Resources for Self-Taught Students

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Leah Kruszewski
ModeratorInstructor
Resources for Self-Taught Students

Some students have years of experience playing guitar, but have never had a teacher before.  These students are often impressive players and have excellent practice habits, but may have some peculiar gaps in their music knowledge.  

For example, a current student of mine enjoys learning flamenco solos from music notation.  Before taking classes with me, he had taught himself to figure out melodies, chords, and left hand fingerings using music notation.  Yet he doesn’t understand rhythmic notation. Thus, he often comes to class with his pieces learned with perfect fingerings, yet out of time.  I could start over from the beginning and re-teach him music notation.  But he’s a busy, working adult and already struggles to make time for lessons.  He understandably prefers to use his lessons to focus on learning music he can play, and would rather find a way to learn rhythmic notation on his own.   I found this website for him.  At the end of the explanations, the website summarizes all the rhythmic values taught with the below compilation (there's an audio file on the webpage).  The page in general is one of the most concise yet complete explanation of rhythmic notation I’ve ever seen.

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 Another common gap that self-taught students tend to have is music theory.  One book that I often recommend to students is called 'Edly's Music Theory for Practical People'  I mentioned it in this guitar forum post a while ago.  It has a casual, conversational tone, yet explains the important concepts very clearly.  Several of my current students are working through it. They read it on their own time, but every few lessons we check in to confirm they’re understanding accurately and suggest supplementary exercises. 

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Do any teachers or students have any other good theory book recommendations?  Especially ones with clear explanations for out-of-class study and extra exercises to internalize the patterns and logic behind theory?  

Teachers, what other common gaps do you find in self-taught students’ background?  What other resources have you found that can fill particular holes?

Students who initially taught themselves, what resources helped you the most getting started?  Any popular sites or resources that you recommend steering clear of? Beyond internet websites and apps, are their any books have been especially helpful?  

A fair warning: if you are just beginning to learn music, music notation, or theory you’re far better off learning from a teacher.  Self-taught learners usually taught themselves because it was the only option. Either they didn’t have time or money for lessons, or there wasn’t a teacher in their area (in the days before Lessonface).  Having a teacher guide you is much more effective and efficient. Even the quickest learners and most intuitive musicians, when learning on their own, take frustrating wrong turns due to doubts or misunderstandings that a teacher could have resolved in minutes.  Furthermore, it’s hard to know which resources are worthy your time if you’re new to music. Even I had to sift through several sub-par webpages on rhythmic notation and unhelpful theory books before I discovered ones that are appropriate for my students.

Ammon Swinbank
Instructor

Thank you for these references! Both of these are fantastic resources for learning and teaching alike.  It so happens that I have a student who has the same problem as yours.  She's a jazz flutist, and she has a nice tone and is good at playing imaginative solos.  She can read the pitches, but often doesn't understand rhythmic notation.  I will definitely be sending her the link to the website.  The link in your post doesn't work for some reason, so I found the website inside the link and searched for the rhythm page.  Maybe this link will work.

Also I am happy to see this thread.  There was a time when I was self-taught as well, due to lack money.  It was a frustrating and lonely experience.  One of my goals is to dig up the websites and books I was using and test them against my current knowledge and make a resources page on my own website.  This a great head start.  Thanks!

Leah Kruszewski
ModeratorInstructor

Thanks for the response Ammon, and for correcting the webpage link so that others can find it  : )  Hope it helps your current flute student!

When you do dig up those resources you used as a self-taught student, if you find anything that seems valuable, I'd be curious to see them.  I'm working on crafting a music theory curriculum for guitarists, and any well-done resource to help students practice what they learn would be a big help.  

Ammon Swinbank
Instructor

Leah,

No Problem.  I will be digging up some resources soon - I have been away from my computer awhile, and am just getting back into the swing of things.

Take care,

~Ammon

Leah Kruszewski
ModeratorInstructor

Excellent, thanks Ammon!

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