Is learning music/guitar for me?

Of course it is. If you want it. I suspect that you wouldn’t have read this far if it wasn’t. However, let’s discuss the idea that many people fool themselves. You and I have both heard it countless times: Music is my life. I love music. My life revolves around music, etc. Is it really? Are you willing to put in the commitment? Sacrifice some of your other daily routines? I mean, I love listening to it, love singing along with the radio, etc., so I want to have that enjoyment from playing it or singing my own original songs. It must be joyous to learn, right? If I could just learn to play/sing the music that Iove, everything else just falls into place, right? 

Well, no. That certainly doesn’t fall into place with other things in our lives. That’s like saying, I love New Orleans. If I just moved down there, everything would fall into place. Let’s not forget that I’d have to find work, a place to live, a support system(friends and such), and still find time to enjoy what I love about New Orleans. It’s like saying, Look at that fantastic looking girl/guy. If I just got a chance to talk to him/her, I know we’d hit it off and have a great life together. How has that worked out for ya? Just like anything else, it takes effort. It take focus. It takes sacrifice, and it takes organizing one’s priorities. 

In these days of instant gratification, learning the guitar is easier than ever. 

However, let’s clarify that statement immediately: You’re not going to get quality guitar/music training in any free venue on the internet. Not here, not on You Tube, nowhere. The type of help and training to learn the art of music is never free. It costs someone something, and honestly, it costs more than you think. If nothing else, it costs your teacher an inordinate amount of energy to assess your progress and make an informed decision on what you need work on, what you could use motivation on, and what you deserve positive reinforcement for. If you’re not paying your teacher for this, either you’re not getting it from him/her, or he/she is putting a lot more into your lessons than you know.

I’m sure students often don’t know it, but I spend a lot of time and energy trying to find simpler ways to explain musical concepts and figure out who they will work with. Different learning styles, etc. 

Let’s start with that. Learning styles. While teaching hundreds of students in my lifetime has afforded me a unique look into people and the easiest ways to do things, there’s a catch. Remember when your parents said that you’re special? Yeah, you’re special and unique, just like everyone else is. 

Some people learn the mechanics of the instrument quickly than others. Some people have larger hands, some people have more dexterity. Some people have a knack for looking at an abstract chord grid and immediately get it. Others need to concentrate more. No matter what your life is  looking like, you’ll need to practice daily and focus on your learning. Some of this stuff is more intuitive than other parts of it. 

And we all start from the beginning at some point. 

I’ve found that one of the more important reasons that I can teach music is because it never came easy for me. Mostly. As a kid, I loved music. You can read my bio to find that I had some stops and starts in my musical development. I had to make a decision to commit to this. It was never in quite that many words. I played with some chords here and there, but I never allowed myself to be discouraged that what I was practicing didn’t sound like the recordings I enjoyed. I was quite mystified that I could play something that sounded even in the ballpark of a piece of music. These would turn out to be come back later to finish that moments.

If I could play something that sounded like a chord that I heard in a song, I was happy. I knew I was on my way. While everybody, including me, assumes that practicing is somehow boring and not fun, I’d suggest that learning something that you didn’t know before, getting better at something is fun. Why does a kid who gets frustrated trying to play something on an instrument then go out and shoot a basketball for hours on end? It’s a challenge, and it’s easily foreseeable that one can get the ball through the hoop. 

Should we let the fact that we might not be able to realistically foresee ourselves in a pro basketball situation stop us from trying to sink that basket? Obviously not. Should we let the fact that we might not be able to realistically foresee ourselves onstage playing music stop us from trying to learn a difficult chord or musical passage? 

The question is, do you want it? 

Do you really love music enough to learn in small pieces and be satisfied with that?  

Here’s a good example of different learning styles. Most teachers will have noticed that often students can get great results from definining small goals, and sometimes several times per day. To be honest, among professionals, it’s usually thought that committing to less than an hour per day is generally useless. This may sound like a huge commitment, but break it down to goals set: 

You should read music every day 

At least focus on one example each day. That’s probably 5 to 20 minutes right there. 

Chords can be physically tough to play, so there’s 20 minutes per day. 

Learning songs can take up a lot of time without knowing it. At least 20 minutes per day. 

Working on a particular scale fingering can be time-consuming. 

Especially if you put them into intervallic patterns and/or use them in improv over a backing track. Let’s say 20 minutes per day. 

Extracting arpeggios from the aforementioned scales helps your fretting technique.

Arpeggios are the notes of a chord played one at a time. Notes of a melody are going to be mainly chord tones. Improvised solos are mainly chord tones, with approach notes to make them pop out. We could probably do 20 minutes per day on working through them.

Your picking technique, your ear training, your phrasing, etc., need work. 

You should spend 20 minutes per day on that.

As you can see, with each concept at about 20 minutes per sitting, 5 concepts per day gets you to an hour of practice per day. Oops. My math didn’t come out correctly. Hmmm. Should you practice more time overall to get all the concepts in, or should you spend less time per concept?

Forget how much minimum time you should put in. Practice what you need to practice. A watched pot never boils, etc. Make sure to check in with a teacher weekly to assess your advancement and direct you on what you should be focusing on. 

Do you have some thoughts on this post? Leave a reply below to start or join a discussion learning guitar. As always, I’ll always answer any question you may have.


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