Teaching guitar: Two types of knowledge

September 6th, 2017

People, especially politicians and bureaucrats (but also some educators and academics) tend to simplify the learning process.

For example, they lump everything together and do not differentiate between the learning of knowledge and the learning of skills.

What is the difference between these two?

To use current techie terms, the first is data-type knowledge and the second apps-like knowledge.

Data-type knowledge is just that—data, information.

Apps-like knowledge are specific skills, such as the ability to perform certain actions or routines.

The learning and teaching of data-type knowledge is easy.

All you need is a receptive student and you transfer the knowledge to him. It’s like copying data from one drive to another.

In humans, the teacher imparts this knowledge and the student memorizes and absorbs it.

But not so easy is the transfer of apps (called skills) from now on.

Humans are not like machines where, if you copy an app to a device, it will start running immediately.

Skills in humans have to be built up, developed, and assimilated into the body before it can perform them on autopilot.

And this is a key difference between data-type knowledge and apps-like knowledge.

Apps-like knowledge has be completely absorbed into the body so that they can occur on automatic reflexes. Because most of the time, you wouldn’t have time to think when you’re performing the actions.

Think of driving a car or playing the guitar.

When you drive, your actions have to occur on autopilot, you wouldn’t have time to figure out all the complex moves involved in driving.

Guitar playing is even more complex, because it involves not only technical skills (apps) but also complex pieces of music which may include many pages of notes (data).

When I teach guitar, I’m acutely aware of these two different types of learning process.

And over the years I have developed a simple four stage plan to getting students from pure beginner to virtuoso player in the space of only four years (which is all I have in the college undergraduate system).

Next, the four stage system.

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