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The Power of Mentors and In-Person Interactions

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In some ways, modern technology has pushed us away from real-time social interaction.

We have virtual relationships with many people online, but never see them in person or have in-depth conversations. There is much to be discussed that can’t fit within the confines of an online thread.

Face-to-face and real-time interactions are undervalued in today’s world.

I’m all for online tutorials (obviously, as I make quite a few and also teach guitar online). I think these tools are advantageous to coming generations, but that doesn’t mean we should negate real-time relationships or mentors.


Interesting and valuable things happen when you interact with individuals in person. It stimulates the brain in unexpected ways.

It’s not always a spoken thing. Just being in the presence of others partaking in the same craft as you can be a huge influence.

Judge Judy

Often, we get judgmental about who we associate ourselves with. I would encourage you to be less judgmental and keep your ears and eyes open. There is a lot you can learn from individuals at all levels of their career.

When you observe, it gets your brain working. You may be thinking how you might approach it differently. Or how you haven’t considered that exact approach. Don’t discredit someone’s ideas because you may be more skilled. Learn from them, even if you are learning what not to do. But remember: don’t judge.


I’m fortunate to live in NYC. On any given night I can go somewhere to hear some of the greatest musicians in the world. Just by sitting in the audience my horizons broaden. I’ve also befriended many of these musicians which has opened the door to asking them questions.

I go to “school” every night in NYC. I’m spoiled by the sheer volume of the city, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have the same experience in any town.


How To

It gets a little harder to “go to school” if you’re an engineer or session musician. These things aren’t generally open to the public.

You can ask to sit in on a session with an engineer in your community. Be a fly on the wall. Why not be a drum tech for a day? Anything to get you into the room to observe.

Just Google It

With the advent of Google, it’s not hard to find answers or counterweights to technique. It’s not the same as watching it happen in front of you though. A lot of subtle things sink in that you don’t necessarily realize.

For me, this happens a lot with musicians. Just the other night I walked into a small restaurant where some amazing musicians were playing for fun.

There was a well-known guitarist there. He had quite a unique technique and control over the instrument. I was able to sit a few feet away as he performed. I absorbed a lot of important information. Not the type of information that is literal, but sub-conscious information.

One of the more literal takeaways was the placement of his right hand. He didn’t always pick in the same position. He varied proximity to the bridge and neck based on expression. This coupled with a very light pick attack was really impressive.

My mind really liked the tones and that small moment will stick with me.

It wasn’t that I never thought of this option. I just hadn’t seen someone manipulate it to that extent. I know that if I had seen it online it wouldn’t have stuck with me in the same way.

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Part of the issue is the amount of content we can view online at any given time. It’s hard to get anything to fully stick because we’re always onto the next thing. It’s like seeing the country out the window of a speeding car. You kind of see it, but it’s not the same as spending a day in each state.

When you’re with a mentor in person, things move at a slower rate. And they repeat themselves more often. This allows it to seep in deeper.

Think about how you watch video tutorials. How many times do you observe or repeat? Probably just once or twice. You don’t keep revisiting it. If you were on a real session, you may see that technique applied over and over, which reinforces the concept.

Virtual Mentor

To improve what you take away from a tutorial, review it daily until you really get a grasp of the concept.

Don’t study ten different videos at the same time. Your mind likes to seek new information, but try sitting with just one until you fully absorb it.


Look around locally for others who share your craft.

There is something you can learn from everybody and there are others you can teach.

It will inspire you in ways which will surprise you.

Figure out who the engineers are and befriend them. Meet all the local musicians.

I’ve learned some great tips from a five-year-old beginning guitarist. Go gather!

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at