6. Sooner or later, you MUST try playing with someone else. This is vital because part of the essence of making music is learning not just how to play, but also how to listen. Matching your playing to what someone else is doing, at its core, is about rhythm. In a perfect world we all keep a perfect beat but that is hardly ever the case. This is not a bad thing at all because music that is rhythmically perfect can be… boring. Music has to breathe. And by developing a keen ear to notice and respond to subtle variations not only in rhythm but also in dynamics can only make you a better player. Plus, playing with someone else is just plain fun!
7. As a subtext to Reality #5 (the search for the perfect guitar), you can be sure that your playing will ultimately reflect your mood. Sometimes it can even amplify what you’re feeling. Joy, sorrow, peace, frustration, love… just about any emotion you can imagine will begin to come out in your playing, the longer you stick with it. James Taylor has a song called “Me & My Guitar” that begins: “Me and my guitar, always in the same mood,” and Jimmy Buffett has one that’s called “Tonight I Just Need My Guitar.” Check those tunes out. No matter what you how you are feeling a session with your guitar will either help you feel better or help you reflect on the depth of your feelings, good or bad. Sooner or later there will come moments when you’re feeling a certain way and all you want to do is grab your guitar and play. Then you will know what I’m talking about.
8. You now have a curse. A small one but its there. Remember the days of being able to go to a live concert and just “get into” the music without really thinking about it too much? Well, if you haven’t already realized it, those days are gone! Now when you are in the presence of another guitar player, whether it be a big name star on a stage or some guy banging out a few tunes in a bar, you will scrutinize what he or she is doing. Is that a D Major chord he’s playing? Does he do a lot of finger style playing? What is that stuff he’s doing way up the neck? Could I incorporate that little lick into some songs I know?
See what I mean?
But this isn’t necessarily a bad curse to have, unless of course you allow value judgments about that other person’s playing versus your own cloud your enjoyment of the music. In fact, I’ve picked up plenty of little things by watching other players. I think pretty much all guitar players do.
9. Practice may not make perfect, but not practicing will surely make your playing increasingly less perfect. In the most basic sense playing the guitar is exercise and like all exercise, doing it a moderate amount on a frequent basis is far better than trying to do a lot on an infrequent basis. I tell my students that quantifying their practice in terms of time spent can be a mistake. In other words, I hardly ever tell them they must practice (X) minutes a day. That’s because watching the clock makes you feel bad about not playing “enough” or stopping when you’re just getting into something because “your time is up.” It’s far better to try to keep something like a schedule, setting aside a general time of day to devote to the guitar, whether is be something like before or after dinner, right after breakfast (for the diligent!) or whenever. This is a much easier regimen to adhere to than a specific amount of time per session, whenever that session may be. Just be sure to play – even a little bit – every day, if you can. You will surely improve if you do.
10. There will be times when you just can’t play for some weeks at a time, for any number of reasons. In the complex world we inhabit sometimes we are required to be away from our guitars. And here’s the bottom line: When that happens, if you find yourself missing playing and wishing or even scheming to figure out a way to play someone else’s guitar, you know one thing. You are, for better or worse, a guitar player!
Peace & good music,