A Guide To Your Study

This document is to make you familiar with what is expected of you in your applied study of guitar and to let you know how grades are determined so you will be guided accordingly.

The need to practice consistently should be self-evident, but that need is often placed in a hierarchy below academic assignments and a part-time job. I cannot solve those problems for you, but I can let you know that your progress on the guitar is dependent upon effort applied consistently over time. If this is not done, you may end up having completed all of your course work but unable to schedule your recital, or you may be denied admittance into upper division applied study. One simply cannot cram at the last minute for an applied lesson assignment or a performance.

Starting Out

Get in the habit of attending as many concerts as you can, save your programs and mark the pieces that you respond to especially strongly. Write the names of these pieces down in a journal.

When listening to music do not just have it playing in the background. Listen actively and know the name of the work and performer.

Write down all new musical terms you encounter in your lesson journal. The internet makes it easier than ever to look up their meanings.

You have free access to Grove Online through the Music Library. Take advantage of this and look up composers you come across. You also have access to streaming audio online, including the Naxos Music Library. Listen to as much cultivated music as you can.

Even though you are a music student you are still responsible for emerging from your education as a functional, polished, and literate writer. Remember that writing is re-writing. There are many web sites that can help you, including this one at USC.

Applied Lesson

These are rough guides to the minimum amount of daily practice required:


Non-Majors: 30 minutes a day
Those working towards admittance to the applied sequence: 2 hours a day

111 and beyond

Beyond this, at a minimum, the number of hours of daily practice should equal the number of credits, i.e., performance majors should be practicing four hours a day; B.A. students, two hours a day.


There are two sets of interlocking standards that will be applied to you in determining your grade, but the proportion between them will shift as you progress. In general, there is the standard that compares where you started at the beginning of the semester to where you ended up. This is because everyone comes into the program with a different background, set of abilities, and problems. This criterion plays a large part in determining your grade during your first semester or two.

As you progress, though, you will be measured increasingly against an absolute standard, i.e., specific skills or repertoire that you must negotiate successfully regardless of where you started out. This can be seen especially in the requirements for admittance to the upper division of applied study or choice of material for a degree recital.

Note that although there are repertoire guidelines (see Guide to the Applied Levels), these must be approached gradually and sequentially. I have a long-term plan for each of you but I cannot assign you piece Z until you have mastered, to a certain degree, pieces X and Y. This obviates the possibility of cramming at the end of the semester or only practicing the day before your lesson. If you do not approach your lessons with consistent and diligent practice, you are only educating me about your diminished abilities and I will make assignments accordingly, but this does not absolve you of being measured more and more against an absolute standard as time passes.

You may never use the excuse, “I didn’t practice because I had an English paper (or other academic project) due,” unless you can demonstrate that at some point you said to another classroom professor, “ I couldn’t finish the project because I had to practice for my guitar lesson.”

Missed lessons are not looked upon kindly and will result in a “F” for the lesson. (I grade each individual lesson.) An unexcused absence from master class will reduce your lesson grade for the week by one letter.

Time Management

Time management is really thought management and your college life as a music student should prepare you for your professional life, a life that must be approached thoughtfully. Music students have a more variable schedule than other students on campus: in addition to classes there are rehearsals, concerts, master classes, all of which vary from week to week. You must learn to plan for these and for your long-term assignments.

The Immediate Versus the Permanent

As I think about the problems some students have had over the years I can see there has been confusion about the differences between the immediate or expedient, and the permanent. By this I mean the understanding of the differences between instruction and education: you are given instruction, out of which you fashion your education. You cannot be given an education. What you learn here can be put to two uses: there is the immediate and tangible purpose of assimilating an assignment so that you are brought closer to our profession. The second use might be called the philosophical or civilizing: learning how to think and solve problems, developing curiosity, and seeing the role of your art within a larger societal framework. The first is know-how, the second is cultivation. I wish for you to emerge from your time here as a cultivated musician.