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  • mcarlson_sb

    March 11, 2023 at 11:06 pm

    Background :

    I’m a professional technical coach (software skills). I don’t teach guitar, however, I can tell you that the skills acquisition patterns (especially mixed physical/mental skills) are very similar.

    The first important thing is that as we gain skills we move from large improvement to refinement. Large improvement feels like we are “learning fast” because the difference is very visible. Refinement can feel like a wall if we aren’t used to observing fine differences.

    Key concept : as we improve at a skill it’s important to also improve our observations of the skill so we can see ever smaller differences.

    It’s those small differences that separate an average good player from an elite player (whether in sports, music, martial arts, etc.)

    The second important thing is balance.

    Our ability to perform a skill is limited by our weakest fundamental.

    Tony has broken the complex skill of playing guitar down into five fundamental skills. If one of these five is out of balance we can feel like we’ve hit a wall. The more out of balance these skills the higher the wall feels.

    That wall is the current limit of our ability to perform actions quickly and under control.

    And the only way to get past it is to identify the fundamental skill that is the limiter and bring it back into balance.


    Maybe I worked really hard on my scales and improv and got REALLY good there. But at the same time let my chord changes lag. I’m going to have great control with solos but struggle to play “up to my ability” with the rest of the song.

    But once I raise the lagging skill the whole of my playing will improve. Often even my best skill, because it was also being held back by being out of balance.

    key concept : balance is fundamental. improving balance increases our overall ability to perform skills with quick easy grace.

    The third thing is to make sure you find your “learning zone” – where you are pushing the edge of “quick easy grace under control” over into “haste and mistake”

    (as we improve balance, that edge will move. so we need to check it every once in awhile to find it again)

    Once we find that edge we want to dial it back to the controlled side.

    But not so far that it’s easy and boring.

    To learn quickly we have to push ourselves enough to be a little frustrated – but not so frustrated we quit.

    Just enough to enjoy and celebrate the success when we push through.

    Those are my best tips as a professional coach.