For Josephine and Tina

Hi Tina,

I made this webpage for you, rather than sending you an email, because I don’t think I have your email address.

Also thought it was better to send you this info, rather than sending it to Josephine, as to not distract her from what she is currently working on, school, studies, and so on. 🙂

Great Potential, But It’s Currently not Being Developed

Josephine had become a much better musician and guitarist in a short time when she was taking lessons. The growth of her musical knowledge, skills, and of her understanding of music had taken fantastic leaps forward at the time she was taking lessons. She had been doing really well.

But alas:

None of that really matters in a strategy where a student takes a couple of months of lessons and then stops having lessons for an extended period of time.

It doesn’t really matter how great the quality of the teacher is, or how great the progress is that a student made, if the student just plain stops lessons, because at that point: whatever progress that was made, slowly gets chipped away again with the passing of time.

In addition: I seemed to remember that when Josephine first started lessons, she expressed that someday she was hoping to do music full-time, or turn the hobby into an income, or be a well-rounded professional musician.

It all can be done, but not without lessons.

That’s why it caught me somewhat by surprise when the decision was made to “take a break from lessons”.

It surprised me because:

  1. Of all the above reasons.
  2. Josephine also seemed to have a lot of fun in her lessons, and really enjoy the great progress and really cool (and important) things she was discovering and learning about music.
  3. It’s highly unlikely for anyone to be able to do well with music (quality-wise, income-wise, competition-wise against a large pool of other skilled, high-level musicians), without the musical development that someone gets who learns with a highly-qualified top teacher.

And even for someone who doesn’t necessarily have the high ambition of hopefully, someday, making music one’s profession: it’s still, and always, a shame when someone with so much potential, ends up not fully developing it. (Regardless of whether music is to remain one’s hobby, or become one’s hobby that is also one’s income).

It’s been my experience in the past, almost 30 years of teaching, that pretty much everybody:

  1. Greatly underestimates how quickly they will decline and regress back to previous, lesser good levels and eventually back to the zero starting point, the moment they stop their weekly training and lessons
  2. Overestimates how well they will be able to retain all the newly acquired info and skills without further training and lessons.
  3. Very highly overestimates their ability to keep at the level they are at without lessons, and overestimates how practice alone, will help them maintain that level. (It never does. Practice without regular supervision that ensures the practice is done correctly, is not really practice).

What kept Josephine going forward and not forgetting anything, was the weekly lessons. Those lessons kept training the information and skills she had already acquired and kept building on that strong foundation that was being laid in the lessons.

But foundations need to be strengthened till they become unbreakable.
And only having 6 or so months of lessons, is simply not long enough to solidify the skills a student already acquired.

Seems like such a shame, after she had come such a long way to so much better musicianship, to then completely go in the opposite direction where all that was previously acquired (knowledge, skills, momentum, progress) will all be undone, regressing back to previous (lesser strong) levels.

Over the past almost 30 years of teaching, I have yet to see the first student who comes back after a break, at an equal or better level they were at when they decided to take a break from lessons.

The only 2 exceptions to that:

  1. People who have a ton of time on their hands and hence actually have the time to practice a couple of hours a day consistently.
  2. People who have been studying music with a teacher for at last 4 years without interruptions, and who practiced daily during that time.

Everybody else, always immediately starts going backward the moment lessons are stopped.

That is something Josephine should have noticed already, too, by now, in her overall musicianship, compared to what she knew and could do at the time of her last lesson about 6 weeks ago.

Even if she hasn’t really noticed a sharp decline yet in how much info she remembers less well or in the speed or performance quality/level, compared to where it was at 6 weeks ago, the fact of the matter is that Josephine hasn’t had supervision, expert training, or the same progress she would have made under lessons.

The Reasons Why Not Having Lessons Leads to Sharp Declines in Ability, Skills and Knowledge

The reasons for the sharp decline in skills and knowledge that happens when someone takes a break from lessons are pretty self-explanatory.

  1. lessons make up for lack of practice time. They ensure progress keeps happening even for students who don’t practice regularly or often enough.

    The lesser time a student has that can be dedicated to practicing the skills and proficiency, the more that student really is needing those lessons.

    Moreover: many parents think that when they hear their teenagers play, that their kid is practicing.
    Not true: 99% of the time they are merely spending time playing things they already know, or jamming, or playing their favorite songs.

    That is not practicing.

    That is exactly why I have so many 60+ and 70-something-year-olds who have been “practicing” guitar for 50 or 60 years, yet can’t pull off anything I show them.
    They are surprised and astonished that they are so far away from what I can do on guitar or with music, while they oftentimes have been playing guitar for about twice as long as I have.

    2 reasons for this:

    1. They didn’t spend all that much time actually “practicing”. They were noodling around on guitar. Practice is where the progress lies. Working very focused on the things you are not good at. That is practice. Most waste that time away just noodling around on simpler things they enjoy playing.
    2. They spent too much time in “self-study”, or only learning through self-study, instead of taking lessons, which is a far superior and effective way to become really good fast.

