We all tend to create intended “resolutions” as one year passes and another year begins. But we also know how tenuous these resolutions often are. With warm hearts and excitement we set out to do that “great thing” only to end up at a place of “not following through”. Just go check out a gym in early January and then again in February.
What happened between the BIG intention and the failed accomplishiment? Here’s my take.
People will get excited about resolving to build a Taj Mahal but don’t get excited about digging the foundation for it.
People get excited about resolving to loose weight but don’t get excited about showing up at the gym every day.
People get excited about being an accomplished guitarist but they don’t get excited about consistent daily practice.
People get excited about the BIG PICTURE but they don’t get excited about the many LITTLE TASKS to get there.
With regards to learning the guitar, new students come to my studio having seen a great concert from their favorite player or band and are “reved up” to learn guitar having gotten so impressed. A month or two later- well I think you know the story.
So to help you advance in your own guitar study I thought I’d give you a little boost helping to make sure you stay the course. My goal here is to convince you that however excited you may be to build a Taj Mahal, enjoy that feeling for the moment and then begin to dig the foundation one shovel-full at a time for however long it takes but with the vision and excitement of the Taj Mahal firmly planted in your mind the whole time.
Always remind yourself WHY you want to play guitar.
Are you trying to be a GUITAR GOD? My advice to you is DON”T BOTHER. Let your skill development on the guitar take you where it will and enjoy the fruit of your work but please don’t speak of guitar gods. Just be good on your own terms and help others along their guitar path- that is enough. On the otherhand, perhaps (like most players) you want to play tunes around the campfire with friends and family. Or, maybe you are a “bedroom guitarist” who claims to play just for yourself. Whatever it is you want as a guitarist, there’s no escaping the reality that there is work to do. The trick is to work on the material and resources that are appropriate for what you want. There’s really no need for a campfire player to work on shredding or two handed tapping techniques. Whatever the WHY is for you, there will be fundalemental skills that need to be mastered. There are so many options available to pursue in the guitar world but for the time being, stay focussed on WHY YOU ARE PLAYING right now. This alone will help you stay on ONE path at least for now and will prevent you from getting overwhelmed with all the possibilities. This will probably change but squeeze as much juice out from where you are NOW. It will pay off later.
Practice with the end in mind.
It’s very easy to get mentally lost and fatigued as you pursue any aspect of the guitar. As you drill down into the skills you need (and there are many) it will be very important to remind yourself of what you are working toward. Keeping that vision in mind helps you to accept each and every shovel of dirt you have to dig to get there. If indeed the practice has fatigued you to the point where your mind is wandering then please go do something else for a while. Learn to pace yourself, leave your practice on a high note but do return to it again soon. You simply have to remind yourself how you want to play almost so clearly that it feels like you are already there. I know it sounds a bit woo woo but it’s true. Practice with the end in mind. If you sail without a port in mind then how will you get there?
Practicing is not rehearsing.
How do you get better at guitar? Practice! No, not good enough be more specific!
Practice more often? Better but make sure you don’t hurt yourself. More specific please.
Practice one or two measures or even a particular phrase? Getting warmer!
Practice memorizing the one or two measures or the phrase? Much warmer!
Practice the one or two measures or the phrase really slow so I don’t get better at playing mistakes? Really warm now!
Once I can play the one or two measures, or the phrase, with complete accuracy then begin to rehearse it? Bingo!
I hate to tell you but listen up!
Practicing is NOT rehearsing. Practicing is problem solving. Too many students claim to practice when in fact there are trying to play a tune from start to finish (with all the associated bumps and bruises along the way). So what they are really doing is reheasring something that is not fully practiced yet.
Create the habit of getting really confident at small chunks of a tune (even down to how well and efficiently your fingers move from one chord to another for example). Then knit all these “chunks” together. Only when everything is playable with little hesitation do you actually begin to rehearse it.
The problem isn’t practicing. It’s sitting down and practicing.
Motivation is a really big topic. Some people make a whole career out of helping others get motivated to do the things they claim they want to do-and many “professional motivators” are wealthy which speaks to a really big challenge of failed motivations. Why is getting, and staying, motivated so hard for so many?
It’s easy to find motivation in the grand vision of building a Taj Mahal. It’s very motivational to speak of doing so. Others get easily motivated just listening to you talking about your build.
But where’s the motivation when you are shovelling the dirt to build the foundation? You are going to spend a lot of time doing this so you better find a way to stay motivated during the “unglamorous” stages of growth.
For me the best way to handle this is to learn how to celebrate the little accomplishments along the way (instead of the end goal). In my studio I call them “DQ” moments. Any accomplishment, large or small, is treated as a very big deal. So much so that going to Dairy Queen (DQ) is a requirement (and yes I make sure parents/guardians know this so they can make DQ happen if it’s at all possible).
But of course you could make a fuss using other devices too. Just make a BIG deal out of making a BIG deal when any accmplishment is attained. Focus on the cracks of the sidewalk and before you know it, your walk across town is done in no time.
I hope some of these thoughts will help you move closer to your guitar goals.
Small steady steps are better than large leaps now and then.
Some other ideas:
- Growth comes in phases.
- Stay on your own path.
- Shut down the mental abuse.
- Play more with others.
- Try writing a song.
- You don’t have to do any of this- so WHY do you want to play.
Keep moving forward. Sit down and do the work.