant Green. He even showed me Grant Green’s autobiography, where Grant mentioned Matt. Matt shared stories from meeting Wes Montgomery at a local jam to running into Charlie Parker at a candy store. He spun record after record, and shared so many great jazz artists with me.

Then, it came to play.

We went it to his music room where he had an array of beautiful and expensive guitars.

He generously placed a Benedetto in my hands and asked me to play. So, I launched off into a Thelonious Monk jazz blues song called “Blue Monk”. I was walking the bass line, while Comping the chords in between. Just as I thought I was doing a good job, he stopped me and said, “no, no, no…you are doing it all wrong!”. I was super confused. I thought I was playing it right. He said, “You need to be tapping your foot on 2 and 4.” I was tapping my foot on each quarter beat, which is what I thought you were supposed to do. Then, he demonstrated and asked me to try it.

So, I did, and I immediately felt a difference. It was way groovier! From that point forward, I began tapping my foot on two and four for a lot tunes, making them way groovier. I’m just thankful that I was able to spend time with Matt Nelson, because I my groove was forever changed that day. If you aren’t tapping your foot on two and four ever, go try it. It will blow your mind!

The Producer’s New Groove

I was in Nashville recording a record with a producer/engineer named Stephen Gause. It was one of the best months I’ve ever had in my life. When we weren’t recording on music row, we were out catching the Wooten brothers play, or Jonathan Brooke playing a free concert on the green.

One day, I was laying down my guitar tracks in the basement of Ben’s house, the session drummer of the project. As I’m recording, Stephen stops the track and says,“man, you are pushing the beat hard.” With much youth and arrogance I replied, “No, I’m not. I’m definitively playing on beat.”

He said,“Come into the control room.” So, I went in there and he showed me on Pro Tools the lines of the beat, then the sound waves that I just recorded. Sure enough, I was ahead every time. So, he then began to explain “pushing the beat” vs “playing on the beat” vs “playing just a tad behind.” I had no concept of this at the time, but he planted the seed.

I spent the next several years being cognitive of where I play on the beat. I now have much better control and I play with a lot more groove…all thanks to Stephen Gause.

There are so many dynamics that shape a musician such as: practice, playing, writing, etc. Perhaps the thing that was most critical to my personal development was my failures. I learned from and was motivated by failures more than anything I’ve ever done with music. So, I would like to share a few failures with you that made me a better musician. Hopefully, you too can learn a little something from my failures. Maybe you can embrace the failures that are certain to come in your musical journey and learn how to churn them into positive energy.

Getting Stomped by “Donna Lee”

If you have ever followed jazz, you are aware of Charlie Parker. You are also probably aware that his heads are very challenging melodies to play. I just started working on a tune called “Donna Lee.” It was the toughest head I learned up to that point in my playing. One night, I headed over to an open jazz jam here in Columbia, SC. I sat in to play and the band counted off the tune at a murderous tempo. I hung in there for the melody, as then it came time for the solo…and I got crazy lost. The bass player was annoyingly yelling out chord changes to me.

Finally, I stopped playing at what I thought was the end of the form, but quickly realized I wasn’t sure of anything. So, the bass player and drummer crushed their solos. Then, they looked at me to start the head again. Thank God the bass player clued me in on where to come in again. We finished the song, and I haven’t played with those players since…hopefully, they will let that one slide from their memories…HAHA. I threw myself into a fire and “Donna Lee” roasted me.

I learned a lot about my playing, however. I realized I didn’t know the form as well as I once thought. I needed to practice the tune at various tempos and I needed to understand the overall format of jazz improv. So, naturally I went home and shedded that tune like crazy. Had I not had my butt kicked, I never would have pushed myself so hard. So, throw yourself into the fire. It can inspire you to get better if you have the right attitude.

Check out Part 2: Comping…What’s That?

I remember when I first walked into the music store and saw my old guitar teacher working there. He asked if I wanted to teach guitar in his store and I was a bit shocked. I said, “Sure…Why not?” I had no idea it was the beginning of an amazing journey for me. At first, teaching was just a job for me, but it quickly became one of the best things that ever happened to me. The more I taught music, the more passionate I became about teaching. There are countless benefits to teaching music, but I’m going to only list three…because I have an affinity for threes.

