Why do teachers call their students “Grasshopper”?

I’ve found that almost every educator has their own personal cache of teaching “riffs”… phrases & sayings that they use over & over, ad nauseam, inducing eye-rolling on the behalf of their students.
I am no different. But at least I try to keep it to a minimum.

My personal favorite oft-repeated phrase is “think tai chi, not karate.”

This statement refers to doing an action that is intended to be quick but you do it very slowly at first.
(my apologies to tai chi practicers & teachers who get annoyed when ignorant people refer to tai chi as slow motion karate… even though it kinda is, isn’t it?)

There is a human tendency to rush through a newly learned action, resulting in many inaccuracies.
But it is essential when learning something new to start by showing your body, and your mind, the different actions necessary to complete the task. And by task I mean, chord progression, scale patterns, riff, strum pattern, guitar solo, complete song, et al. Almost anything you play on the guitar can be approached in this method… ultra-slow at first and then build up the tempo to what it needs to be.

The next obvious (hopefully obvious) thing is to do the action repeatedly. And by repeatedly, I mean like over 20 times…. or maybe 50 times… or maybe a 1000 times. And if you can maintain the tai chi pace, that will ensure success in learning the thing at a deep level.

It somewhat goes against human nature to do things in slow motion, especially if you’re working on a song and have a definitive performance (recording) in your head. Your brain & body have experienced that song hundreds, maybe thousands, of times and so you are naturally going to want to try to play it up to that speed that the song is played on the recording.

Or if you are working with a new scale pattern, you could be having your first experience with it meaning that you have no prior knowledge of said scale. Wouldn’t that mean you would want to go slowly since you are unfamiliar with it? Common sense says yes. However, human nature says, “Let’s go for it & see what happens!”.

I am suggesting you resist the urge to go quickly through any new task at first. All it takes is to remember to remember to take it one note at a time.  The key is to play it “out of time”… no tempo whatsoever. That takes a significant amount of focus & concentration & restraint on the part of the doer.

Rarely will a student I’m working with have their first attempt be at a slow & controlled pace. It is an acquired skill to have your first inclination be to play something new as slowly & deliberately as possible.

Utilize these concepts in your next few practice sessions… intentionally slowing down your approach & focusing on accuracy. See how it works for you.

Then, snatch the picks from my hand, grasshopper. And if you can, pick up the hibachi by the door, leaving a tattoo on each arm, one “Gibson” logo & one “Fender” logo. Wander off into the snow & find yourself on the path of music, looking for the ones who stole your Hendrix poster.

(You might want to Google the ’70’s TV show ‘Kung Fu’, if you want any of that last part  to make any sense.)

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