What's Your Excuse?

These are the top 5 reasons why people refrain from investing in music tuition. Which of these excuses have you used?

# 1: "I have no natural talent"

After reaching my teens without ever having spent longer than five minutes handling a musical instrument, I assumed (as perhaps did you) that musicians were born rather than made, and that I was therefore unlike musical people. Now, looking back on having worked with numerous bands over many years as a gigging musician, I'm glad I ignored those earlier fears.

Talent is simply the natural tendency to do the right thing from the beginning. Even players who seem to have "natural" talent would go much further if they took lessons. To doggedly keep trying to learn on our own, even though nothing is happening and we aren't learning, makes no sense. Worse, it may lead to an inability to recognise that we need help.

In my experience, human beings are inherently musical creatures, and unless you don't like music at all (in which case, what are you doing here?) don't let negative views about what may or may not be "natural" for you stop you from doing what you want. If you think you have an inherent inability to learn an instrument, it's more likely that you have just had experiences in the past which have led you to this conclusion, with no one being around you to put you straight.

# 2: "I have no sense of rhythm" or "I’m tone-deaf"

Do you ever tap your foot or nod your head when you hear your favourite song? If so, you have already shown you have a sense of rhythm. As infants, we all come into the world nurtured to the sound of our mothers' heartbeats, and this conditions us to be sensitive to the rhythmic vibrations all around us. What some of us lack are the listening skills required to reproduce these rhythmic patterns and the physical co-ordination to perform them. The good news is that these are skills which can be learned.

When people say they think they are tone deaf, what they are usually describing is simply undeveloped ear-training. Again, this is a skill that can be learned. If you need a demonstration, re-read the last sentence out loud, enunciating any one word at a higher pitch (stress) than the others. Notice how the meaning of the statement changes according to where you place the stresses? If you understand this, you are not tone-deaf.

# 3: "(Insert famous guitarist’s name here) didn’t take lessons so why should I?"

Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton may not have taken formal guitar training in the sense that we are discussing it here but it would be very wrong to think of these players as uneducated musicians.

How many schoolkids these days have the time to glean a musical education from the "school of life" as these musicians did?... Very few. Yet, when it comes to learning the guitar, people often think that the best use of their time is to shut themselves alone in their room and try to reinvent the wheel! Why do so many people adopt this attitude?

Perhaps it's because they believe it's possible to learn effectively without any outside influence, under the mistaken belief that musicians either "have it" or they don't, and that this is all it takes. This is plain ignorance. The incredibly talented Steve Vai is often described as being naturally gifted but by his own admission Vai did not find learning easy, even though he had a great teacher (in Joe Satriani).

Musicians don't learn in a vacuum, and it is simply good common sense to learn from whichever resources are available. Fortunately, there have never been better resources available to the budding guitarist than there are today, what with the Internet and other media. In fact, a good teacher's role these days is to make sure the student gets the right information at the right time so that they don't become overwhelmed or distracted by material which is not serving them.

Of course, there are some people who like to feel that they HAVE re-invented the wheel. This is often true of people who already do have natural talent, and have made some good progress on their own. They may feel there is no reason to do more, and may even like the ego boost that comes with describing themselves as "self-taught". However, they may well have reached their goal quicker had they not managed it by trial-and-error alone; and for every student that "gets it" on their own, how many do you suppose never get it?

# 4: "You need to practise scales and boring exercises to become any good"

Again, this depends on what kind of music you want to be able to play. In fact, the vast majority of lead guitar work in the classic rock and blues genre can be played using primarily one scale. (You probably already know it!)

Learning scales has its place but it need not be boring; the secret is in being shown how to apply any scale you're studying so that you can appreciate its musical value and not just learn it for its own sake. A good teacher will give you exercises which are relevant to what you want to learn and have instant musical value. This is what I endeavour to do whenever my students reach the level where I know they will benefit from it.

# 5: "School music lessons are better value"

On the contrary, here are 6 reasons why private music school tuition is better value than school music lessons:

1. Schools work to a standard curriculum, and are therefore not set up to provide students with education tailored to each student’s individual interests and goals.

2. Schools are target-driven. Their aim isn’t to make learning fun for students but to ensure each student has been taught x, y and z within a certain time frame.

3. Schools focus on preparing students for taking examinations, not on helping their creativity to blossom.

4. Schools often can’t afford to invest in the resources available to private music schools.

5. Students can expect to receive greater personal support and value from dedicated private music teachers than they can from generic schoolteachers.

6. Private guitar schools offer greater expertise in the field of guitar than lessons in school since this subject is their sole specialism.

© Huntingdon Guitar School 2016. All rights reserved.

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