“Practice, practice, practice”.
If you are learning to play the guitar, you have probably come across this advice before.
But what leads to successful guitar playing? Is it just a matter of how many hours you put in?
Practicing is king, right?
Great guitar players are the ones who practice a lot, and the mediocre ones are the once who pick up their instrument once in a while.
This is true of course, if guitar practicing is considered in terms of quantity, and yes, practicing is that important a thing that is worthy of being called “king”.
And the king rules, right?
Well, contrary to popular belief, a real king rarely has absolute authority over himself, let alone his country. He is still vulnerable to anything ‘human’, including of course inefficiency, loneliness and depression. He is also susceptible to rebellion from his subjects.
And whilst some kings in history have continued to conquer until their last breath, some others have been decapitated.
As you will see, as so it has been heralded in written history; it is the king that has the most supportive queen, and avoids the wrath of God, who will be the one that conquers all.
Or rather, become a successful guitar player, with a king’s guitar practicing mindset.
The Queen: Information
Can you imagine a royal family where the queen is also a prostitute? Well, those that were suspected of such would of course have been decapitated.
Even though the king rules an entire country, it is highly likely that you have a very unhappy king, who loses his credibility to rule and if his subjects rebel, he knows that his entire kingdom might easily become one big mess.
Now if we consider that the queen represents information, and hence lends that information to the king which supports its very direction for practice, well you get the picture… But, basically, your guitar practice will neither be fun nor effective, since you’re trying to learn bits and pieces of information chosen randomly.
Here, I’m talking about information that is more dictated by “what comes first in a Youtube search for guitar lessons”, than setting specific goals you may want to reach in your guitar playing, and then working towards them.
Thus, when it comes to choosing your information, you should learn from the mistakes of the kings who took hasty decisions when choosing their queen, or thought she’s not going to make too much of a difference to his kingdom.
Believe me, choosing the wrong information to learn is that bad for your guitar playing. That is, if you consider your guitar practicing mindset as your kingdom where you rule.
The following tips should guide you towards making the right decisions, about which pieces of information you’re going to want to absorb. What you are going to learn to take your guitar playing to the next level.
1. Make sure it’s the information you need.
Before you decide to learn anything new, ask yourself this question:
What specific goal/s will this activity help me achieve in my guitar playing? Why am I learning this?
Let’s say you decided to learn the scale pattern of the minor harmonic scale on your guitar.
A typical wrong answer to the question above would be something like:
“I’m learning this because to become a good guitar player you need to know as many scales as possible. Everyone keeps saying how important they are and I believe that when I know all the scales in my books, I would finally be good enough to join a band”.
Guess what’s likely to happen to this guitar student?
If he doesn’t get demotivated along the way, because learning a lot of scales out of context is boring, he will learn all the book, and go for an audition.
And make a fool of himself (like I once did).
Because the other musicians who may, or may not, know how to play the harmonic minor scale, had been asking different questions:
“Which scales do I need to learn to be able to express myself the way I want? How can I milk each one of them to make great planned or improvised guitar solos? How can I apply my existing knowledge and technique to these new scales that I’m learning?”
Though the person asking these questions may actually know very few scales, the fact that he learnt those few scales in the right context and knows how to use them, makes his guitar playing way more effective than the one who memorized the whole book, but can’t improvise on a single scale.
This is just an example to highlight the importance of choosing the right topics and the right way to learn them.
2. Choose information which comes from the right source
I cannot emphasize enough, that the source of the information should be the best you can find and/or afford.
If, for instance, you’re taking guitar lessons from a teacher, ask yourself these questions:
Is my teacher more concerned about my goals, or his?
Does he have a plan for my guitar playing in both short and long term or does he seem to decide what to teach me based on a whim?
Does he give me a satisfactory answer to my questions or is he always kind of dodging them?
That said, don’t go overboard with this.
Your guitar teacher may not have an answer to every single question, or else, he may have the answer, but can’t explain it to you in a way you’ll understand since there are musical blocks you haven’t built yet.
Use common sense. It’s not hard to spot a fake!
3. Is the information in the right order?
If you have a guitar teacher whom you trust you shouldn’t be worrying about this. For sure he knows more than you what you need and in what order you need it than yourself.
Though it won’t hurt reminding him of your musical goals once in a while.
If you’re learning guitar on your own, you need to figure this out by yourself, thus you should always be asking the correct questions as in point 1.
What specific short or long term goal/s is this practice item going to achieve?
In the 5 Steps to a correct practicing mindset I go into a lot more depth on setting musical goals for oneself and making plans to achieve them.
God: Your guitar practicing mindset
The wisest of kings are the ones that know the golden rule:
Thy shall not unleash upon you the wrath of God.
And your guitar practicing mindset, in this analogy, is God.
What you think and how you feel before, during and after your guitar practicing determines your success.
If the king has low self-esteem, and is constantly worrying about failure, rather than excited about ruling the country, he will very likely fail, no matter how supportive the queen is.
Mindset is what makes the difference between a successful guitar player and the one who can play some chord rhythms – as long as they’re simple, in a 4/4 time signature and don’t include barre chords.
Because the reason the unsuccessful guitar player didn’t learn those things was that he stopped learning, somewhere along the way.
If he can learn how to play a simple rhythm in 4/4 using open chords, there’s no reason on earth why he can’t learn how to play a more complex rhythm, in 9/8, using barre chords.
He just didn’t give it enough time.
99% of the time it’s the wrong mindset about learning the guitar itself.
Insecurity, fear, boredom, laziness and other negative thoughts and emotions got in the way and ruined everything.
I say 99% of the time, because there is that one off occasion where life itself really does get in the way and forces one to stop.
For instance, once I had a student who was very promising as a guitar player. Even though he started learning guitar in his late adult life, he had a very positive mindset and practicing ethic. That is, until catastrophe struck his business, and he ran into serious debt. He needed to use every minute he had to get out of his situation, and the guitar playing had to go.
However, situations like bankruptcy, or serious illnesses, are rarely the reason guitar students give up.
They quit because they didn’t take care of their mindset, and unleashed the wrath of God upon.
This may sound harsh, but if you keep in mind that the best guitar players are the ones who didn’t stop, it’s not that far-fetched when it comes to guitar playing.
In the 5 Steps To A Correct Practicing Mindset I will guide you through a process that will make your guitar practicing not only more fun, but also much more effective.
This will, among other things, prevent you from quitting before you start reaping the benefits, or sabotaging yourself when you actually do.
The Prince: Application
If the king and the queen live in harmony with each other, and have God by their side, they are likely to successfully rule for a long time.
But there would be something missing in the royal family if there is no one to inherit the throne.
And life in the palace will be more fun and fulfilling with a kid of their own.
Your baby, is the music you create, and this includes anything you can come up with. Whatever level you are.
Have you just learnt a scale? Write a melody with it.
A new chord? How about writing a song with it?
And recording it, no matter how stupid it may be.
And storing it safely somewhere where no one can find it.
So that when, months or years from now, you write a song you can’t wait to get the world to hear, you’ll go back to your lousy first song and say:
This is where it all started. I wasn’t writing a stupid song after all.
I was conceiving my prince!
If you would like to learn more about guitar playing, songwriting, music theory and the pursuit of happiness, subscribe here so that you will receive an email with my next article.
You may consider giving a donation, by which you will be helping a songwriter achieve his dreams. Each contribution, no matter how small, will make a difference.