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Big Concepts, Big Goals

A goal like, “improve technical skill,” is a big goal.

It isn’t specific, it doesn’t have the characteristics of a good goal (specificity, time limit, achievable but challenging, etc.), but it is a goal all the same. But in this form, this big goal is a big concept — an overall motive for what we do. Everyone wants to play with more technical fluency.

Most time we don’t make these goals explicit: they are never written down or though about, but they are always implied by our mindset or whatever else factors into our playing.

Teachers Take Note

A good music teacher thinks about these underlying big concepts and steers the student through them.

I teach a lot of rock guitar. So when my students want to learn a tune from their favorite artists, I’m okay with that. But oftentimes we talk about some songs they like during the lesson, then I do some research.

One of my big goals with rock guitar students to get them comfy reading more than just tab. Which means any song I present is going to be in standard notation or chord charts in addition to tab. They play into my underlying big concept of getting them to read the various forms of notation guitarists are expected to read. And they don’t even know it.

Sometimes I make my goals with them more clear. When I wrote Rhythm Bootcamp it came out of a goal I had for my students. I wanted some good strumming, and once I figured out what they meant (keeping the arm moving with the beat), I was able to write some strumming patterns that reinforced this movement. Because it’s a bit more specific, while being an overall concept, I told them about the arm movement. But I also realized it’s a kind of thing were you just get the knack for it. So I told them about it only after working with a few strum patterns, and never in an abstract way.

Teachers should always have a big goal in mind. But for a teacher, that big goal needs to be well thought out. Repertoire (no matter what genre) and studies should reinforce and build upon the big concepts.

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