1. What kinds of learning opportunities does the mentor provide to expose you to new learning?
A learning resource that my mentor has suggested is YouTube. As I have been learning from him, especially about different strumming patterns, he has told me that going to YouTube can be useful if I want to know more about these kinds of skills. Videos can be a great tool for watching how to play different strumming patterns, and for getting an idea of what it’s like to play a specific song. My mentor told me that watching others play the songs I’ve learned or I’m interested in learning and playing whether that be covers, tutorials, etc., can be very helpful and can help me get a better feel for the song.
2. What kinds of learning opportunities exist to reinforce new learning?
I am fortunate enough to have a family member who knows how to play the guitar and plays really well, so practicing with him is a great way to strengthen what I already know. Being able to show my dad what I’ve learned and practice those skills with him allows me to think critically about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. Also, because he has a lot of experience playing, he is able to provide feedback and knowledge, which I discuss more in the next question.
Another great way to reinforce the skills I have learned so far is to teach them to my family members like my mom and/or my sister. Teaching has been said to be one of the best ways to learn anything from a skill to a textbook topic, and for good reason. Teaching serves as a form of review for yourself, while also allowing you a chance to improve yourself because you see how others apply the material based on your teaching. Being able to teach something that you’ve learned also requires you to have a better understanding of the material. Because of this and the fact that we have the resources to do so, teaching what I’ve learned to someone like my mom is extremely helpful for me as I continue to learn new skills.
3. What kinds of opportunities exist that might accelerate learning?
One way that I’ve found helpful in accelerating my learning is by exploring new material on my own. Although I am not necessarily learning or teaching myself any new skills, just exploring songs that I like on a guitar tab app that I have to see how they’re played helps me. A lot of the time they will use chords that I already know and can play, and because they are songs that I enjoy, it’s a more fun way to practice those chords and practice the skills I already have. Also, sometimes they’ll have a new chord that I don’t know or can’t really play, but even that is beneficial because even if I don’t focus on it or try it for very long, just learning it and perhaps trying it once or twice to see if I can play it is teaching me more about playing the guitar.
As I mentioned in the previous question, practicing with my dad can be helpful for strengthening what I already know, but he also sometimes helps accelerate my learning. Because he has more experience, I am able to work with him to see how I can improve the skills I have, and this can even lead to gaining new knowledge from him. By having these sessions with him, I have the opportunity to learn from him, and even if they’re small, getting advice, tips, or short methods from him on how to improve can make a huge difference in my progress and improvement. Because of this, my dad is a very helpful resource when it comes to reinforcing and accelerating my learning.
4. When you get together what do you talk about?
During our meetings, we rarely discuss anything not pertaining to my learning or progress so far in playing the guitar. Part of what we do talk about is checking and discussing how I’ve progressed so far, which we do at the start of each meeting. For this, I show my mentor the skills I have learned previously and he does a quick assessment and provides feedback. Then, based on his assessment, he decides what new material I should learn during the meeting and we begin to work our way through that. For most skills and topics he teaches me three aspects about each. The first is what the skill is and why it’s important to my guitar learning, which usually means where it might come up in the future. The second is how to actually play or apply it, for example, if it’s a chord he’ll teach me how to play it and I’ll play it so he can give feedback on it. Finally, depending on what it is, it’s possible that my mentor will give me a specific way to practice or improve on the skill/material that is most helpful or effective, but this is not always the case. During meetings, my mentor and I talk about what I’ve already learned, new material, and what to do/how to practice until the next meeting.
5. What is going particularly well in your mentoring relationship right now?
Something that is going well with our relationship overall is that we both understand the dynamic and relationship structure we have as a mentor and mentee as well as just how we interact with one another. This mutual understanding makes it much easier to work together and for me to learn from him.
Another good aspect of our relationship right now is our communication, which is always very open and clear. An example of this is that when I have a comment or a question about what I am learning, I make sure to express that to my mentor so that we can discuss it and I can understand anything I don’t better. Another is that if either of us has to reschedule, we are open about that and are not too nervous or afraid to ask to meet at a later date. This open communication has allowed us to work really well with each other because it ensures that we are at least usually on the same page about everything, so we don’t have many hiccups or misunderstandings.
6. What are you learning about one another?
Something that I have learned about my mentor is that he is obviously very passionate about guitar. He has shown that he has put a lot of effort into learning about the instrument and how to play it well, and he even performs regularly, showing just how important playing the guitar is to him and to his life. This dedication is extremely admirable and it seems to have paid off very well for him.
I have also learned that he is a very good leader and teacher. He demonstrates helpful leadership skills and his attitude towards me, his student, especially with me being a beginner has been great. He gives good feedback and positive reinforcement, but he is also able to assess my progress and improvement as we continue to meet. Although I already knew that he used to teach guitar, it has still been interesting to be his mentee and see how he teaches firsthand.
Finally, although I cannot be completely sure how he views me as a mentee, I try to display an attentiveness that shows that I am a curious person. During our meetings, I always give him my full attention and listen as well as I can so that I can glean as much knowledge from each session as possible and hopefully improve more. I always want to learn as much as I can and I hope that this shows through and this is something that he has learned about me.
Something that I have been doing lately that has helped me become more motivated to practice and feel better about my learning and progress has been exploring songs that I like on my own time. Finding songs that I like and playing around with the chords and strumming patterns if they are provided to see if I can play them with the knowledge and skills I already have has been a really fun way to test what I know and prove to myself that learning guitar is a worthwhile endeavour.
I have also learned the F major chord recently, both from the aforementioned exploring and some guidance from my mentor. This is a very common chord that is present in a lot of songs, but it is also a bar chord and is very difficult to play. Because of this, my mentor has shown me an alternative way of playing it that is easier but sounds about the same that I can use until I can work up to the real thing. However, bar chords are a more advanced set of skills on the guitar, which is why I have not been working on my F chord as much and for now it is just knowing it that is part of my progress. (F chord is shown below, with the fourth being the full version and the third being the one I learned as an alternate.)
I also learned a new method for practicing and improving my rhythm while strumming that is very simple but over time will hopefully make a difference. This method is to strum down and up, with each down strum being on a quarter note beat in 4/4 timing and the up strums in between. Also, the best way to do this is by playing along with a metronome, and it helps to switch between two bars of this and two bars of the strumming pattern you want to practice so that you can see how they work together and what you might have to work on to make them match. By using this method, I will become more comfortable with the flow of strumming, and picking up new patterns will become easier and more natural the more I practice this.
Along with the practice method I mentioned above, I also learned a new strumming pattern to work on with it. Because it is difficult to explain in writing, I have included a sound recording of myself playing the pattern using the alternating method I described to hopefully give a better idea of both new skills. The metronome in this recording is set to 95 bpm.
– Learned to use an “anchor finger” when switching chords to help me change faster (pick one finger to switch to that will make switching the rest afterwards easier, faster and more natural because they will know where to go if you practice this way enough)[suggested I do this with my G major chord and my pinky]
Finally, I also learned to use something called an “anchor finger” when switching chords to help me change faster, which is something I have been struggling with, especially for certain chord changes. The basis of this method is to pick one finger of the chord you are going to switch to, possibly one that is the easiest or fastest to switch to, and that is your anchor finger. Then, once you have that finger in place after finishing the previous chord, switching to the rest of the chord afterwards should become faster, easier and more natural because your fingers should just fall into place if you practice this way enough. For me, I have found it difficult to switch to my G major chord fast enough, so I have chosen my pinky as my anchor, and the goal is that by practicing with my pinky placed first and the rest after, my fingers will eventually know where to go by muscle memory as long as my pinky is in the right place.