Guitar, How To Reach Your Destination

We all wonder, “What will it take for me to become a good guitar player?” “Should I take lessons or is that a waste when there’s free stuff everywhere?” “Am I doing this the right way?” “Am I developing bad habits?” Well, being a guitar player and teacher myself, I’ll tell you that there are many factors involved, and those answers may change for you here and there as you continue down this path. Players don’t, necessarily, always need lessons, but all players could use lessons at some point, myself included. The truth is this: With the right help, you will develop much quicker than you will without it.

Taking lessons is a great thing, and many times there is as good of help (or better) online as there is in person. So which route should you take? There are many differences, goods and bads to both. What it comes down to is this: You, the individual taking lessons, and!…Are the lessons giving you what you need at your current stage in the game. Current stage being a keyword, because we need different things at different times.

What should you learn now? How do you, as an individual, learn and grow the best? We all want to be as good as we can as fast as possible. These are questions you need to ask yourself if you want to get the most out of your time.

-How much “hands on” do you feel you need in order to grow as quickly as your time and abilities allow?

-So far, have you been able to learn quickly, or are you struggling every step of the way?
What is your budget?

-How much time do you have?

-Do you stay motivated on your own, or do you need an outside source to push you?

-Do you get distracted easily, or will you stay focused?

-Do you plan ahead and research well, or will you drift and float from one random thing to the next and never actually reach the specified destination you are aiming for?

-Do you even have a specified destination??

If you’re reading this, you should probably stop and answer the questions above now. Odds are, if you’re like me and the rest of the regular folks on the planet, your answers are:

-Playing guitar looked much easier than it actually is.

-I don’t have a lot of free time, but I do really want to learn this thing.

-I’ve been struggling and learning slowly.

-I don’t stay focused.

-I don’t know what I should learn next.

-I jump around from one YouTube video to the next without any real plan or direction.

-I find things difficult to do and I’m not sure if I’m doing things incorrectly or not.

-Some actual guidance telling me what I should and shouldn’t focus on would be nice!

Once we come to the conclusion that we need a little outside help, we begin to seek out that help. We feel like we are picking from two choices, online lessons and in-person lessons. But there are actually more than just two. We have online and in-person private lessons, small groups, courses and classes of all sorts and subjects. We also have books, audios and DVD lessons, etc. So let’s have a closer look..

First off, let’s look at the factors that are key to the growing process. These factors are: Guidance, Motivation, Practice and Focus. We need all of these in place and given at proper times to be sure we maintain momentum. We need Guidance to show us what to do and the right way to do it. This is the path from getting from where we are to where we’re going.

Motivation keeps us moving forward on that path. It either makes us want do what we need to, or makes us do it even when we don’t necessarily feel like it. It’s either the excitement or the bigger reason we have that pushes us down the path. Motivation causes us to Practice.

Practice is the actual action of walking the path. It’s actually taking the steps that lead to our destination. And when walking that path, hopefully the guidance you have is sending you in the direction you want to go. There are many paths we can take in guitar. But guitar, like all music, art….well probably everything else in the universe..is an endless subject. Your lifetime isn’t long enough to learn everything there is to know. Truth be told, many lifetimes wouldn’t be long enough. You have a to pick the path you walk down. Make sure your practice is leading to the place at the top of your list first! And this brings us to Focus.

Focus…is very hard to come by these days…at least it is for me! Distractions are the normal way of life. Lack of focus and following distractions probably slows and even stops progress more than anything else, not just in guitar, but in EVERYTHING. More convenience delivered through modern technology brings instant access to everything. Having access to everything gives us more choices. More choices are good..right? Well…hmmm…Do you want chicken or a hamburger? That’s a quick decision. Do you want chicken, hamburger, seafood scampi, fried shrimp, sushi (and its millions of different rolls), steak, fried catfish, fried shrimp, lasagna, steak, blackened salmon, etc.? You’re getting the idea. Large menus cause you to sit idle for 20 minutes staring at your menu trying to decide what to eat. Especially when you’ve never eaten at that restaurant before. And, once you’ve finally made the decision and you’re eating dinner, you might even sometimes think, “I should have got the _____ instead.”

Buying another entree is not something most of us will do. But if it were free, who knows, we might just spend all day there, jumping from one thing to the next since nothing satisfies perfectly and we want to try it all! Ok I’m getting a little ridiculous, I know. But hopefully you’re picking up what I’m putting down. There’s the good side: we get to pick out of so many great things. There’s the other side: Truth be told, we want to eat something that tastes good so we are no longer hungry. Must we spend a ton of time deciding how to do that?

The context of that example still isn’t quite right. But go back to that last question, “I should have got the _____ instead.” In life, we have many thoughts and ideas that look great before we start. We start, and as long as it’s going well we keep cruisin. When it begins to get tough, we see something else that also looks great/easy/quicker and we quit pushing through the tough path taking us to the destination we had hoped for and we head down a new path. So we start many things, but we finish few. We don’t reach most of the destinations we start heading towards..especially not the hard ones. We opt out and take an easier one instead. Instead of saving up for 2 years to take a month off and backpack Europe, we saved up for 6 months and went to Florida for a week…and we go to Florida every year! Then we regret it later in life when we meet someone else who did all the things we wanted to do but didn’t. We think, “I wish I could do that. I just never had the chance.”

Still on Focus, it may not always be that we quit when something gets tough. Sometimes we just get distracted by the shiny objects on the sidelines or the candy store window. We are on the path, but every step of the way, something cool is there saying, “Hey! Check this out!” So what do we do? We stop walking down the path to our destination, and we walk into the dessert store for a little looksy. We eventually leave the store with a homemade brownie and some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and head back down the sidewalk..aaaand we see a great looking pair of shoes! … “And I’ve been needing a pair of casual, yet slick, brown shoes! Let’s give’em a try-on. Hmmm, these are a little darker than I think I need. Do you have them in more of a tan-ish color?” Distraction after distraction. You’re still on your path, but you’re not getting there quickly. You show up to your lunch date much later than you had planned; and you’re upset at yourself because your wife is pissed and you have that to deal with now. Never a good thing!

…Guitar. I got a bit sidetracked..how appropriate for this blog. You can probably already see what I’m getting at. We start to learn something. We do it once or twice and “kinda” get it. Then we see the next video with an interesting title. We indulge. Our progress of getting better is very slow, not because we are on the wrong path, but because we keep stopping and doing random things that aren’t contributing to the big picture.

Guidance, Motivation, Practice, Focus. These are what we need to maintain steady progress. Now we have to decide what is best for you…

Well let’s figure that out. Keep an eye out for the next part of this blog where we will discuss all of this just a little deeper.
Hopefully I’ll get a little extra time for writing this week!

Until then, keep moving, keep growing, and keep rockin!

Your fellow guitar player,
Micah

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