Learning guitar? What if I’m not talented?
Video Transcript And Relevant Links:
Have you ever wondered if your talented enough? I know when I was first learning that came up for me more than once. I watched experience guitar players do things that I couldn’t imagine my fingers doing. I couldn’t help but think that maybe they had “it” and I didn’t.
That said there are two things that I came to realize over the years. First is that most people greatly overestimate how much talent versus practice is involved in playing guitar. Secondly, everyone who practices gets better. Perhaps some people get better faster but everyone gets better. Especially if they practice the right things in the right order.
Often the question of talent comes up when I meet with someone who is trying to learn guitar under nearly impossible conditions. I’m talking about watching random YouTube video or learning from a friend or teacher that doesn’t have instructor training or a systematic approach.
When I started I had an instructor who would basically ask me every week what I wanted to learn. I would usually tell him I wanted to learn some part of a song that I liked. Then we would proceed to work on for the lesson. The following week he’d ask me the same thing again and we’d start working on something different. After a while, I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere. Naturally, I blamed myself. I started thinking maybe I just don’t have what it takes.
It wasn’t until years later after having several really good instructors that realized how unrealistic my expectation was. When I had organized systematic instruction I made slow but steady progress every week that I practice. Little by little I became a competent guitarist that Learn to enjoy practicing and playing with others.
“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” –Stephen King
It’s important to keep in mind what your goals for playing guitar. If your goal is to become If you’re competing with the next Stevie Ray Vaughn, or whatever your favorite virtuoso guitar player is, that’s very different than playing for fun or as a hobby. If you’re competing with world-class guitarists for work and fame it would be important to consider how much talent was needed.
On the other hand, most everyone has the ability to play guitar at some level. Busy Adults who learn to play guitar, even just for fun, find that it reduces stress, increases self-esteem and provides an activity as an emotional outlet. Studies show that even one or two years of learning a musical instrument greatly improves memory and attention, as well as learning abilities across many areas. Why would anyone give up all these benefits and more just because they don’t believe they can be the next world class virtuoso.
How much talent you have is not an issue. By putting your attention on whether or not you have “enough talent” you’re putting attention on something that you have no control over. I recommend that if you have a sincere desire to play guitar and you’re not concerned with being the best in the world that you don’t concern yourself with whether or not you’re “talented”. Don’t put yourself in situations where you’re comparing yourself to others. Put your attention on things that you can do something about. Here are just a few of the many things you can do something about…
The power of habit. Some people say practicing takes discipline. I think of it more as developing a habit that works for you. If you practice a little bit each day you’ll develop the habit of practicing and you can expand it as you progress.
Persistence. Persistence is somewhat like a muscle. The more you use it the more you get.
Good instruction. Random instruction of any kind just won’t cut it. You want to find good systematic instruction either online or in person.
Faith. You often can’t see improvement from day-to-day. Because of this, you’ll need a certain amount of faith that if you keep following the steps and practice you will continue to improve overall.
These are just a few, and I’m sure you can come up with many others yourself.
“Every artist was first an amateur.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Depending on how much natural talent you have your progress to be slower or faster in the big picture, it just doesn’t really matter that much. Keep these two things in mind. 1) if you practice you will get better. 2) comparing yourself to others won’t help.
I’ve heard people say it will take too long. Think of it this way. If it takes you five years to play guitar the way you want, you’re going to be five years older either way. You’ll either be five years older and not play guitar. Or if you take lessons and practice you’ll be five years older and play guitar. Which would you rather have?
Brad Gillis story continued…
Brad and I went on to be friends (sort of). He’s passionate and down to earth. I came to like him. It’s not his fault he’s so damn talented 😉
Since I owned our mutual hometown music store he came to me for help selling some of the guitars that he got from endorsements. We split the money.
About ten years after I first met him he invited me to a local club where he was jamming with members of the Alameda All-Stars, a band he started before fame came knocking.
You’d think that since I was older and wiser things would be different. But after seeing him play I still felt discouraged. He was even better than the first time.
Talking to Brad over the years I came to realize for the first time (but not the last… more on that in another email) that being famous isn't all a bed of roses. Everyone has ups and downs.
I haven't heard from him for many years now. I hope he's doing well and found the inner peace that we all need to deal with life’s turmoil… famous or not.
When he's not making guitar instruction videos or creating more music to record (currently 7 CDs including Beauty and Fire) he's riding his bike along the beach with his dog Marco Polo or traveling to interesting places with his lovely wife Pui.
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