6 September 2010

Four Golden Rules To Be A Better Guitarist

It often surprises me how ideas from unrelated areas of work and life provide inspiration and ideas that help me to improve my guitar playing.

I develop computer software in my day job, and I've often learned lessons there that have been a great help to my study of the guitar. A little while ago I came across an article describing Four Golden Rules To Be A Better Software Developer.

You might think that creating computer software has little to do with playing guitar. But both have in common the need for curiosity, discipline, organisation and an open, learning mind.

Here's my take on these four golden rules, adapted for learning to play better guitar. If you want to become a better guitar player then the attitude defined by these four golden rules is a useful tool that can help you take your playing to new levels.

Rule number 1:  My playing sucks.

All guitar playing sucks in some way. My playing, and yours, could always be better. No matter how good you think it is, there is always a better way to play it.

Even if you are certain that your guitar playing just happens to be the best thing since sliced bread force yourself into thinking "my playing sucks".

Ask around for suggestions to improve it, be open minded, understand what other guitarists are playing. You will discover problems in your playing that you never even thought you had, as well as discover new opportunities.

Rule number 2: Even if it sucks, I care about my playing.

Even though your guitar playing sucks in some way, this is not important, it's not about having the best playing right now. What's important is making it better every time you visit it.

Keep striving to improve each time you pick up your instrument, even if only in some very tiny way.

Rule number 3: My opinion about my own playing is wrong.

If you want to really improve your playing then you must know exactly what is wrong with it.

We can record ourselves as we play guitar and listen with a critical ear, but our egos always get in the way when we try to figure out what needs improvement. We easily convince ourselves that what we have done is the best it could be, the best we could possibly do.

But never trust only your own opinion, show your playing to as many other guitarists as possible and listen to them.

Rule number 4: The audience doesn’'t care about my playing.

This rule regulates the other three, it is easy to forget that you actually play to entertain those who listen. 99% of the people in your audience really don't care about your guitar playing, they just want to hear music and have a good time.

Don't get so wrapped up in the guitar that you forget all about music, people and entertainment. You've got to balance guitar technique with musicality, playing with your band and sharing warmly with your public, whether it's only three friends or a whole hall full of people.

I think I would add a bonus rule number 5: learn from every source you can.

Learning from guitar players, guitar teachers and musicians is great. But keep your eyes and ears open and you will discover ideas and inspirations from all areas of life that will help you to play better guitar.

What about you? Have you been inspired to play better guitar by a story from another area of life? Tell us what inspires you to guitar playing success in the comments below...

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Willem said...

You have hit the nail right on the head there. Excellent post. The bit about always trying to improve -- if even a little bit -- every time you pick up the guitar is a piece of advice I would give to every guitar player out there.

Unknown said...

Great post! I would like to add a variant to the "show your playing to as many other guitarists as possible and listen to them", rule. Get a professional guitar teacher, I worked wonders for me. It changed my playing in fundamental ways and now I'm able to play things that I thought I would never ever master and I view guitar playing with a fresh pair of eyes. After every lesson I feel high on the new knowledge that I have acquired, in short it rules. :)

Gary Fletcher said...

Good point Magnus. There's a lot of good guitar information on the Internet, but nothing beats a good teacher if you have one nearby.

GuitarPrinciples said...


I learned those rules more or less on my own, but it may be a good idea to put them on a piece of paper and nail them on my wall... ;o)

Magnus - as a guitar teacher myself I could not agree more... ;o)

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