Friday, February 23, 2007

Guitarists...Are You a Victim and a Loser?

I was thinking today about THE most dangerous enemy of musical progress…the victim mentality. What do I mean by this?

Often we can let our personal circumstances dictate our progress. For example, someone may let their guitar practice slide because they were really busy at work. This person may start making excuses such as "I didn't have time". This is victim mentality. It is believing that your musical progress is only possible when external circumstances allow it.

What they are really saying to themselves is that their musical dreams and goals are not as important as paying a few lousy bills .They are letting their boss's goals get in the way of their own.

Now…I can't point fingers at anyone. I've been guilty of having a victim mentality plenty of times! Especially when it comes to things like going to the gym :)But I don't have a victim mentality when it comes to guitar practice. There is virtually nothing that I will allow to get in the way of my musical progress.

So…how can you stop yourself from becoming a victim and a loser…

1.Stop making excuses. I can guarantee that for every excuse you can make there is someone out there who has overcome that obstacle. Don't allow yourself to make excuses. They are the death of your musical dreams.

2. Watch your language. For example, rather than saying "I couldn't find the time" say "I am acting like a complete and absolute loser and if I continue acting like this I will NEVER achieve my musical goals". Because that statement is pretty painful to say, you'll soon stop making excuses!

3. Think of solutions. For excuses that you normally make, think of ways of overcoming those obstacles. For example, if you are constantly using your work as a reason why you can't practice, ask yourself questions like…

"How can I get paid more but work less hours?".
"How can I get paid while I sleep?".
"How can I stay home all day and practice?".
If you ask enough questions like this on a daily basis, you'll find a solution eventually.

4. Think of your "Why". These are the reasons why you want to achieve your musical goals. If your why is strong enough, You will NEVER want to stop practicing for any reason.

5. Think of your role models. Use your role models to motivate and inspire you to keep on practicing.Every time you start to make an excuse, ask yourself "Would__________make this excuse?" For example, one of my favourite guitarists is Steve Vai. I could NEVER imagine making him excuses for not practicing!

To finish off here's a quote that you may want to memorize...

"You can either become a great guitarist, or you can make excuses, but you can't do both".

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Practising Guitar - The Sneaky Person's Way To Get Better

People taking up the guitar generally fall into one of two categories: the first just want to learn to play a few chords so they can accompany themselves while singing their favourite songs. Or maybe they want the social life and perks that come with playing in a band. For them, practising can be a pain.

The second type is the person who from day one knows they want to be as good as the best in their chosen field, whether it's rock, funk, jazz, or classical. In other words, they want to emulate their heroes. And practice is the pain that leads to the gain.

If we're honest, most guitarists will admit to starting off with approach one and ending up on the road to approach two, simply because no matter how good you get, you have a nagging doubt that you could do better. You also feel that anyone listening to you knows this too, and they're wondering why exactly you don't sound like a profesional. (Although that's just paranoia--they aren't thinking that at all.)

Fortunately, the guitar is an instrument that will cater for both approaches. Someone once said it's the easiest instrument to play sloppily and the hardest to play well.

Personally, I'm not so sure: a church organ, (think of all those pedals) and the bagpipes have got to be at least contenders for the title.

No matter, there is some truth in the statement.

But who cares? If your intention is to make your delivery of your favourite songs sound fuller, does it really matter what standard you are? Of course it doesn't. (As long as you aren't really, really terrible and inflict it on other people, that is.)

And besides, every time you pick up the guitar (or anything else), you improve. You build up muscle memory, for one thing. Practice really does make perfect.

And that's the important thing: it is necessary to practice.

Only ever playing while you sing those faves of yours does count as practice, if that's all you want to accomplish. And the good news is you can get to play pretty decent pretty quickly, just by learning the necessary chords, persevering, then learning how to play rhythm with a little variety.

If you want to be more versatile, though, practice will probably mean learning moves before being able to apply them to something meaningful--a bit like the wax-on-wax-off sequence in the movie The Karate Kid. And just like Daniel-san, you're going to get to the point sometimes where you wonder what the point of it all is, and whether you can take it without losing your sanity.

Or maybe you'll start to feel it's taking up too much of your life, that you could be doing something more useful or enjoyable (because, let's face it, practice is always dry and unenjoyable, isn't it?)

But should you ever get into the position where you feel you just can't face those exercises, there's a sneaky trick you can play to fool yourself into doing it.

(It works for other things, too, like exercise, and research).

It's this: tell yourself that you're only going to practise for two minutes. One hundred and twenty seconds, maximum. After that, no matter whether you're enjoying it or not, you absolutely have to stop. No carrying on. No excuses. And make yourself put the guitar down.

Try it. See what happens. You'll be a better guitarist in no time.