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

Essential Practice Tips for Beginners Part 1: Consistency

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

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

Introduction to Fingerstyle Guitar!

I am very excited about our latest guitar lesson that we’ve added to the intermediate series of!  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

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

“Softly and Tenderly”

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.


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

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

“I Need Thee Every Hour”

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

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Posted by on Dec 6, 2014 in Recommended Articles | 0 comments

How to Raise a Musician Part 2

How to Raise a Musician, Part2

The subject matter of this blog edition has been weighing heavily on my mind of late.  I have been playing guitar for nineteen years (I began at age 6).  I also have 14 years of experience as a private music instructor.  In those many years, I have taught quite a large number of students, many  of whom were children.  I have also had many discussions over the years with fellow music instructors about teaching children.  Those conversations, combined with my personal experiences growing up as a young musician, plus my observations from a music instructor’s perspective, along with the application of some simple Biblical principles to this subject, have led me to point out seven recommendations about raising a young musician that are extremely important for your child’s success in music and beyond.  (This blog post is part 2 of a 2 part series and gives my final four recommendations.  To read my first three recommendations, check out:  “How to Raise a Musician Part 1.”)

4.  Engage

This is a most neglected function, I’m afraid, in most homes, but it is absolutely essential to your child’s success as a musician.  In fact, if I as a musician were to look back and point to the one reason that influenced me the most to learn to play guitar, it would be that my parents allowed me to choose the instrument I wanted to play and then held me accountable to practice and improve on the instrument after they bought it for me.  They had the wisdom to nurture my desire to play guitar by not only providing me with the instrument, but by also requiring that I be responsible both for taking care of my instrument and making sure I got in my practice times even at the age of six.  Children will try your parental resolve on this issue, but you must stay strong in requiring them to be responsible.  Remember, you are helping them more at this critical stage of their music development than in any other.  They will thank you one day.  Requiring responsibility in their music learning will actually carry over into other areas of their life.  They learn not to quit, to persevere, to have determination, and in the end to reap the rewards–and you will get to reap those rewards with them!

5.  Motivate

A great tool for helping your child’s drive to improve as a musician is to reward them–in other words, give your child something to shoot for, musically speaking.  My father used a simple but effective incentive that was very successful with me.  He always told me growing up that if I kept striving to better myself as a player, he would buy me better instruments.  I worked hard, and he kept his promise by buying me three different guitars between the ages of 11 and 18.  Keeping the proverbial carrot of nicer and better instruments in front of your child can do wonders for boosting their musical drive.  I discovered during this time as a child that as I improved and got better instruments, it fueled my desire to a whole new level.  I began to develop a love for music that has only continued to grow.  I began practicing for hours a day because I just couldn’t get enough.

6.  Assess

If you want your child to achieve his/her highest potential of musicianship, then you must give constructive criticism when needed. The worst thing you can do is swell their ego by telling them how perfect they are.  Be balanced.  If they play something very well, congratulate them on doing a good job and then encourage them to strive for the next level.  Remind them periodically that you never “arrive” as a musician.  We can always improve.  If they struggle some, encourage them to keep working.  Assure them that you are confident that they can and will get it right with a lot of hard work and practice.  If they don’t do a good job because they have been tardy with their practice, let them know that you expect them to do better and hold them accountable.

7.  Direct

Point them to serving the Lord with their talents.  Children are very impressionable.  They are easily influenced by what they see and hear.  Have you ever noticed that you don’t have to teach a child to do wrong?  They just naturally do wrong things.  Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.”  You do have to teach them to do right, however, and part of that instruction is to give them good direction throughout their musical journey.  People often bemoan the fact that when their child progressed to an advanced or even professional skill level, they went out and used their talent for the world and not for God.  But when a person uses their musical talents in this way, they are really just doing what is natural from a worldly standpoint–that is, to do the wrong thing.  You must teach them the importance of rightly using their talents.  Protect your children from music and lyrics that aren’t wholesome.  Instill in them the desire to serve the Lord with their musical ability.  Use their musical journey as just another way to bring them closer to Jesus Christ.

Isaac Rochester

Isaac is the instructor for guitar at

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