Attitude is everything when it comes to learning guitar. Learning how to see every problem as a process is the key to becoming a great guitar player. In this article, I explain how to do this.
When you have a problem in playing, you SHOULD get excited and interested. You SHOULD say “oh goodie, another opportunity to explore, experiment, study, and form new conclusions that will result in me being a better player”. I know, I know, the only result you get when you have a problem is that big hole in your bedroom wall where you threw your favorite axe!
But, it is possible to achieve the great state of maturity enjoyed by myself and other seasoned players, and to help you, I am giving you some guidelines to follow when you find yourself in a state of paralyzing perplexity in your playing.
If you are having a problem somewhere, I guarantee that some or all of the following conditions are present. Use this as a checklist to solve problems, by becoming more aware of your weaknesses during practice.
If you are having a problem in playing (the definition of a problem is “what I want to happen isn’t happening” ) then:
1. You don’t really know where your fingers are;
2. You don’t really know what your fingers should be doing to get what you want;
3. You don’t really know what you want;
4. You don’t really want to hear the notes that badly, you are busy thinking and feeling other things while practicing and playing.
5. You’re not really listening to yourself;
6. You are constricting or stopping your breathing;
7. You think you should be able to do something, but given your background, ability to practice correctly, quality of training, and true developmental level, you shouldn’t.
Now, some of these conditions can be uncovered and dealt with on your own. The first one, for instance. I often solve a problem I am having by paying closer attention to a finger in action (Following, for Principled Players).
Some of these conditions can only be dealt with by getting correction and advice from an experienced player/teacher. Number 2, for instance. Explaining the details of technique is one of the primary functions of a teacher.
Number 7 often needs someone with experience and perspective to be properly dealt with. A student will show me something they want to play, and then play it very badly, and complain to me “I should be able to play this”. I will say, “no you shouldn’t”. Not with the ineffective way you have been practicing it you shouldn’t. You have gotten exactly the results you should be getting from the efforts you have made”.
Or, I may simply say, “your fingers are not ready to make these moves at the required speed with the required relaxed control, YET!” In other words, even with the best practice, we must respect the fact that the development of playing ability is a process that takes place over time, and to a certain degree, on its own schedule.
As in other “natural processes, such as growing plants, you can provide the best conditions possible, but the farmer is still going to have to allow time and the seasons to do their part. He can’t plant the seed, throw some water and fertilizer on it, and expect to come back the next day and harvest the corn! And yet I have seen players with those kind of expectations. They expect they should be able to play something like the guy on the record just because they spent a little time doing some (usually bad) practice on it!
So, remember as you go about your practice from day to day. When you encounter “obstacles” or “problems”, say “It’s not a problem, it’s a process”, and just make sure that YOU enter INTO the process, the true process, of your own development as a guitarist and musician.