Wait, some people actually do what I tell them to?

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So I was completely blown away by the diligence of one of my students last week named Joey. Joey is a 12 year-old guitar player who I have been working with for a few months now at the Lewis Music Academy, and lately we have been studying the Circle of Fifths. About six weeks ago I taught him the major scale pattern and told him to practice it both ascending and descending (obviously, that’s not the only thing we went over in our lesson, but we did spend a solid 10 minutes or so on it). And he did. He came back the next week and I told him to practice that scale to a metronome, and I showed him how to keep track of his times and how to get them faster every day. And he did. Then he came back the next week and I told him to play this scale pattern in this particular order: First from the note C, then G, then D, then A, E, B, F# and C#. And guess what he did that week?

Exactly what I told him to.

The following week I explained what this special pattern was called (The Circle of Fifths in case you aren’t familiar with it) and how we use it to compose music. Since he was doing so well I told him to start this scale again from C, but this time go next to F, then Bb, then Eb, Ab, Db, Gb and Cb. Of course I explained this as the Circle of Fourths (or Circle of Fifths in reverse) and told him to add this to his routine.

So last week he comes back and he’s killing these scales, and I explain to him how to name each note in the scale, the pattern behind each natural and each accidental, therefore effectively spelling all 7 notes of the major scale in all 15 keys, both ascending and descending. And what do I tell him to do throughout the week?

“Play these 15 scales and say each note as you do it.”

So yesterday Joey comes in to his lesson and recites each scale, playing each note, up and down the neck, forwards and backwards, for all 15 keys. I really was speechless. Granted, he did about as good as a 12 year old kid would, even for one who has only been playing for about 5 or 6 months now, but still – he could do it. Very impressive. Here’s the part that got me though: I asked him how much he practiced at home, and how much time he spent on this particular exercise. His response?

“About 30 minutes a day on Monday-Friday, and maybe 10 of those minutes are on these scales.”

Wait a minute… Isn’t that exactly what I’ve told you to do, Joey? Practice on school days, take the weekends off and go outside and play, spend about 30-45 minutes with your instrument each time and spend only one-third of your time on technique? Wow. If you’ve ever worked with kids then you know PRECISELY how I feel when one of them actually listens to you! I almost forgot that what I was telling him would work in the first place!

And here’s why I bring all of this up: Joey, a 12 year old boy who has about 5 months of experience on the guitar, putting in only 30 minutes 5 days a week, was able to learn all 15 major key signatures and major scales, and by default learn every single note on the first 9 frets of his guitar, in roughly six weeks.


There are guys and gals who have been playing music their whole lives and they couldn’t do what Joey just did. So what’s the secret? Where’s the magic? Is Joey talented? Was he born with music in his blood? Is this some sort of gift or miracle?

If you know me at all then you already know my answer to this 🙂

He worked hard, over a short period of time, and little by little came closer to his goal – a goal he wasn’t even really aware of. Joey has no idea that he knows more about the guitar and music itself at the age of 12 with 5 months of experience than most 40+ year olds with a lifetime of musical experience.

I don’t think there’s really a point to this post, other than I’m just sharing the fact that Joey is off to a great start. Maybe the takeaway from this is that there’s hope in achieving your goals if you take small steps each day. Or maybe it’s that anything is possible if you want it bad enough. Or maybe it’s that you should just listen to what your teacher is telling you to do 🙂 Either way, excellent job Joey. One day I’ll be able to say I knew you back when…