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Establishing Musical Priorities - by Mark Stefani
I realize that, probably much more than most musicians and instructors, I spend a lot of time discussing personal goals with my students. There's a reason for that. It's a reason that goes back pretty far in my career, and I'd like to spend this article explaining this fascination of mine, as well as sharing some thoughts on the subject of establishing musical priorities.

A long time ago I discovered that one of my highest priorities in finding a truly great teacher was to encounter someone that did a lot more for me than simply "dispense" musical information. Sure, it's always good to learn a new tune or cool riff, but when it comes right down to it, there's always going to be a new tune or riff to learn anyway. Consequently, I've had many fine teachers who have shared their knowledge with me, but the ones that I'll never forget are those that shared their experiences and philosophies with me. Ironically, though I can cite my father and other specific instructors as examples, many of these "teachers" are players that I've never met. Let me elaborate on that.

I often refer to teachers as one of several "influences" that you encounter in your musical pursuits, but you don't have to necessarily meet that person to be highly effected by their shared experiences. Many times throughout my career, especially when I've been particularly frustrated in a given area, it's been remarkably comforting to read some interview with a respected artist, and have that artist share their own similar trials and tribulations. Being able to relate to their experience has often times given me the courage to fight through my own problems. You know all the standard cliches like "where there is unity there is strength," or "united we stand, divided we fall?" Well, for me, there's something to be said for knowing that I'm not alone in my quest. This positive experience has had a major effect on the type of "coach" that I pride myself in being, and many of my successful students will remind me of some story or analogy that I've shared with them in the past that's contributed to their own growth and healthy state of mind. It's been my pleasure, I assure you.

As you well know, in the past we've spent a great deal of time discussing important topics like "journaling" and "organization." Before I run out of room, I'd like to offer some thoughts on the actual subject of this article.

Time, or the lack of it, makes the issue of musical priorities an extremely critical one. After all, there are an enormous number of potential projects that you can conceivably tackle, but the question of "importance" is bound to rear its head. Now "Rome wasn't built in a day" (never lacking for cliches, eh?), and you've got a lifetime of study and pleasure ahead of you, however...

What song are you going to work on today? What goals are you setting for yourself this week? This month? This year? I know that this is a lot to consider, and the last thing on earth that you want to do is get so bogged-down in thought that you don't actually pick up your instrument, but you certainly owe it to yourself to spend a little time thinking about it. After all, you're the one who stands to benefit from establishing these priorities. Simply sit down, from time to time, and make a list of your personal goals. Then attach a "weight" to each one of them and follow-up. Believe me, you won't regret it!

Mark Stefani is a guitarist, teacher, writer, and founder of Vision Music, an educational website offering over 600 pages of FREE learning resources, including guitar lessons by top professionals, jam tracks, articles, songs, sheet music, and more. Visit:

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