I’m pretty late getting this started, but I was using that time to type out a bit about playing a bitchin’ solo for someone, and then my coffee maker died. I don’t really have an acceptable alternative for making coffee and new coffee makers are a long ways away. This is a problem.
I really don’t feel like driving anywhere and I’m not sure I can con someone else into doing it for me. The missus appears to be having none of it, and I can’t think of any way to bribe her. Hmm… If I eat all the ice cream, we will need some more and that’s a reason to at least go as far as the village.
I really don’t want to have to go into the village – and I definitely don’t want to have to go all the way into Farmington, where I can buy a damned coffee maker. This is the second time it has broken in like three or four months.
How does this tie in with the subject? Well, I’m making excuses. I’m trying to talk myself out of doing something I need to do, or getting someone to do it for me. Just like that coffee maker isn’t going to magic its way to my house, that guitar isn’t going to learn to play itself.
And, I’m just like you… I can find excuses to not practice, just like everyone else. Hell, I’m old. I’ve been finding excuses to not practice for quite a number of years. Sometimes, I can think of a dozen other things I’d rather be doing, but that guitar isn’t going to learn to play itself and there’s a lot more that I can improve on and learn.
So, let’s talk about practicing and maybe a bit about excuses.
In order to overcome those excuses, you probably have to have a goal. If you don’t have a goal, you’re probably not going to want to practice. If it’s not interesting, you’re probably not going to want to practice. If there’s never any fun, you’re not going to want to practice. If there are no rewards, you’re not going to want to practice.
There’s probably countless reasons why you’d not want to practice but only a few reasons why you’d want to practice. I think the most important aspect is having a goal – that’s the best reason I can think of to practice.
What should your practice look like?
That’s going to vary a great deal between you as individuals. I can’t say, “Do this, every day.” I can’t say, “Start here and do this.”
Well, I probably could do those things – but that’s not the kind of stuff I do on this site. If you want to read about practice drills, use a search engine. I don’t really get into the mechanics of playing a guitar – but that may someday change. It might change, if I learn to make graphics. That seems exceedingly unlikely and I see no reason to duplicate the work done on other sites.
(Someone should really make a “TheBuddha Approved” stamp graphic, like a seal of approval. That’d be handy.)
Where was I?
Oh, yes… I was talking about practice. This coffee maker thing is quite a distraction!
Alright… We’re gonna just assume that you’re able overcome the inertia, friction, stiction, and made yourself put energy into playing your guitar.
Whatever it takes for you – you’ve gotta put your hours in. Odds are really, really good that you’re not a virtuoso that is gifted in the mechanics of playing a guitar. If you are, you should so be reading a better site than this one. I’m just going to assume you’re not a guitar virtuoso and you’ve got to practice to get good. Call it a hunch.
What should this look like?
It should be quiet. That’s counter-intuitive, but it means you should only be able to hear you. You’ll also want to eventually learn to play with distractions, assuming you’re going to perform. Even if you do so, you’re still going to want that quiet time to practice.
You should be alone. You can practice with multiple people, but that often turns into distraction and rehearsal, or just playing. None of those are really what I am referring to when I say practice. You can practice with a band, but that’s really mostly rehearsal – usually.
You should be without interruption. There should be nobody poking their head in, asking you questions, talking to you, or anything else. You should have this time dedicated exclusively to practice.
If you’re in a band and getting four hours to play together every week, that’s awesome – but you should still be practicing daily, in addition to your playing in a band. You owe it to your bandmates to practice religiously and with due diligence, it has become an obligation at that point.
That’s what practice should look like, but it doesn’t always have to be like that. Sometimes, you might even have an audience while you practice. Sometimes, there will be distractions. You can fit some practice in around those things – or with those things going on at the same time.
A lot of what I do is muscle memory. It actually takes me a minute to think of it in terms of notation – and I sometimes will not double check myself. It happens because so much of it is just done without any thought. I know what works or what I’m supposed to be playing.
