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Essential Practice Tips for Beginners Part 3: Play Along

Posted by on Feb 1, 2017 in Recommended Articles | 0 comments

Essential Practice Tips for Beginning Guitarists

Successful practicing has as much to with your mindset as your efforts, so it is important to understand how to approach your practice time, both mentally and physically.  In my next few blogs, I will be offering some suggestions and wisdom from my own experiences as a player and instructor to help you practice smarter and be a better player as a result.

You should play along with your teacher.  This is an important advantage our students enjoy at thegospelworkshop.com.  Being able to play along with your teacher whenever and as often as you wish is a tremendous benefit which cannot be over-emphasized!  As I’ve talked with fellow-teachers over the years, the one common fact upon which we all agree, is that every week teachers have to re-teach half of the previous week’s lesson and sometimes the entire lesson.  There are two reasons for this.  One is lack of practice which is totally the student’s responsibility (If the student is young, the parents share in this responsibility), but the second reason is much more difficult to deal with for both student and teacher.  The second issue is that the student’s progress is not necessarily hindered by a lack of practice, but because students don’t have the opportunity to play what they’ve already learned “along with” someone else–especially someone like their instructor who can play the music properly.  Consider these facts:

1.  Without the teacher being present, you don’t get to hear how the song is supposed to sound or see how the techniques are done.  You are of course able to hear and see whatever you are learning at the one-time-a-week lesson, but you don’t get to take the teacher home with you.  Because you cannot continuously refresh your memory, you tend to forget important details about how to play the piece correctly.

2.  Playing along with your teacher helps speed up results and helps you truly master each step.  Getting repetition into your practice is critical to your improvement and, while there is certainly a time for practicing totally by yourself, having the chance to play with another person helps you practice better.  Playing along with your teacher helps to build confidence because you always know that the music you’re playing along with is, in fact, being played correctly.  It helps your playing by having that learning reference to which you can repeatedly come back.  It also helps you by exposing your flaws and showing you where you need to improve.  You simply are able to compare your notes and sounds to what the instructor is playing.  Playing with the right feel, good timing, using the right fingers and positions, etc., are all things that you can pick up by playing along with your teacher.

Isaac Rochester

Isaac Rochester is the instructor for guitar at thegospelworkshop.com.

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners Part 2: Work

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in Recommended Articles | 0 comments

Essential Practice Tips for the Beginner

Successful practicing has as much to with your mindset as your efforts, so it is important to understand how you should approach your practicing both mentally and physically.  In my next few blogs, I will be offering some suggestions and wisdom from my own experiences as a player and instructor to help you practice smarter and be a better player as a result.

Playing music is one of the most fun and fulfilling things I’ve ever done, but I will be the first to tell you that you have to work at it, and sometimes it can be very hard work.  One of the biggest mistakes beginners make when learning is that they don’t realize what it really takes to master songs and techniques.  You must not have too narrow of a scope when it comes to the amount of effort and practice time and repetition it takes to achieve and master your goals.

Most think that to practice a song or technique 5-10 times a day for a couple of days is all that is necessary.  While that amount of reps is definitely better than nothing and may even result in some modest improvement, real mastery at times may require 100-200 reps or even more over several weeks or months.   It is important that you don’t set a limited number of reps to complete, but rather that you realize that few reps are not enough.  Quite frankly, I have encountered students who had the misconception that after a few short practice sessions—whether or not they had really mastered the material or techniques taught—they could become accomplished musicians.  This just does not happen.  Simply stated, you practice until you get it down.

One other helpful tip, especially when learning a new solo, is to practice it piece by piece.  It is good to rough out the song by playing through the complete solo from beginning to end a couple of times.  That way you get somewhat familiar with the song you’re learning, even if you just barely can plunk your way through it.  Then start over from the beginning and work your way through the piece phrase by phrase, mastering each phrase and then connecting each one together, until you have finished the song.  Soon, you will have a fine sounding solo.

Music, when really taken seriously, is a life-long endeavor.  All dedicated musicians are constantly reaching for excellence in their music.  But the rewards down the road which result from that dedication and work are so satisfying.  Put in the work, and you will agree.

