First Rule of Guitar: Never Give Up

Guest post by Michael Andros

I picked up the guitar at 14, played in a band for 14 years, then quit.

Years later I picked it up again and have been going strong ever since. But the road to guitar greatness is littered with those who gave up.

Hopefully, my experience helps you avoid becoming a casualty on the guitar “battlefield.”

Let’s look at a four-pronged strategy to defeat the biggest causes of quitting — pain, boredom, and discouragement. We will exploit “beginner’s blush,” focus on the mission, explode plateaus, and “learn how to learn.”

How to Exploit “Beginner’s Blush”

The idea here is to harness the almost irrational, dopamine-induced optimism to push through the painful process of earning your “guitar fingers.” 

Commit to a few minutes of daily practice.  It doesn’t matter what you do. Play scales, practice chord changes. Anything. As long as you keep fingers-a-flyin’ on the fretboard you’re building beneficial callouses and hand strength. 

After the “beginner’s blush,” though, you might feel your enthusiasm start to circle the drain. Jolt yourself back to life by…

…Focusing on Your Mission

Post your goals up where you practice.  If becoming the next Gary Clark Jr. or earning a spot at Berklee School of Music twirls your bowtie, write it down and pin it up. 

Inspire yourself by listening to your favorite music. Or better yet, discover new music that feeds your curiosity and awakens your wonder.

There are ebbs and flows when learning something new. One very helpful skill is how to…

…Explode through Plateaus 

Every so often, it feels like you’re just treading water. You might even feel like you’re going backward. 

That’s actually a good thing. 

You see, your brain has two modes — the ‘focused’ mode where you ‘chunk’ new information into working memory, and the ‘diffuse’ mode, where you consolidate new information into long-term memory. It’s a necessary part of mastery. But your brain can’t be in both modes at the same time. 

So trust your subconscious. It’s working quietly in the background. Stick to your routine and you’ll eventually break out and find you’ve jumped to a whole new level of understanding. 

You’ll likely get a mini “beginner’s blush” out of it also.

5 Tips on “How to Learn”

Recent neurological research can help us here. These tips are based on the latest neurological findings on the art and science of learning, applied to music.

Tip #1: Learn a few chords and chord progressions.

People have built whole careers on just a handful of chords. It opens up thousands of song possibilities.

Tip #2: Train your ear.

Recognizing intervals is a great skill for composing and improvising. It’s also handy for understanding how songs are structured.

Tip #3: Change up where you practice.

Changing practice locations speeds long-term memory formation. Jimi Hendrix used to bring his guitar everywhere — even to the bathroom. This boosted his ability to recall ideas in a flash.

Tip #4: Vary your practice.

Instead of devoting whole sessions to one skill, deliberately practice several skills briefly. Play scales, then songs, then practice chords and progressions. Experiment with sounds. Train your ear. This kind of study is called “interleaving,” and it speeds learning. Also, favor short, frequent practice over infrequent marathon sessions.

Tip #5: Learn fast by playing slow(ly).

Accuracy matters. If you make mistakes, slow down. This quickly trains your muscle memory. It’s more costly to unlearn a bad habit than to pick up a good one.

With accuracy, speed will come.

Besides playing righteous Alex Lifeson solos, and searching for Tosin Abasi’s planet of origin, Michael Andros makes the complex clear as a direct-response copywriter for the audio/music and tech industries. Visit his site at www.MichaelAndros.com.

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