How to explain this? Hmm…
I don’t think about the theory or even why it works. I just know I need to make such and such a sound, at such and such a point, and my body instinctively knows what to play. When I read tab, I read it like one reads English. That’s muscle memory.
When I cover something, I don’t deconstruct it and figure out all the reasons why they chose the notes – I play the damned notes on the page like a regular human and don’t think anything more about it. Frankly, I don’t even really care that it’s technically in some sus. 7th key, that matters not one bit to me. ‘Snot my job to give a shit. I just play the notes that make it as close to a faithful replication as I can – and it helps significantly when someone else wrote them down.
That’s what you get from practice.
If I can do this, you can do this.
I’m not some guitar god that just picked the damned thing up and rocked. No… No, I used to suck. I don’t suck now, because I put my hours in.
Worse, I used to suck and perform.
It was a decade before I’d say I was any good.
You can probably do better than that. Seriously. You just have to not be a mess more than I was during those years and put your hours in. Even if you have to put your hours in by doing them in increments of 15 minutes, put your hours in.
As I’ve said before, you can even go outside and practice. You’ll get far more (I’m pretty sure) from your quiet, alone, and distraction free practicing. Still, at least your practicing – even if you’re outside. Someone might even give you enough money for new guitar strings!
Either way, I figured I’d write some more about practicing. You don’t actually have to listen to me. You can leave that guitar in the corner, where it collects dust, and keep telling yourself that you’ll start tomorrow. You can practice like mad and try to live some sort of dream life with it.
I’m pretty sure everyone picks up their first guitar with a dream. (And many of them think it’s going to be easy.)
Actually, I’m not gonna lie to you. No, you’re probably not going to achieve any great dreams from learning to play guitar. You’re probably not going to get any great material reward for your investment in equipment and time. You’re almost certainly never going to get royalties from an album that went platinum.
In fact, from a purely logical viewpoint, learning to play guitar is a bad idea. Seriously, it’s a horrible idea. You will never have free time (or spare money) again. Your social circle may decrease or change significantly. You will start to run out of room in your house, no matter how big it is.
You will wake up one morning, and wonder why you have a pile of amps in the basement and why you bought them in the first place. You will buy ‘just one more’ guitar style ’cause you’ve got an excuse to play it. You’ll have a collection of pedals, some of them you’ve never actually used and have no use for.
And, all those things cost you money – and time.
Your probable income from your musicianship? I’ve already shown you that. It’s right about middle class, if you have a second job. If you’re in a very small percentage, you might make upper-middle class with your music – which you’ll probably spend buying more equipment.
Eventually, you’ve got a rack full of guitars to show for it. If nothing else, they might make a good inheritance, ’cause you’re probably not leaving anyone any money.
Very few people are immune to this. I don’t know many people who take guitar seriously and only own a single guitar. That’s a rarity. We tend to have a pile of stuff, of various quality and states of repair, and we sometimes trade them among ourselves as though they’re great treasures. In reality, they take their traded treasures home and, more often than not, stick ’em in a box.
They’ll trade for all sorts of items and store them in that box. Someday, they’ll say, “Hey, I have an original Tube Screamer in my box!” Their friends they are jamming with will be very excited, they’ll dig it out of the box like its a sacred talisman, plug it in, and discover it doesn’t actually work anymore.
A good percentage of the time, it will actually be in working condition – but they’re stoned and wired it wrong.
I still hope you do try to learn to play guitar, of course. After all, if you don’t strive for your dreams then you’ll never achieve them. Realistically, it’s a great deal of fun and a great skill to have. It opens a lot of doors and gives you lots of new experiences that you’d have otherwise probably not have had.
Alright, I can’t put off going to get a coffee maker any longer. Stuff is going to start closing and nobody is going to go pick up a replacement, except for me. I’ll convince someone, besides the dog, into coming with me. Until next time…
Shut up and play us a song!