You've probably seen your neighbor doing it recently, or at least heard about it somewhere. It's called clicker training and it refers to using a clicking device to train animals. The clicker is a handy little tool that animal behaviorists and trainers alike are realizing is a more healthy and effective way to teach our pets. Clicker training is based on many things but one of the fundamental elements is “Operant Conditioning." When an animal intentionally performs a behavior in order to bring about a desired consequence, as clicker trained animals do, they are learning in a way that researchers call “operant conditioning” (clickertraining.com). Hearing the clicker becomes the reward for doing a correct behavior. Therefore the animal continues to do the behavior to receive the reward. This clicker training method has slowly made the leap from animal to human in the form of TAGteach, a revolutionary science based method for teaching. TAG is an acronym for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. The TAG refers to the distinctive sound made to mark or “TAG” a moment in time. This sound becomes an acoustical binary message, a sort of “snapshot” that is quickly processed by the brain. A TAG means “yes.” Absence of a TAG means “try again.” The focused, positive nature of this method yields immediate and stunning results that are clearly evident to teachers, students and parents (tagteach.com). It essentially incorporates the clicker training of animals into everyday learning for us homosapiens.
Enter Click to Learn Guitar (www.clicktolearnguitar.com) a guitar course based on the fundamentals of TAGteach and operant conditioning. Click to Learn Guitar is currently established locally in Portland, OR. It's creator has been documenting the progress of the method since its inception on his blog here. The course is designed to set the student up for success immediately by teaching them exactly what to do in a way they can perform within minutes if the first lesson.
It begins with learning open chords (usually Em since it is very easy). An example of one of the first exercises the student does is to place the correct fingers on the guitar to make the chord (you can view a video of this exercise here). This is considered a “small success” and the teacher uses the clicker to TAG small successes. So when the student puts their fingers on the correct chord position on the guitar they hear a click. The student is then instructed to play each string of the chord individually. They, however, do not move to the next string of the chord until they hear a click. The TAG point (or what they need to do to receive the click) is to play each string clearly and cleanly. If the string is played poorly or if the note does not play clearly there is no click. Once the student is able to play the string correctly it is tagged and the student moves to the next string. Each correctly played string is considered a “small success”. Once the student plays all the strings correctly they are instructed to then play the whole chord. If the whole chord is played cleanly and correctly then it is tagged. Playing the whole chord correctly is considered a “large success”. This “small success” to “large success” concept is one of the main philosophies of Click to Learn Guitar. It is believed the setting the student up for success immediately will improve their interest, practice and work ethic. Essentially it empowers them to want to learn and play.
This course is admittedly set up for beginners and people who don’t have a lot of time to devote to the instrument. The course has shown that memory retention using the clicker is greater and the student learns in a more efficient way. This course is perfect for kids as using the clicker is a lot like a game. Children will love the idea of playing the guitar to have their teacher make a funny noise to let them know they are correct. This "positive reinforcement" is a main aspect of how the method works. The click is consistent and not judgmental. There is no negative in it. The student either hears the click (meaning that they achieved the correct behavior) or does not hear the click (meaning they need to reassess what they are doing and try again). Also, the teacher is not holding an instrument during the course. This idea is meant to take the pressure off the student of comparing them to the teacher. It sets the tone that the student is learning to play the guitar themselves, not just trying to mimic what the professional sounding instructor can do. Eventually when the student has achieved a level of proficiency the teacher can begin to engage with a guitar. By this time the student has confidence and will feel much better when playing with the instructor. These concepts along with others are the crucial elements that the method strives for. Click to Learn Guitar is meant to bridge the information gap for those of us who want to learn guitar and those of us who already do.