Isaac Rochester

Isaac Rochester is the instructor for guitar at thegospelworkshop.com.

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners Part 1: Consistency

Posted by on Feb 5, 2016 in Recommended Articles | 0 comments

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners

Successful practicing has as much to with your mindset as your efforts, so it is important to understand how you should approach your practicing both mentally and physically.  In my next few blogs, I will be offering some suggestions and wisdom from my own experiences as a player and instructor to help you practice smarter and be a better player as a result.

Consistency is a huge key to good practice.  Consistent practice is better than occasional binge practicing.  Life is busy for all of us.  Church, jobs, school, sports, and hobbies—all can add up to mean very little time left for practicing.  It is so easy to let several days of missed practice become several weeks or months without picking up your instrument.  It is very important to practice on a consistent basis.  Do you have to practice every day?  No, but I highly recommend it!  It is better to practice 15-30 minutes a day than to practice 2-3 hours once a week.  Now, of course any kind of practice is better than none, but consistent, every day or nearly every day practice will help you improve more.  Here’s why:

1.  When you practice often, your muscle memory is trained much faster, and you are able to learn your chords, techniques, etc., more quickly.  With regular practice, your fingers get stronger and stay more flexible, and you will find your fingers somehow start developing this certain “instinct” about where they are supposed to be.

2.  Consistent practice helps you learn and remember material.  One huge mistake that players make is to practice with the mindset of school semesters.  In other words, they will work and practice during the fall and winter and spring, but they will take several months off during late spring and summer.  In fact, many private music teachers now only teach during the school year.  This problem tends to create an attitude in most players that causes them to barely touch their instrument during those summer months.  This causes them a gigantic set back in their playing.  Their muscle memory suffers badly, and they soon find that they cannot play their music with the same speed, tone, clarity, and good technique they enjoyed before the layoff.

3.  Not practicing can actually be a pain—literally!  If you play a steel stringed instrument like an acoustic guitar or mandolin, you know that it actually hurts your fingers to play at first.  After a couple of months of consistent practicing, your fingers begin to toughen up and develop calluses.  These calluses allow you to play with complete comfort and no pain.  However, calluses soften when you don’t play, so once you get them, you must play to keep them.  Even a seasoned musician can begin to lose his calluses if he goes a long while without playing.  The problem for many beginning players is that they never really build good calluses in the first place.  They aren’t consistent with their practicing, so their fingers never quit hurting.  You can take longer breaks from practice once you build good calluses, but when you are developing them, you MUST practice consistently to eliminate the finger discomfort.

Isaac Rochester

Isaac Rochester is the instructor for guitar at thegospelworkshop.com.

Introduction to Fingerstyle Guitar!

Posted by on Sep 3, 2015 in TGW News | 0 comments

I am very excited about our latest guitar lesson that we’ve added to the intermediate series of thegospelworkshop.com!  In this new video,  I set the pick aside and teach a beautiful fingerstyle arrangement of “Just as I Am.”  I focus on the right hand and on anchor positions with the left hand as I introduce you to fingerstyle guitar.  To our members, I hope that you enjoy learning this lesson.  If you haven’t joined, you just don’t know what you’re missing!  Come on and join with us as we help you unlock your musical abilities!   Check out the video to see a performance clip preview of the lesson.

Isaac Rochester

Isaac Rochester is the instructor for guitar at thegospelworkshop.com.

“Softly and Tenderly”

Posted by on Jun 3, 2015 in Hymn History | 0 comments

Softly and Tenderly

 

“Softly and Tenderly” is one of the best known and most used invitational hymns.  It was written in 1880 by Will Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909).  Thompson was born to successful businessman and politician, Josiah Thompson, and his wife, Sarah, on Nov. 7, 1847, in East Liverpool, Ohio.

Will Thompson

Will Thompson

Will showed a talent for music and songwriting at an early age and had written several secular songs by the time he graduated from high school.  He graduated from Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, in 1873, with a degree in business.  He then studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music and further studied music abroad in Leipzig, Germany.  He went on to start his own very successful business, Will L. Thompson & Company, which started as a music publishing company and eventually expanded to be a source for musical instruments and supplies.  Mr. Thompson was a devout Christian, and while attending one of D. L. Moody’s evangelistic meetings, he dedicated himself more to composing and promoting Christian music.  One of these compositions was a beautiful song with a great message that would become D. L. Moody’s invitation song at his meetings.  The song is entitled “Softly and Tenderly.”

