Get INCREDIBLE guitar secrets you won’t find anywhere else!
Subscribe to our mailing list!

* indicates required
Close
 
The TRUTH about Learning Guitar
 
Jamie Andreas > Jamie As a Person > Climb Every Mountain
Climb Every Mountain



The longer I teach, the more I am impressed with one unassailable fact: most of what becoming good or great on the guitar is about has nothing to do with “musical ability”. It has everything to do with that group of qualities loosely spoken of as “character”.


When I was 16 years old, I met a friend who enabled me to put an end to my desperate search for a classical teacher. Scott played the classical guitar, and was taking classical guitar lessons at a music school I had never heard of, but started going to immediately, where I took lessons with his teacher. It was thrilling to meet Scott, because I had never seen a person play the classical guitar in person, only heard it on records (and from that, was trying to teach myself: wrong move!). It was more thrilling to meet his teacher, a trained, experienced, and fine classical player.

As time went by, I remember going over to Scott’s house often and playing guitar with him, and hanging out and practicing and playing at his house. After awhile, it became clear that I was surpassing Scott in my classical playing. His mother was a very astute and intelligent person, and would always listen to me play. I remember that she used to remark about a difference she noticed between my relationship and approach to guitar and that of her son Scott. She noticed that I applied myself with an intensity that Scott never exhibited. For instance, she noticed that I would work relentlessly on the same piece, the same passages, the same problems, always striving to reach a higher level of perfection with what I was playing. For whatever reason, Scott just did not do this. (Actually, all reasons come down to one thing: I needed to do it that way, and Scott didn’t. The entire “why” of it all would be another essay!)

Believe me, Scott had as much ability to play as I did, as much “natural talent” for music. It took him so far, and apparently, that was far enough for him.

I am in the business of building excellent guitar players, and so, I must convey a certain truth to them along the way, one that does not seem to be obvious and sufficiently appreciated by most people. It is this: it is relatively easy to achieve about 80% of anything. It is relatively easy to develop ourselves to about 80% of proficiency in any field we may choose. If you want to become a computer programmer, a business person, own a restaurant, be a carpenter, be a musician, anything, you can study it, get experience, and become “functional”. Most people that bother to develop something useful ( and most do, being forced as we are to “make a living”) achieve this level.

But to become really good, to start to rise above, and noticeably so, the average person doing what you do, THAT takes a whole different kind of effort, and a whole lot more of it. Most people do not do this in their particular field. Most people really are, when it comes down to it, content with doing what they “must”, and keeping their standards and goals low enough to avoid too much demand and discomfort. That is why the age old lament of all employers is “you just can’t find good help anymore”. Yes, because the #1 goal of most people is to DO as little as possible and GET as much as possible. That is the formula for mediocrity.

To put it simply, it is easy to be mediocre, that is why so many people are achieving it.

We are all climbing a mountain. In fact, we are climbing various mountains all the time. Becoming a guitar player is a mountain, and every piece of music you work on is its own mountain. It is easy to work on a solo, a song, or a piece, and get it “pretty good”. You know, 80% of the notes are there, so hey, leave me alone, what do you want, ALL the notes! Come on, I would have to REALLY work hard on it to get that! To bring a piece of music from 80% to 90% is an incredibly demanding process. Climbing that mountain further and further is the essence of being an artist, no matter what your field of endeavor is.

Yes, that is the truth. It is easy to get 80% of the way up the mountain, any interested party can do that. Closing in on that last 20%, well, that separates the men from the boys, as they say. Here is the thing to understand: every step forward and upward required to move past the common crowd will most likely require as much as ALL the effort previously put out. The higher we climb, the more we must exert for every inch gained, but every inch is precious, and worth more than everything before it. The gap between 99% to 100% is, in fact, infinite.

Yes, the real polish, the real excellence, comes only to those deeply committed to it. I don’t know why, I didn’t make up the rules. However, I believe it has something to do with some natural “filtering out” process. As if Life were saying “only those acting from great desire, great need of the highest kind, need apply. Only those willing to prove themselves by using every ounce, and then more, of their strength, will achieve greatness”.


This is why it is very common for me to have the kind of experience I just had with a student who is working with my two books, The Principles, and The Path. Jim is working on getting his first songs together, beginning to end, strumming, changing chords and singing, and doing it from memory. He was working on the song “Amazing Grace”, and has dutifully practiced the chord changes according to my instructions, and was in the process of putting it all together. I told him I wanted the song memorized, and showed him how to go about it.

He came in the next week, and announced that he did some practice on it, but really spent most of the time on the new blues shuffle I had given him. Obviously, it was “spanking time”, and I reached for the paddle!

I explained to him “yes, you have achieved the ability to play that song with a lot of hesitation and stumbling, and losing your place. Congratulations. You have climbed part way up the mountain, and that is good enough for you. You decided you would do what was easy, fun, and exciting, the new blues shuffle (exciting because it is new, left up to him, it would receive the same treatment, left half done and never “polished”). You decided to avoid the REAL work of bringing that song all the way to perfection, where you can grab that guitar, and sing and play that song from beginning to end.”

