In this post we discuss On-Line courses, learning from the internet, what learning strategies to use in order to reach our goals, and how to sort all the musical knowledge that is available to us today.
Watch the Video Lesson:
A while back, I produced a few videos as part of a lesson series called “Pentatonic Fingering Systems”. This was supposed to be a quick general survey on the various existing systems for fingering pentatonic scales on the guitar. I basically wanted to use it as an informational companion series to my SFS Pentatonics online course, which is very practical and only deals with actual playing.
So, when I started preparing, it was supposed to be just one video, but as I realized how many things I needed to cover, it expanded to a 6 lesson series, and I still had more. In addition to that, I realized that before I could explain the logic behind some of these systems, I had to go into important topics that are more general and have to do with guitar knowledge, harmony, improvisation etc. In fact, a couple of those videos have absolutely nothing to do with pentatonic fingering systems, other than preparing you to learn a system later.
After fighting to squeeze everything into a series, I eventually got the point: Although I was putting in some very useful information, these videos could not work effectively as an On-Line course! I should just forget about the series as such, and just release independent lessons on the various subjects as they come up.
Dealing with this brought up an effective learning principle that I actually failed to implement in this case. To my shame It’s a principle that I have taught many of my students in the past in order to help them organize their practice strategies! I just got carried away and overexcited to share all the information, that I let it slip.
And the principle is this :
Different kinds of learning require different approaches and different learning tools
A practical improvisation series like SFS Pentatonics for example, works great as a course, with each lesson building upon the skills you gained in the previous ones, and also having an organized and progressive practice regimen.
Acquiring general information on the other hand, as in the videos I mentioned before, is more fitted to formats like TV programs, YouTube videos, Podcasts, or Blog posts, where you have a regular feed of information which you may just access whenever you feel like learning something. In the example I was telling you about, general knowledge about Pentatonic Fingering Systems is interesting and nice, but for most people it’s not something they would sit down and study as an On-Line course.
It’s very important for us as learners, but also as teachers (for those of us that teach), to recognize distinctions as the one I just described, so that we practice effectively and don’t waste time. A lot of people waste a lot of time just wondering aimlessly through YouTube, or through guitar websites and magazines, getting bits and pieces of information. That’s great! It’s a form of education and you can pick up a lot of useful stuff this way. This kind of learning can make you an expert on guitars, amps, current and past players, various styles, available techniques and systems, and so on. But if what you are looking for is to improve a specific skill that has more depth, like for example learning to map scales everywhere on the fretboard, this approach takes too long and can get really confusing. Some skills need guided and consistent practice, like following a method book or an On-Line course. Others grow just by trying things out in a more random way. As a community of guitar players, we need to grow in our ability to choose wisely how to approach every learning challenge.
I think we are really blessed to live in an era when there is so much information available. Musicians have never had access to such a wealth of knowledge before. I remember in 1997 when I went to Berklee College Of Music. I was shocked and excited to visit the library because there was so much great stuff in there. Books, cd's, video cassettes... Well, almost 20 years later, I can use my tiny smartphone to access thousands of times more information. But all this information can get confusing, and that’s where effective music practice principles come in. So choose your email subscriptions wisely, follow teachers that are right for what you want to learn, and try not to loose yourself on YouTube too much!
I hope that you find my thoughts on this helpful in your quest to sort out all the info that’s available to you. The main thing I want you to grasp is the difference between On-Line courses vs getting various bits of isolated information. Both are good for different things and we all need both to really progress, but many learners are held back because they just do one of the two. I have had many students come to me confused from watching too many youtube tutorials and only begin to progress when I helped them get into a more organized track. Others are on the ditch on the other side of the road, always pushing themselves and trying to do everything with an army-like discipline, in which case I always recommend that they relax and just explore randomly sometimes.
If you fall into any of the above categories, I hope that this effective learning tip can help you make the right choices and boost your progress.
As for Pentatonic Fingering Systems, I am in the process of repackaging those videos as independent lessons and posting them on the EMP Blog. I will be adding some new information on there as well, so if you caught some of them when they came out, you may still find the posts useful.
Remember: Enjoy your practice and be effective!