The Pareto Principle and Music Practice

Today’s topic is working on what really matters.  Not every practice routine is created equal, nor is every exercise created equal. Some things are created for specialization, or detailed work. Not all causes have an equal effect. In this article I want to discuss the Pareto principle and give you some examples of how it benefits your musical practice.

The Pareto Principle states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This means that for every 10 things that could possibly make you better, 2 of them will cover 80% of your growth. This is very good news. If we focus on the important stuff we will gain much greater improvement in a shorter time frame.  I will give you an example of how the Pareto Principle works.

Consider baking a cake. It starts with mixing all the ingredients together and putting it in the oven. Once it is done cooking, icing is added all over the cake. the baker decides to decorate the cake with a guitar on top, getting every detail the guitar has. Once it is all done, what part took the most time? The details that went into making the icing look good, right? That did not make the cake much bigger though.  80% of the cake was finished with 20% of the time it took to finish the cake. There are many more examples in our world of how the Pareto Principle works.

My point is that you can get a large bulk of the information and skill you need to play music well with less work. If you focus on the important stuff, then it will be easy to gain success. If you start working on the decorative icing without the cake being baked first, you may not see any improvement at all. Making wise choices in the practice room can make great improvement in your skill.

The Pareto Principle is a valuable tool that reminds us to focus on what is important. If you are doing something and don’t see improvement then you may want to consider if it is really part of that 20% that makes the 80%. Time is limited and if you use it wisely you will get more from what time you spend than if you didn’t use it the best way. Best luck and have fun finding that 20%.

The Pareto Principle is like baking a cake with a guitar on it.

The Pareto Principle is like baking a cake with a guitar on it.


Five things that will help you learn to play guitar

If you are looking into learning guitar, there are five things you can use to help you get the most out of it.  The more of these ways you use the easier and faster you will be able to improve. This is not a magic pill though; you will get out of it what you put into it. So let’s go through the five things that will help you learn to play guitar.

First is finding a good private teacher. A person who is there one on one with you can be of great value. You can show you the direction you need to go and make sure you are not creating bad habits. Music teachers are a great way to learn to play guitar because they have been there in the shoes of the student before. They have worked hard to overcome the same problems you will face. A good teacher will allow you to progress in your studies easier and probably faster than without one.

Second is to use books. Books are a great supplemental to learning. You cannot learn everything from a book, but they will help make you a well-rounded studied musician. Once you advance enough in your playing you will find books that are more specific toward just 1 technique. Books are there to help you fill gaps in your playing. They are just an overall good thing to use to supplement your learning. These cannot replace other things though. Something similar to books which are also helpful are instructional DVDs. Some are better than others, but these are helpful too.

Third is using the internet. When you come across something new in your private lessons or in a book you can use the internet to dig deeper. You can use blogs or videos sites to help you learn more about something. Beware you may come across some bad information on the internet, if you suspect this you can ask your teacher about it. You might come across different perspectives on a subject; this is a good thing because you will be alert to different thought processes. You may even learn something about the topic that you never knew before. The internet can be a great place to augment learning guitar.

Fourth is transcribing. I put this on here because a lot of people do not do this, but it is one of the most important things you can do to learn guitar fast. Of course this isn’t going to make you the next Wes Montgomery in a week, but this is a very useful learning tool.  You will learn about theory and train your ear. Transcribing teaches you things that cannot be taught.

Last but not least is gig. Get out there and play live in front of people. You learn so much by playing with other musicians and being in front of an audience. Experience is one of those things that separate the boys from the men. Go share your talent and give someone a reason to enjoy music.

All of these are good tips to learn to play guitar. Keep in mind; you will get out of it what you put into it. You cannot take 1 of these suggestions and become a great guitarist; you should take several of these. On the other hand, you do not need to use every single one of these. If you find that you learn better one way than another than work with what helps you the most. Take these basic steps and have fun learning guitar!