1. The Reward
Honestly, there is nothing more rewarding than teaching. Watching students “get it” and smile is enough to fuel my tank for days. I also love the character development you see in a music student. Music has a way of bringing students out of their shell and sparking individuality. It becomes a unique experience for every guitar student I have. It’s amazing to watch students perform at our showcases and see their confidence grow right before everyone’s eyes. I have parents walk up to me all the time and tell me how much I have impacted their kids’ lives. Students call me 10-15 years later expressing their gratitude for our lessons. Many of my students have gone on to become professionals themselves, using the very tools they were equipped with in their music lessons. There is nothing that describes the reward of teaching, unless you have experienced it yourself.

2. The Student
Sometimes, I am not really sure who the real “student” is…them or me. I have learned more from teaching my students than I have doing anything. Simply going over various learning events in lessons, I have discovered new information on the fly. Sometimes, students will show me something they discovered that I didn’t even think about. Teaching music has stretched my repertoire, styles I teach, instruments I play, methods, approaches, and much more. The better my students are, the more I need to practice to stay ahead of them. If you are striving to be a better player, you’ll be blown away by how much teaching is learning.

3. The Job
The previous two points were certainly my favorite benefits from teaching; however, there is the obvious benefit that teaching is a great occupation. Teaching private music lessons is a steady job that can pay quite well. Being a musician sometimes can be tricky and one has to wear many hats. Teaching music can be a viable career option or simply a stepping stone towards another career option. It is a very flexible job with both scheduling and the amount of hours you care to work. One can easily foster other musical goals while teaching music. Also, you are in an environment working with other music professionals like yourself. This will cause you to challenge and support one another.

If you haven’t taught music before, give it a shot. It could be the occupation that will catapult you to becoming solely a professional musician. It certainly will cause you to grow and learn, and the reward that you receive will be lifelong. Good Luck!

As a kid we dream of being famous musicians. I wanted to be a rock star when I was 12. Metallica’s Kirk Hammett was my hero! Slowly my dreams have changed and altered over the years, but I feel like I am achieving my dreams, and still never quit dreaming. I have seen many of my friends “make it” and achieve there goals too. So what are some of the common denominators to “making it” in music?

1. Define What “Making It” is to You
Becoming a rock star, or famous, is most people’s thoughts when they are young; however, what you first need to decide is what would make you content, and then, build your way up from there. I personally feel like that “making it” for me was becoming a professional guitar player, not having to work a different job. A different person’s thought of “making it” may be to tour the country with a band. Another person may want to play in a symphony. Whatever it is for you, figure it out and run towards it. Remember, your dreams will slightly change over time. If you are working towards them properly, the reality of what you can achieve will increase in size as well. The way that will happen is through goals.

2. Set Goals
The people who control the most success in the world are those who set goals. The biggest trap musicians fall into is forgetting the business side of music. You need to sit down and make a game plan with clear goals at each step along the way. First, write down your big dream goal. Then, work backwards from that dream with goals and mini-goals set out on a timeline. Have goals set daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and annually. From time to time, you will have to adjust your goals, but at least you will have a plan.

3. Be Cool
All of my friends who have achieved their goals are cool people. They know how to get along with people, and treat people well. This goes a long way when you are trying to make connections and further your career. Ask yourself what kind of person you would want to associate with and hire. Then, work towards those character traits. Personality can’t get you there alone, but it can certainly speed up the process.

4. Be Professional
This goes back to the business side of music. Always be on time, and always be prepared! My friend and former teacher at Freeway, Jesse Isley, was the best example of this. He would always show up on time and ready. It affected his reputation in a major way. Everyone in town wanted to hire him. Conversely, if you get a reputation of being a slacker and unreliable, no one will hire you. By the way, Jesse just recently played The David Letterman Show; I’d say he is doing alright.

5. Study Your Craft
Be the best at you can be! This is where private music instruction is a huge factor. We have lots of blogs about the importance of taking lessons, practice, finding your teacher, etc. Go check them out. You need to take lessons, and get proficient at your instrument. I feel like one could take lessons forever, and there is always more to learn about music. The better you are at your instrument, the more people will notice and want to be associated with you. This is often where musicians put a lot of energy. Just remember, this isn’t the only factor when working towards your music dreams.

