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Anatomy of a Zoom/Skype Guitar Lesson

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

Everything moved online in 2020 once "Covid" began. I was no stranger to teaching via Skype and Zoom but I was about to get a whole lot more practice!

18 months on with most back in the building, I've still kept a healthy schedule of private lessons online and all those students are progressing just as steadily as those attending in person. Below we'll take a look at how it all works.

1. Pick a target!

This is the starting point for any lesson. We need to know where we're aiming. That might be a song, a lick, a technique ... you can decide but I'll be gently directing you to everything you've missed so far that will be needed on your journey there.

2. Can you do it ... yet?

Maybe not. That's why you're with me for lessons! We'll work to get you to be able to do it and dig deep to make sure you understand everything that's required. Then we're ready for stage 3!

3. How fast can you do it?

If the music we're aiming for runs at 140bpm (beats per minute) and you can only play it at 40bpm then we'll work to get you to 50bpm ... then 60bpm and so on. I've a whole bag of tricks to squeeze extra speed out of you (which is the proof of added ease of playing i.e. you have improved!) Bringing things up to target speed can be a short, medium or long-term challenge. We'll keep track of your "high scores" and ensure you keep beating them until the finish line is reached; by that point what used to look impossible is now easy! Along the way any number of other things will be improving by default as your skill-set develops.

A Real Life Example

Here's an example from a recent Skype lesson. The student was struggling with the riff from Metallica's "Enter Sandman" played over an F#m chord. At the start of the lesson it wasn't functioning at all when put to the true test, in time with a metronome!

I wrote his "speed" down as "XXX" .... can't do it (yet!! You can see that by the end of the session that number had changed a lot!) We spent more than a few minutes looking into the details needed to change that which were then subjected to the Taplature "Million Pound Challenge" to ensure it all made sense and before long, after a little working up to speed, had this functional rendition running at 70 bpm:

70bpm max for now!

Variety ---> Latent Learning!

Although I'll tend to focus on one particular target in each lesson we can benefit greatly by jumping around a little. This allows things to settle in the brain and improve us while we switch off from the challenge at hand, a process known as "latent learning".

No time to relax though; I brought out an old Taplature version of "The Simpsons" theme tune we'd touched on a while back (click image to enlarge).

While we dredged through a couple of the trouble spots in this one, in the background the work we'd done earlier on "Enter Sandman" was sinking in deeper. On returning to it we found that my student managed to add another 10bpm to his top speed, making 80bpm, a speed we couldn't previously reach!

Now up to 80bpm and more solid all round!

I aimed to extract a bit more latent learning with a sojourn back to "The Simpsons" which then led us for a while to an investigation of finger independence and stretch but this time when we returned to Metallica there were no more bpm on offer so his top speed for the day remained at 80bpm! Homework is always to beat that speed and a couple of pointers were offered on how best to do that (I shall try and remember to update here how that went). All in all, a good hour spent with proven results on the board to show for it!

Old Swanner.

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Interesting article Mr S!

Funnily enough I actually revisited this song recently having learned it “back in the day” and the particular part in question (F#m) was actually something that always bothered me.

I’ve found that the suggested methods of playing this song (online and in books) tend to be a little bit clunky - notes don’t ring out where they should do.

One thing to add to your points here is to test out the most effective way of playing a lick/riff. How I’ve done this in the past is by looking at videos of the artist playing it, which has never really been documented and suddenly a part of the song is made easy.

That is not to…

Old Swanner
Old Swanner
Nov 16, 2021
Replying to

Interesting, never seen it done properly before! Will bear that in mind if it ever comes up with more advanced students. The forum moved here if you've ever a fingerstyle/vocal challenge you could use a second opinion on: Toughest guitar/vocal combination I ever had to get was this one:

"Get Ready" - The Temptations The "x"s are pick mutes, which I found messed my brain up when trying to sing. It took a couple of months of gigging before this one felt easy.

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