Ever since man first picked up a piece of wood and started banging it rhythmically on a rock, there's been a competitive streak between people who play music. In fact, it's the same for many disciplines in life. In playgrounds across the world you'll hear kids screaming "I'm better than you" and so forth.
If you play guitar, which presumably you do, you'll no doubt have had moments when you questioned your ability, thought that you're not 'cut out for it', and considered giving up. You can rest assured that you're certainly not alone.
Whilst there's no doubt that certain people pick up guitar playing quicker than others, do you believe that you can only master the instrument if you were born to do it, or can anyone do it with enough practice?
Practice, practice, practice
From a very young age, kids are encouraged to pick up an instrument and learn to express themselves through music. It's where a lot of us got started playing guitar. But how many kids do you think picked up a guitar on day one and could instantly pull off a bit of Dragonforce? None. Not one. It simply doesn't work that way.
And that's one of the great things about playing guitar; anyone can pick one up and give it their best shot.
Those that are born with a natural aptitude will of course progress slightly quicker than others, and maybe get their head around the intricacies of musical theory faster, but there's one thing that will always be an absolutely crucial element in any guitarist's success: practice.
A lot like hard work
As you’ll well know, guitar is a discipline which requires a huge degree of dedication. Perhaps one of the biggest pulls for people who start playing is that it’s actually quite easy to learn how to play simple pieces. In fact, there’s probably an entire legion of guitar players who only have four or five songs in their repertoire which they’ve learned via tabs on the web. This is just fine, and in fact it’s one of the number one reasons that a lot of people start to play - they want to be able to emulate their favourite bands and show off to their friends.
But by using this fundamental ability as a springboard, and by mixing in the right amount of practice, these players can actually become true professionals - eventually starting to write their own songs, and amazing their friends in new ways. It can’t be stressed enough just how inspirational and rewarding playing guitar can be, as long as you put the time in. Like any other skill, talent, or ability in life, it’s only when you’ve become completely comfortable with the instrument, gone through all the trial and error, and discovered a certain synergy with your guitar - and even when you think you’ve mastered it, there’s always more to learn!
Emulate your idols
Think of your favourite guitarist: maybe that's Santana, maybe it's Slash, or maybe it's another person who's name begins with 's'. The point is, even with the undeniable skill and natural ability they all have, they would never have got so far without practicing.
So, in a sense, the most effective combination that produces an exceptional guitarist is a bit of natural aptitude and a lot of practice. Or, for those without that natural affinity with a guitar, a heck of a lot of practicing. There are no magic wands that can be waved to make you the perfect guitarist, and no matter how good you get, if you stop practicing you'll eventually stop being so good. So practice really does make perfect.
The guitar is an instrument that can give you a life-long passion and a hobby that really pays. It’s an instrument which has been with us through the ages, and the members of the next generation of maestros are picking up their guitars every day.
Do you have to be ‘born with it’? Of course not. With time, dedication, and a true passion for music, you’ll find that you really can master the guitar. Never think it will be easy, because the truth is it’ll be anything but; however there aren’t many more rewarding pursuits than mastering the guitar.
So what are you waiting for? Pick up your axe now and get practicing!
About the Author
Dee Mason is self-taught and has been playing (with varying levels of success) for twelve years. When she isn’t performing, she writes on behalf of a leading ticket sales site and various other music publications.
Photo by Courtney Carmody.