Yes, Jim hung his head in shame, and admitted I was right, and resolved to do better!

What I was doing was preventing the swerving toward mediocrity that was already beginning to assert itself for this new student, by giving him the attitude that leads to good and great playing. Now, understand that this student is not intending on being a professional, and in fact is an adult with many responsibilities, and so gets little time to practice, sometimes only a few minutes a day. It doesn’t matter. That is no excuse for letting months go by, and ending up with a bunch of butchered and dismembered “pieces” of music that are just that: nothing but pieces!

Whatever level of player or student you are, you must always demand excellence from yourself. And that does NOT mean “do it to the best of your ability”. Who knows what ability any of us have. It means “do what must be done to achieve the goal”. And that implies you HAVE a goal, and that it is the correct goal. Ultimately, our goal should be to be able to say “as far as I can see, I have climbed”.

Segovia, when asked how much he practiced said “as much as I need to”. He meant “I work as hard as I have to in order to achieve my vision of what I know is possible”.

The artist is constantly climbing, growing into our abilities, constantly surprised at what our striving brings out of us. There is always a new height coming into view, and we climb it because it is there. As time goes by, we occasionally look down at the view and are amazed at how high we have climbed. People below us may look up at us in amazement at the height we have achieved. They may applaud, and the sound of that applause can be like a siren song to some, who may decide to stop and listen, and forget to get up and move on.

A true artist (whether it is your first day playing or your 50th year) will soon lose interest in that, and turn their gaze upward once more, and begin moving once again toward their vision, to the height that remains out of sight for others, and can only be seen and achieved because of the height already attained.

   



article 1
My View: A Critique of Hope

> Read More...
article 2
Stage Fright - The Frightening Truth!
Stage Fright is an interesting term. Are people really afraid of stages? No, they're not. People are afraid of people. Let's look at the real problem.
> Read More...
article 3
Boredom & Guitar Practice
Bored with guitar practice? Boredom will slow or stop your progress and must be dealt with. First, it must be analyzed. Here's a look at what boredom is all about - it's pretty interesting actually!
> Read More...
article 4
Beliefs--And YOU! - Deeper Excerpt
A student asks "How do I change my beliefs to more positive ones that will help me get better on guitar"? I explain that YOU can't change your beliefs, because YOU ARE your beliefs!
> Read More...
article 5
Deeper-Straw Man On a Stick
Read this excerpt from "The Deeper I Go, The Deeper It Gets"...a collection of 25 transformative essays on the psychology and philosophy of personal excellence on guitar and everything else!
> Read More...
article 6
The Deeper I Go The Deeper It Gets - Introduction
25 Transformative Essays on the psychology and philosophy of personal excellence on the guitar and everything else!
> Read More...
article 7
The Fundamentals of Fun
Fun is a very serious matter to me. I don't do anything unless it is fun. If it is not fun, I don't do it. If I have to do it, I figure out how to make it fun! Read this - find out what fun really is.
> Read More...
article 8
The Inner Master
To be great on guitar, you must find the Inner Master. All great players have found the Inner Master. Once the Inner Master is found, everything else that can be used becomes usable.
> Read More...
article 9
Mystery, Beauty, and Grace
Can you be a great musician without being in touch with your spiritual center? No, you cannot. Here's why.....
> Read More...
article 10
Lost In Time
Time is certainly very important to musicians. We must master time in order to to master our music. However, the true master of time knows the greatest power comes when we escape time altogether!
> Read More...
article 11
The Alone Place
There is a place you can go to become the greatest guitarist and musician you can possibly be. Listen, I will tell you where it is and how to get there......
> Read More...
you might also like
How to Sit Correctly For Practice
Read More...
Take A Lesson With Me!
Read More...
How To Handle Your Guitar Teacher
Read More...
"Looking Up" an Original Piece For Guitar
Read More...
 
IN THIS SECTION
My View: A Critique of Hope
Stage Fright - The Frightening Truth!
Boredom & Guitar Practice
Beliefs--And YOU! - Deeper Excerpt
NEWSLETTER SIGNUP
RECEIVE “THE POWER OF TEN”
We Never Email More then Once a Week.
Upon signup receive 10 ARTICLES THAT WILL TRANSFORM YOUR GUITAR PLAYING.
FEATURED CONTENT

156 - Why Is The Principles The Best Way to Learn Guitar?

All other guitar methods have serious flaws that leave you struggling on guitar. The Principles is different....

16 - Learn To Play a Guitar by Learning HOW to Practice!

Everything that happens when you play is the direct result of what you do when you practice. Learn to train your fingers EFFECTIVELY when you practice guitar.

18 - Your First Perfect Guitar Lesson

Many guitar players carry for a lifetime the mistakes they learned when first learning how to play the instrument... Tips to avoid this can be found here!

28 - The Basic Chords On Guitar

These are the chords you want to learn first!