Electric Guitar

Newcastle Guitar Lessons

In the spirit of the late Don Andrews, Angelo does not want to make you a clone of himself—he wants you to be all you can be as an artist.

Stages of Learning Guitar

One of the big things about playing music with a musical instrument is that it is not only an art, but it is also a craft. Webster’s dictionary defines craft as “an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill.” Although this might sound obvious, one of the implications is that you are required to use your body, particularly your hands, in a physical way that requires intricate control by your brain.

What many people are unaware of is that there is a continual feedback mechanism that occurs between the body and the mind. There is communication between the parts of the body and the brain, and indeed occurs in any complex system. Mathematician Norbert Wiener describes this in his seminal book Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1948: MIT Press). Many musicians want to focus on playing by “feel,” however, they don’t seem to realise that the body needs to learn to develop the motor skills required to play a musical instrument as a complete system. Moreover, there are many feedback mechanisms required that are not just motor skills. Music is primarily an auditory medium, so there is feedback required from the ears. It is incredibly complex, and one cannot just focus on one aspect of the skill set required. Just as other systems develop and evolve through refinement and adjustment, the musician’s craft develops in a similar manner.

In 1967, psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner published Human Performance (Brooks/Cole Publishing), which presented a three stage learning model that defines how we learn a motor skill. These stages are defined as the Cognitive, Associative, and Autonomous stages. This model is still referred to by many sports researchers today.

Cognitive Stage

During the cognitive stage, there is a lot of information to deal with. It is in this stage that the most conscious thought occurs. The learners must spend a lot of time stopping and thinking about what is actually required to accomplish the task. In this stage, the learner can be unaware that they are actually making a mistake because they are often so focused on the task at hand. At this stage, the learner needs a significant and regular amount of practice, correction and instruction. They will significantly focus on making decisions and step by step procedures. Furthermore, they will tend to perform the work slowly. What is also needed at this stage is the encouragement, passion and drive to practice when the result they get is different to what they see on the music videos and hear on iTunes. They need a lot of feedback from their tutor at this stage, in particular, they will probably need to observe someone else doing the task slowly.

Associative Stage

During the associative stage, the performer is able to accomplish the task or perform the piece of music without requiring the amount of cognitive effort in the previous stage. They will still make some minor errors, and may even need to stop at times to re-evaluate. At this stage, they refine their motor skills and reduce the number of errors. They will become more fluent and will begin to make use of kinesthetic and intrinsic feedback, both during practice and live performance.

Autonomous Stage

The autonomous stage is where the performer no longer really needs to focus on the physical requirements, but can really focus entirely on the music. There is a significant increase in fluidity and smoothness of the performance. Musical expression becomes the focal point in performance.

A great quote by Zig Ziglar is “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”

The following video gives a great explanation.

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