  2. Self-study Hurts Results and Progress.

    One always has to ponder: If self-study were so great, why is not everybody doing it? Why is nobody great, rich, masterful, or important on the planet ever going for self-study, but always seeking actual coaching instead?

    Michael Jackson was still meeting with Seth Riggs (a famous vocal coach) up to right before he passed away.

    The Beatles learned every day from their producer George Martin.

    Famous actress and singer/musician Vanessa Williams chose for her daughter Tasha to study guitar and music with me, instead of having her learn from YouTube by herself.

    World-class top tennis players work with their tennis coaches even when they are ranked first in the world rankings: they don’t suddenly choose to wing it by themselves.

    Top-level people always seek out top-level coaching.
    They understand that their time, and life is too important and too valuable to let it slip away without seeing the results they are after, fast.

  3. I hear this all the time: “But I will keep practicing on the material during the break from lessons”

    That never happens.

    Despite everybody’s best intentions: nobody, absolutely no students in past 30 years of teaching (so many students a week), ever actually practiced more when they had more time to practice.
    No student ever kept up with the material during a break.

    Not only that: nobody ever actually finds more time to practice when lessons are discontinued. The opposite is true: people find more reason to want to practice and to learn new things when they take lessons because they are then more inspired.

    There are no exceptions in this.

    If there were, then I would have had at least one student in past 30 years who didn’t come back from a break much less good than they were the day they told me they would take a break from lessons.

  4. Doing/practicing the same things over and over again for a longer period of time is not a good practice system for various reasons.

    That approach is why people who will “first practice what they already know till mastery before continuing learning new things” never ever become good musicians. Everything in music is interrelated to everything else.

    Practicing anything only 1 particular way, hence, is counterproductive, because that same material could be practiced in different contexts, where you learn new things, while at the same time still practicing the old things through those new things.

    A great example: is arpeggio fingerings. Waiting to learn arpeggio fingerings till one mastered the fretboard first, is a waste of time because the fretboard knowledge would take huge steps forward in improvement as a result of the arpeggio fingerings. The best learning always happens when one hits multiple birds with one stone.

    That is one thing that sets top teachers apart from the rest: they teach integratively.

    Previously learned material is integrated and/or used as a building block from where new things are learned.
    It’s one of the teaching techniques that can lead to massive, extraordinary results and growth.

    An analogy to illustrate why “taking a break from lessons to first master what I learned so far” does not work, is: “I will try to lose some weight first by myself before I go to the gym or do physical exercise.”

  5. Lessons bring on inspiration, are inspiring.

    They make one write better songs, play better music. Many of the songs I have written in my life were the results of experimenting with a cool music theory or harmony concept I learned about, which I then used as the foundation to build a song.

  6. Someone who has not been learning a significant number of years yet under the wings of a great teacher, is bound to not notice it when errors creep in during practice. (if that person finds the time to practice at all).

    I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times that a student comes in again after months of break, to find out that there is not only a huge decline in abilities BUT all that time that actually WAS spent on practicing, was wasted on practicing incorrectly.

    This almost always is caused by a lack of regular/weekly supervision of a teacher, who can consistently correct and guide things.

    Without that weekly supervision, things that were taught with good technique, somehow gradually start to get practiced differently over time from how it was initially learned.

    As time passes, the little changes added to how things were taught how to practice, keep adding up, eventually leading to an entirely different practice approach that now leads to a technique that will hurt that student or his progress in the longer term.

    We can actually use something in Josephine’s guitar playing as a great example of this.

    For x number of years, before she started taking lessons with me, Josephine “practiced” an incorrect rhythm playing style.
    I am referring to how Josephine swings ALL her rhythms, all the time.

    Without the guidance of a good teacher who could have immediately corrected this early on, before the start of the lessons with me, that habit to swing everything got reinforced over and again every time Josephine picked up a guitar, to the point where it has become second nature, and been really challenging to break.

    Every time, she put up any song, she was in effect reinforcing that mistake, practicing that mistake till it became second nature.

    The reason why that is a big deal, is that there are only 2 styles of music where that swing rhythm strumming works: jazz and shuffle blues. No other styles have swing.
    So because most music does not have a swing feel, Josephine’s strumming clashes with almost every song she plays along with.

    I managed to improve it a lot…

    but didn’t get long enough time with Josephine for her to gain the freedom to choose between swinging or no swinging.

    Bad performance habits that have been trained for so long, oftentimes need more than a couple of months to be retrained the right way.

    As of now: I’m pretty certain the progress made is getting undone by now, and she will be back to fully swinging everything she plays.

    That is one of THE really important reasons for taking lessons: how the student practices at home, gets constantly course-corrected in the lessons.

    Without that weekly supervision and guidance: valuable time is spent doing things incorrectly till that lesser good way became the new normal.

    As a result: the student finds out at some point he/she is hitting a dead-end or just cannot get past a certain level anymore (as a result of an inefficient approach or technique that was practiced that way)… and now… that student has to spend time again on the same material, having to UNLEARN that ineffective or inefficient way first… before she/he can finally start improving again in that area/topic/knowledge.

