The Starland Guitar System
Anatomy Of A Guitar Learning System
The Starland Guitar System is a step by step method to take the beginner from the early stages of playing guitar to mastery. The system, developed using sound educational principles, is designed to teach self esteem and character traits such as focus, patience, persistence and concentration along with expertise on the guitar.
The building blocks include: 1) technical skills such as playing chords, scales, strums, chord progressions and note reading and ear training 2) intellectual skills such as music theory and understanding musical concepts 3) creative skills – improvising and creating songs and 4) emotional factors, an area often ignored, that helps the student experience their accomplishments and progress and stay motivated.
Two of the keys to the system are the organization of the material and the careful selection and training of the teacher. The foundation of the system is organized into three levels, each having twenty steps. The student and teacher go through one step at a time until they complete five steps. At this point the five steps are reviewed and performance is improved if necessary. This process is repeated with the next five steps, and again with the next five until the entire level is completed. Upon completing all twenty steps the student and teacher once again review the entire level.
This final review is an opportunity to refine all twenty steps and prepare for the “presentation”. The “presentation” is a ritual in which the teacher has his student perform the material in one complete level. This provides an added sense of accomplishment and motivation to complete a level and learn the material well enough to feel confident when moving on to new material. When the student and teacher decide they are ready the teacher sets a date for another teacher to come into the lesson and listen to the student perform the entire level. Assuming the teacher did his job correctly the “presentation” ritual ends with a congratulations, pat on the back and the teacher presenting a certificate of completion.
The teachers for the program are carefully selected for musical ability, experience and teaching character traits. These traits include good communication skills, professional attitude, patience, a sincere desire to help people learn and grow and the ability to break a concept down into bite size pieces and help a student put them back together. Once a teacher is selected for the position they are trained in the Starland Guitar System Teacher Training Course. The system is taught in private lessons once or twice a week. At times additional classes are offered to students of similar levels to have a chance to play in a group setting.
The course is created with the intention of giving the student the fundamentals as quickly and efficiently as possible so that he can get to the creative part of playing the music that they love and creating their own music. By following this step by step systematic approach the student will have the confidence that, with patience and practice, he will clearly attain the skills necessary to play the guitar. Even more, our hope is that this confidence and the method of thinking learned in the process will provide a strong foundation to be successful in whatever goal or skill the student wishes to achieve in the future.
Starland Guitar System
Guitar Learning Principles
Having an effective system can easily be the deciding factor in not only saving time and frustration, but in success or failure itself in learning to play beautiful guitar. The details can change, but a system should be created from solid principles – it’s the foundation that everything else is built on.
Step By Step
Any good learning system is organized in such a way that learning the techniques and skills necessary to succeed are broken down into small, accessible steps.
Think of the system like a ladder where you just put one foot after another. Each step is very do-able and is designed to give the student a sense of confidence in their ability to achieve the goal. Completing each step encourages the student to continue.
Lessons Built on Each Other
Each lesson is built on the lessons that came before it. There is an apparent sequence to the material and the student should experience a sense of progress as he/she completes the steps.
In addition, having a plan allows for preparing in advance for more difficult material. When the student is prepared with exercises or simpler components ahead of time the more difficult material doesn’t seem like a big leap. This helps reduce tension and frustration.
Many Opportunities for Success
Built in to a well thought-out system are many opportunities to feel successful. Accomplishing each step gives a sense of completion and accomplishment in and of itself, but by making each step complete and having a variety of elements the student will have many opportunities to experience success. For example, if the student is having trouble with strumming you may find it easier to play a note reading piece, thereby feeling more successful.
Having a built-in system of review addresses two fundamental concepts in learning a complex skill such as music. One is that to become useful most of the skills involved in playing an instrument must become “automatic”, or go from a conscious process to subconscious. Correct repetition is the key (doing a technique many times correctly). By reviewing often, more repetitions are performed with less boredom than doing the same number of repetitions before moving on to a new technique.
Second, by reviewing at specific and previously chosen intervals you have several opportunities to get each technique “up to speed”. This is less frustrating than working on each technique until it’s perfect. In addition, when going back to a technique after moving on for awhile you will be in a different place, having practiced the subsequent techniques. The old technique will naturally seem easier when reviewed and give the student an experience of accomplishment.
A good system includes a balance of theory, note reading, exercises, playing chords and other skills necessary to play the guitar that are in proportion to common usage. I prefer about 20% of the course to involve note reading. Most guitarists spend little time note reading when playing popular music, but by learning the foundation of reading a student will 1) be able to pick out melodies in sheet music 2) communicate better with other musicians and 3) have a foundation to build on should they decide to play a style of music like classical guitar in the future which is note reading intensive. About 20% is a reasonable amount to derive the benefits without taking too much time from other areas like changing chords, independent finger movement, timing, strumming, chord progressions, etc.).
Mind – Body Connection
These principles along with proper exercises and regular practice will progressively build a mind-body connection which will enable the student to hear the music in their head and have the fingers will play the right notes and chords, in time and with feeling.
This takes time but is very achievable and it’s worth it.