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When Is It Time To Move On?

How Do You Know If It's Time To Move On To A New Lesson Or Song?

Today is day 5 of my 30 day guitar coaching challenge. Today I want to talk about progressing on guitar. Really, I want to answer the question: 

"How do I know when it's time to move onto the next exercise, or learn the next song?"

I've gotten this question a lot over the years. Should you get a song or an exercise perfect before moving on? Or should you get it close and move on?

The 80% Rule

I like to use what's called the 80% rule. Instead of practicing something until it's completely perfect, I like to get 80% of the way there and then move on. If you wait until it's perfect or really close to perfect you'll get stuck there. You'll hold yourself back. You're not taking advantage of the additional learning and practice you can get. It can also be really boring and demotivating to work on the same thing over and over without variety.

But you don't want to move on too quickly. It's about using your judgement to make the call on when to move on. You get better judgement as you progress and you'll instinctively know when to move on. You want to find that 80% mark and move on. I'll talk about this a little more in a minute. 

What about the other 20%?

So how are you supposed to tackle the other 20% and really nail the details? Well that comes with time. If you get to 80% of an exercise and come back in a few weeks, you might have already gotten the last 20% by doing other things. 

Guitar is funny that way. Every technique you learn helps you do other things. When you learn a scale you're not just memorizing notes. You're training your fingers to play one note after another. Using the right pressure and fretting the note at the right spot. And that will help you play that tricky melody you learned a month ago.

Even today I'm amazed at how I can learn something, take a break from it, and come back to it playing it better than before. 

This is especially true when you first learn to play the guitar. What you're doing is casting a wide net. You're learning A LOT of things in a short time. And the goal right now isn't to get perfect at any of them. You're using everything you're learning to build a solid foundation.

Sequential And Non-Sequential Learning

When you learn anything you can take two paths: sequential learning or non-sequential learning.

Sequential learning is a step by step approach, like a numbered list. You learn thing #1, then thing #2, and so on. Non-sequential learning is kind of like a check list, where you can check things off with no particular order.

The 80% rules is the sequential learning. You learn one thing after another. Like building blocks, you stack one thing right on top of the previous block. 

The 20% is non-sequential learning. This is where you integrate those building blocks.

Think of guitar like learning a language. You start off in a step by step approach learning basic grammar principles. You learn words and their meanings, then you use those words in sentences. This is sequential learning. Learning these things is wonderful, but in order to perfect the language you need to use it.

So you have conversations in that language. You might mess up a word or two, or not know a word that the other person is saying. That's where you'd say "I dont know that word, can you tell me what it means?". This is the non-sequential learning. There's not specific order to it. You're tightening up that last 20%.

How Does This Specificallty Relate To Guitar?

In my Real Guitar Success program I created the Beginner's Journey. This is a step by step program that covers all of the basics. It's designed to help you learn these fundamentals as quickly as possible, and build a solid foundation. Each lesson builds on the previous one. This is the 80%. It gets you the biggest bang for your buck, so to speak.

In Real Guitar Success I also have what's called the Guitar Gym. Here is where you get that nonsequential learning. Fun exercises and lessons to tighten up that 20%.

How To Know When To Move On

Now that you have a little background we can really tackle the question. And this is where formal lessons will be your best friend. If you have a private instructor they can guide you. They'll tell you when it's time to move onto the next thing, and when it's time to come back and finish the 20%

If you take online lessons like my Real Guitar Success courses, you can use your ears to see how close you are to the videos. Does what you're playing sound close to what I'm playing? 

In both cases you'll be able to develop that judgement on your own. When you learn the 80% you can move on and come back later for the last 20%. And like I said earlier, you might have already nailed that extra 20% by learning something else.  

Here's one last example. Let's say you're working on a G to C chord change. You get to that 80% and move on. Over next couple weeks you're learning more chords and practicing more chord changes. During that time you're building hand strength and dexterity. When you come back to the G to C chord change you might be able to do it no problem. 


Thanks for joining me today. I hope this lessons has given you condifence and encouragement. But you tell me; what do you think about the 80% rule? Is this something that you're going to apply to your own guitar playing? Do you have other tips that give you encouragement as you're practicing? Let me know in the comments!

>> Check Out Day #6 :  What Is A Good Warm Up Exercise On Guitar?

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