  7. Lastly: almost nobody who takes a break from lessons, actually starts up again.

    I think the reason for that, has to do with how tough it is to face the regret when one realizes how much better a musician one would have been if one had not stopped the lessons.

    There is a certain threshold to get back to the grind after one has not seen all that much progress or musical growth anymore for months on end.

    Another possible factor, I think, might be that people dread having to face their teacher again knowing that that teacher will immediately notice the musical decline or lack of growth.

  8. Everybody always ends up regretting not having continued the lessons, when one comes to realize how much better one would have been on guitar if only, lessons had not been discontinued.

In Conclusion

I had students who wanted to become pros, who literally went from complete beginner (not knowing how to hold a guitar) to having an album out, a tour, AND an income of +$8000 a month with music only, all at the same time… in less than 3 years from the day they started their lessons with me.

That is probably why my client roster includes famous RnB singer Amel Larrieux, Brian Bell, the guitarist from Weezer, Nicolas Cage, Vanessa Williams, Kimberly Elise, who played the leading female roles in movies with Denzel Washington, The Commodores, the daughter of Teena Marie, and many other celebrities.

It can be done. But not without lessons.

As I always tell my students:

Even if, by yourself without the benefits of lessons, you actually find the time to practice, and even if that practice time consists of a minimum of 1 hour a day, super consistently every day: any student who takes lessons with a top teacher will always outperform the results you see and experience (in quality of performance, skill level, writing/song quality, etc.), even if that student (who studies with a teacher) barely practices a couple of hours a week.

It’s mind-blowing how huge the difference in progress, results, and growth is between someone who takes lessons consistently versus someone who is not learning with a teacher.

These are just some quick thoughts I wanted to share because it seems a shame to let it all slip after you already invested so much to get Josephine to this much better level.

After all: she could be making so unbelievably much progress and get to such amazingly higher levels in 2022. But that will not happen without the regular guidance, supervision, corrections, accountability, weekly new discoveries, and all these other really important cool things that people get who study with a teacher.

Just wanted to make sure you considered all these points or knew about this all. 🙂

I always think is a shame when someone does really well, makes fantastic progress, but then lets it all slide again, and loses all that forward motion.

That is why focus and persistence are so important: keeping one’s eye on the ball, keep moving forward in developing one’s artistry, and persisting till all the new skills are so well ingrained that they become part of one’s musical personality. All that requires more than 4-5 months of training, and there is still tons of really amazing stuff to learn/discover, that is important for any songwriter to know, and that can greatly enrich songs.

Just my 3 cents haha. 🙂

Music Studies Guarantee Better Academic Results

I think one of the reasons, if I remember well, for stopping the music lessons, was “academics”.

Interestingly enough, many studies have shown over and again, that the last thing one wants to do if indeed the goal is to do very well in college/school, is stopping music lessons.

Saying this differently: a vast number of studies have shown that students do much better at math, memorization, spatial reasoning, sciences, language learning, comprehension, logical reasoning, and so much more, if they also studied music for an extended period of time.

I still feel very strongly that one of the reasons why I received my engineering degree Summa Cum Laude, is because of the mental and intellectual skills I had acquired as a result of my many years of music studies with amazing teachers.

Neuroscientist Richard Restak, professor of neuroscience and neuropsychology at Washington University, is just one of the many scientists in his field, who mention in their studies and publications, that the dexterity part that comes with learning an instrument, causes the IQ to keep growing to higher points, AND improves memory.

Age doesn’t matter: someone could start learning guitar when 85, and they will find that their intelligence will grow and memory will greatly improve, as a result of the improvements in dexterity that comes with learning an instrument.

And that is only talking about dexterity. There is so much more that gets trained when learning music.

That is why people who take music lessons, do better in school than their peers and tend to learn with less effort.
Following is a collection of studies and quotes confirming all this. It’s inspiring to read the short, summarized conclusions of these studies.

One such study, to give you an idea, concludes that

* The foremost technical designers and engineers in Silicon Valley are almost all practicing musicians
~ Dee Dickinson, Music and the Mind, 1993

You can read the short 1-2 sentence summaries/conclusions of various important studies here:

The Amazing, Life-Long Benefits People Get from Having Taken Music Lessons

Special Deals

I totally did not plan on giving any special deals at this time, but again, because it would be a bummer to see Josephine start becoming a lesser good guitarist, songwriter, and musician from where she was 6 weeks ago, I want to offer a bit of a helping hand just in case the decision to stop lessons was partially based on budget reasons.

So if I can help by giving you a huge discount, so be it.

If lessons are started up again or payment is received by the end of the upcoming week (April 10th), you get the following discounts.

* 10 lesson package: only pay 635, save $115
* 20 lesson package: only pay 1139, save $361

To get in on this deal, you can Venmo at @Vreny-VanElslande and enter 635 or 1139.

The reason for that special deal deadline (next week Sunday April 10th) is that the deadline helps ensure we get back to building up Josephine’s skills and knowledge as soon as possible.

Thank you, Tina!
Contact me anytime if you have any questions or if I can be of any help.

Hope you, Josephine, and your family are all doing fantastic.