Learning to Play Guitar by Roland Nipp
“Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re gonna be rewarded.” – Jimi Hendrix
Every guitar player periodically feels dissatisfied with their playing. You’ll have days when you are pleased with the sound coming from your guitar, but you’ll also experience periods where you can’t bear the seemingly random assortment of unwanted buzzes, missed notes, or out-of-tune chords. You’ll be asking yourself “why don’t I sound more like _____?” Rest assured, every one of your favorite players has experienced this and yet gone on to be a master of the instrument. In each case, they accomplished this by focused, mindful practice.
Playing vs. Practicing
There’s a big difference between playing guitar and practicing the guitar:
Playing guitar: playing what you already know, having fun
Practicing the guitar: playing what you don’t know (or do well), repeating (over and over) what you find challenging
Playing for fun is important. I spend a good part of my daily guitar routine just playing and having fun. Remember: having fun is probably what drew you to taking up the instrument in the first place, and it will keep you coming back. To truly progress on the instrument, however, mindful practice is essential. When you watch a great guitarist play, it always looks relaxed and effortless. This isn’t an accident or divine gift; it’s the result of focused, ongoing, mindful practice.
This is essentially knowing what you’re not yet good at, and working tenaciously to improve those areas. A good teacher is invaluable. He/she can identify areas that need improving, and suggest a variety of approaches to overcome these challenges. The solution may lie in a physical adjustment, a different mental approach, or both. Sometimes areas of difficulty can be corrected quickly. In other cases, it’s simply a matter of more time/practice.
Try not to get too discouraged - you won’t sound like Carlos Santana right away. Learning to play the guitar is extremely satisfying, but as with any skill, accept that you won’t be super proficient right away. Remember: most things we admire (think of any human accomplishment) are achieved through many small steps over a long period of time. The great news is that by working through challenges, your strength will increase, your musicality will develop, and your ability to execute guitar techniques cleanly will only continue to grow.
So have fun playing, practice mindfully, and you’ll soon be rewarded with beautiful sounds.
See also Practicing the Guitar.
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