Verse 1:

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling,

Calling for you and for me;

See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,

Watching for you and for me.

Chorus:

Come home, come home,

Ye who are weary, come home;

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,

Calling, “O sinner, come home!”

Verse 2:

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,

Pleading for you and for me?

Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,

Mercies for you and for me?

Verse 3:

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,

Passing from you and from me;

Shadows are gathering, the deathbeds are coming,

Coming for you and for me.

Verse 4:

O for the wonderful love He has promised,

Promised for you and for me!

Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon

Pardon for you and for me.

Mr. Thompson visited D. L. Moody on his deathbed at his home in Northfield, Massachusetts, in 1899.  After Thompson was at first refused admittance by the doctor, Mr. Moody overheard them and asked for Mr. Thompson to be let in.  Moody then took him by the hand and said, “Will, I would rather have written Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.”  What powerful praise from a great man of God about a powerful song that invites people to come home to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Isaac Rochester

Isaac Rochester is the instructor for guitar at thegospelworkshop.com.

“I Need Thee Every Hour”

Posted by on Mar 3, 2015 in Recommended Articles | 1 comment

I Need Thee Every Hour

“I Need Thee Every Hour” stands out among the thousands of hymns as one of the most intimate and worshipful songs in our hymnals.  It reflects our absolute need for and dependance on our Saviour.  It so beautifully states that Christ is everything.

“I Need Thee Every Hour” was written in 1872 by Mrs. Annie Hawks.  Annie Sherwood Hawks was born on May 28, 1835 in Hoosick, New York.  She displayed a remarkable talent for poetry at an early age with her writings already being published in various newspapers at the tender age of 14.  After her marriage to Charles Hawks in 1859, Annie’s life was centered around the noble tasks of being a housewife and a mother to their three children.  The Hawks were members of Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklin, New York.  Their pastor, Dr. Robert Lowry, was a well known hymn writer, and he encouraged Annie to use her talents as a poet to write hymns and offered to compose music for her lyrics.

Annie S Hawks

Annie S. Hawks

Robert Lowry

Robert Lowry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are Mrs. Hawks’ own words describing how “I Need Thee Every Hour” came to be:

“I remember well the circumstances under which I wrote the hymn.  One day as a young wife and mother of 37 years of age, I was busy with my regular household tasks during a bright June morning.   Suddenly, I became so filled with the sense of nearness to the Master that, wondering how one could live without Him, either in joy or pain, these words were ushered into my mind the thought at once taking full possession of me.

Seating myself by the open windows, I caught up my pencil and committed the words to paper — almost as they are today.  A few months later, Dr. Robert Lowry composed the tune needed for my hymn and also added the refrain.

For myself, the hymn, at its writing, was prophetic rather than expressive of my own experiences, for it was wafted out to the world on the wings of love and joy, instead of under the stress of great personal sorrow, with which it has often been associated.

At first I did not understand why the hymn so greatly touched the throbbing heart of humanity.  Years later [after her husbands death in 1888], however, under the shadow of a great loss, I came to understand something of the comforting power of the words I had been permitted to give out to others in my hours of sweet serenity and peace.”

Mrs. Hawks presented her new hymn to her pastor the following Sunday after writing it, and Dr. Lowry would go on to write the refrain(chorus) and compose the tune to the song on his organ at his home.

Just a few months later in November, 1872, Ira Sankey, the beloved revival musician and song leader for  Dwight Moody, used this hymn at the National Baptist Sunday School Association Convention.  It then appeared in its first hymnbook the next year which was called Royal Diadem for the Sunday School.

Annie Hawks passed away on January 3, 1918.  In her eighty-two plus years,  Mrs. Hawks wrote about 400 hymns.  “I Need Thee Every Hour” is the most famous and is the only widely used hymn of her writings today.

Isaac Rochester

Isaac Rochester is the instructor for guitar at thegospelworkshop.com.