A Great Guitar Teacher Once Told Me…

by Allen Hopgood

“To learn guitar you must trust the process”, he paused. “It is a path that can be walked easily, when one is not distracted,” my guitar teacher continued…

“Distracted?” I thought. That was an interesting comment. “Distracted by what?” I asked curiously. He replied, with a sage look in his eyes – a look that could of only been put there from the culmination of years of experience, “By everything else”.

In the guitar instruction marketplace, there is a lot of information out there on how to play guitar. In reality, this should read, with caution as – there is a lot of entertainment out there for guitar players. “A lot of entertainment can be found out there, with very little wisdom to be acquired”, my teacher said.

When you search and jump from one instruction video or book to another, you are just looking to be entertained. To be a really good guitar player, you need wisdom. All the information on How To Play Guitar, Play Better Guitar, Play Like Guitar Player X in 7 days etc. all the internet videos, books and DVD’s you expose yourself to is stuff. It lacks substance.

I’m not saying those information sources don’t have merit. They just lack substance – for you right now. Until you have an understanding of ALL those things you’re learning in your guitar lessons, and you’ve:

•    made it a part of you
•    memorised it
•    joined it with other music concepts you already know
•    played and practised it to the point where you cannot get it wrong
•    woven it seamlessly in with all the other knowledge and skills you have

…but instead you’re searching around looking for new things to learn aimlessly, exposing yourself to all that other stuff. Which is nothing more than entertainment. You’re just being entertained – temporarily.

Let me ask you a question. Do you quickly learn something and say, “yeah, that sounds nice. Cool. Look at what I can do. What’s next?” If yes, do you then you repeat, repeat repeat, looking, looking, looking but still not knowing what you’re looking for?

Doing this doesn’t enhance your guitar playing abilities. It doesn’t improve your guitar knowledge or skill-set. You’re not making yourself smarter (musically speaking). Rather, you’re jumping around, looking here and there just like a young puppy or kitten – curious and chasing after the next shiny object. Running from one thing to the next.

What you need, to become a good guitar player, is wisdom…

In a guitar playing sense, what you need is fluency. The ability to apply and integrate all the skills you have with a consistency, that only comes from practising a certain set of concepts. That’s where your guitar mastery will come from. No professional guitar player has got to where they are by watching videos on the internet. They haven’t sat around, all day long, day after day, to become awesome at what they do. It just doesn’t work that way…

To become a good guitar player, even a great one, you start with smaller pieces of information. You internalise it. You practice it and build it to a consistency of fluency. You learn, practice and blend it with all the other material, theory and techniques you know. Then repeat. That is what makes you a great guitar player.

How do I know? Look, I’m no guitar god. I wasn’t born with a guitar pick in my mouth. But I can play guitar. All I did to get better at it was, I took small bits of information, sat down and worked at it. I got there from NOT chasing after the next ‘hot’ article or watching videos over and over. I strongly believe, that the same result lies waiting for you. It’s not rocket science. However there are plenty of shiny objects to distract you from fulfilling your true potential.

As a guitar teacher all I’m asking you to do is – learn in small chunks, internalise, memorise and apply. Keep working at it until its fluent. Don’t learn anything just to show that you can play it. Learn it to make it a part of your other skills.

As a closing tip, all of the above will mean nothing, and you won’t achieve anything, if you don’t practice what you are working on, slowly. Practising slowly is a principle law of guitar mastery. When you do all of this – the making it your own, the memorising, the joining of it to existing skills, attaining the fluency and the slow practising, it doesn’t end up as stuff…

It becomes wisdom…

Once this is complete and it feels like second nature to you – then and only then, will you have the wisdom to know whether you can chase after the shiny object for more wisdom or entertainment.

Allen Hopgood lives on the Gold Coast, Australia. He is a massive post-rock fan and avid CD and record collector. He is the founder and director of one of Australia’s most successful guitar teaching businesses.

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