6. Good Gear
You can be the best musician in the world, and still have terrible tone. We dedicated a whole blog on tone. That’s how important is. Make sure and check it out! If you have put in countless hours to make yourself the player you want to be, why wouldn’t you put the same amount of energy into how you sound. Granted some musical equipment can be expensive, but I think we can agree that it is a wise investment.

7. Get in the Line of Fire
I know some really great musicians who want to “make it,” but all they do is play in their living room. Unless you are a YouTube star, this probably won’t get you very far. Get into the scene, be seen, and meet people! Networking is key in any occupation, especially music. If the scene you are in isn’t a good fit for you, move to a scene that is. Nowadays, you can almost do it anywhere with social media, YouTube, internet radio, etc. If you are just sitting by, and not being proactive to make some connection with people, chances are you will not make it very far.

Define your goals, and work towards them. If you are personable, proficient with your instrument, have great tone, and professionalism, everyone will want to hire you…but they won’t know you exist unless you put yourself out there. “Making it” isn’t easy, but you can achieve your goals if you work hard. Good luck on your music journey!

A student signs up for guitar lessons. They initially are fired up, they fizz out, and quit. How many times have you heard this story? I have witnessed it over the years, and we all have done this, or know someone who has. So the question remains: How do you maintain your enthusiasm for Music Lessons?

Practice
Let’s face it…showing up to your lesson unprepared is a drag. You feel let down, it’s frustrating for the teacher, and you have to go over the same material again, making no progress. Simply getting into the routine of practice goes a long way towards maintaining your interest. You and others will see the improvement in your playing. This growth will inspire you to practice more. The more you put in, the more you will get out.

Plug In
Find an outlet for your music. One of the things I love about Freeway Music is the performance opportunities that we offer. We have showcases, recitals, camps, rock band classes, and community outreach opportunities. These public performances give students specific goals to prepare for. Play for a school talent show, your church, with a group of friends, etc. Get plugged into your local music scene. Watch people play, join a songwriter’s guild, sit in at open mics, etc. If you aren’t plugged in and playing somewhere, it will be very hard to maintain interest.

Friends
A lot of who you become is directly related to those you associate with. One of the people that spurred me on as a kid was my friend Eric. He would come over and we would play guitar all night together. It was so great for my growth as a young musician. I have constantly challenged myself by putting myself in situations where I played with musicians that were better than me. These situations pushed me and inspired me to be a better guitar player. I have surrounded myself with people that have the same passion that I have for music…including my guitar teacher.

Find the Right Teacher
Finding the right instructor is key. An instructor should be passionate about teaching, inspiring students, presenting opportunities for students, the local music scene, and the community. Music instructors should be qualified, professional, and enthusiastic. It’s very important that you take the time to find a great instructor that fits you. A teacher can make or break a student’s learning experience. If your music teacher is not actively studying, or plugging in, you may want to consider a different teacher.

Learn Tunes
Metallica was the reason I started playing guitar…not a m7(b5). It’s different for everyone, but we all have music that inspires us. I once asked my good friend Jerry Sims for the best advice to grow as a player and he answered, “Learn a tune that you like each day.” It makes sense. If you wanted to lose weight, you should exercise. So, it makes sense that learning tunes is a great way to maintain your interest in an instrument. I have also learned over the years that each song presents a new challenge, forcing you to stretch in ways that you wouldn’t stretch ordinarily.

Be Realistic
My friend Sue is an amazing singer/songwriter. I was feeling uninspired once, and I asked her what I should do. She gave me a harsh reality check. Sometimes you are trucking along and you hit a wall. Then, you pick yourself up and go again. She said that the passion never leaves and you will always go again. Even if you are doing everything possible to stay inspired, you will go through ups and downs. You will continue upward, though. Just make sure that you have realistic expectations, and don’t let a downswing keep you heading down!

If you aren’t maintaining that fire for studying music and continuing your pursuit of musical growth, look within. Are you practicing? Are you plugged into something that will make you grow? Have you surrounded yourself with people that will support, challenge, and inspire you? Have you gotten away from the spark that got you inspired in the first place? Be real with yourself, answer these questions, and weather the natural ups and downs. Then, you will have a much smoother musical journey. Good Luck!

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