Playing Guitar - How Good Do You Want To Be?

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By Tim Gillespie

Have you ever noticed there are things in life that you can pick and do within minutes? Guitar does not happen to be one of those things. In fact it might be quite a while until you can actually play well. There are ways to use a guitar without putting in practice time but they have little to do with music. One of my brothers, who does not play, can use a guitar effectively as a prop for jokes and a stand up routine.

It is kind of interesting watching him make fun of everything around him (including me) and hold our attention without him ever playing a note. The guy cannot play to save his life, (even though he has several of my guitars), but he can knock them down with jokes and a prop.

If you want to play seriously, you will need to put in time. It is a cold hard fact. The bright side of all this is, if you do put in the time, you will get better and you will begin to feel real love for this instrument. It will pay you back! This instrument, like the others, will reward anyone who takes the time to develop their talents. ANYONE. It will reward you with ability if you do this, however human beings like to see progress on their mental terms, not necessarily on the terms of their physical body.

It is your body that determines the response time and incubation period necessary to be able to control the guitar. Everybody seems to be a little different in how quickly they obtain new abilities. Some people really do pick it up quicker than others, and I am still amazed at how quickly children can develop. But no matter how quickly (or slowly) you seem to pick it up, the person that develops good practice routines and puts in time, day after day, will rise to the top.

Want to be the best player you know? Here is how you do it. Play three hours a day for the rest of your life. Make sure you are practicing meaningful elements and show up every day. You really don't have to do it for the rest of your life, but the point is, the guitar will reward anyone who puts in the time over an extended period. Anyone!

The status that goes along with being the best, is obtained by the person that is willing to work the hardest and the most consistently. A friend of mine, Bob Brumbelow is a serious Jazz guitarist in San Francisco. Bob works at Guitar Solo and is right now developing an article for this newsletter. His first CD was reviewed in this newsletter. I still play it at almost every dinner party.

In a recent conversation with Bob, he stated that he is confident he can be among the finest guitarist in any style of music, if he would just practice at it for three hours a day. I don't know what is so magic about three hours a day, except that you get so much work in, you cannot help but develop. The first several years of my practice schedule were three hours days. Then a university took control of my life. In the Summers, I would still played about three hours a day but during the school year I was quite busy trying to educate myself.

I often hear people try to figure out the secrets of guitar. Most of the time they are quite off base. Some people think that you have to be musically inclined to get it. Others think you have to come from a long line of musicians to be able to play well. How did the first person in this long line get it? Some people think no matter how hard they try, they will never get it. The truth is anyone can do it if they apply themselves enough. Sure it is nice to have someone near to you explain things and practice with you. But you can still do it without this help.

I often meet guitar players that never put in time developing strength, knowledge and technique. They simply just learn to play songs. That is the only way they interface with the instrument and even through some of these people can really play, they often struggle with basic concepts. You can have a conversation that directly applies to their particular situation, but they may never pick up on what is being discussed, because they do not have a grasp on the subject or the terms. The terms make their eyes glaze over and they leave the conversation, even if they are still standing there. They just get disconnected.

An in depth answer to what they are seeking can be right in front of their ears, but they cannot use the information because they do not understand it. And if they did, they would be off to the races in a flash. When you look at their skill base, you can quickly see they are very refined in a narrow band of tactile response and mental awareness (no offense intended, remember some of these guys can really play). Often times these guitarists have very well developed ears for music, because that is the primary tool they use for learning. This is an powerful tool, but it is becomes extraordinary if it is combined with a simple base of knowledge.

The point of all this? Put in time and watch your level of ability explode. Every week someone calls me and tells me how for the first time in their life, they are actually making progress with the instrument. Usually they thank me for helping, but all I did was present the material in a way that made sense to them. They are the ones that sat down and actually applied the information.

The guitar is not a partner that will throw itself at you. It is happy to silently sit in the corner. If you want to have this partner in your life, you have to do the things that bring it to life. Anyone who practices meaningful elements on the guitar for at least an hour a day, will begin to grow as a guitarist right away. Even great guitarists like Bob Brumbelow. He knows it, I know it and anyone reading this can know it too. All you have to do is find the right resources, sit down and do it.

Remember the guitar never changes, only the guitarist does.