You Don’t Need to Learn Something New

electric guitar player

So you are taking guitar lessons. You go and see your teacher regularly. And I’m willing to bet that every now and then you want your guitar teacher to teach you “something new”… but your teacher wants you to practice something you know already.

Guess what: your teacher is perfectly right.

(In fact it would be appropriate once you finish reading this article, to go to your teacher and thank them…)

Here are three reasons why your guitar teacher is doing what they’re doing… and I’m sure you will gain a new appreciation of your lessons with them.

  1. Whenever you learn something on the guitar your goal is not just to be able to play it once: you want to be able to play it reliably, at a moment’s notice, and even under stress (say, on stage). To accomplish that, sometimes you have to practice an exercise even after you feel you have mastered it… because you have mastered it in a low-stress situation.
  2. Your guitar teacher can hear what you play better than you do – not only because they have so much more experience than you, but also because they are not playing while they listen to you! They might be hearing that you still need to perfect your technique, work on your timing, or polish your musical delivery. Of course, you can always ask if this is the case or not (and often you will get some interesting and helpful answers).
  3. Most musicians do not go deep enough into what they know already. But most music is made by very simple elements combined together in creative ways… and to do that you need to work in deepening your understanding, not in learning “new things” that later you will have trouble applying.

I’m going to give you an example now. Let’s say that your guitar teacher has shown you the pentatonic scale recently (don’t worry if you don’t know what this is – you’ll learn it at the right time!) There are only 5 notes in the pentatonic scale – and this is why some musicians totally underestimate its power. “After all, how many interesting things can I play with only 5 notes?”

Turns out, a lot. See for instance this video where I show how you can create endless licks using these 5 notes… and I’m still just scratching the surface.

As you can see, the deeper you go, the deeper it gets. Trust your teacher when they tell you that you should work on the same exercise a bit longer, and one day you will be surprised by how much better you sound and how much you have improved. If, however, your guitar teacher is overwhelming you with new materials, it’s time to find a new one.

About The Author

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock musician and a regular writer of columns about Music Theory for Guitar.

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