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Gaining Your Instrument’s Respect

Brilliant! Imagine, instead of spending hours and hours of practicing, all you have to do is put your pillow on your guitar, enter dreamland and when you wake up you overnight evolved from a clueless guitar noob to the next Jimi Hendrix. Admittedly, an appealing idea – or alternatively, you could also try on of the ‘revolutionary methods to learn how to play the guitar’. Apparently, somebody has figured out a new way to teach and learn the instrument and gracefully decided to share his wisdom with ‘willing’ students. Well, at least with those who are willing to compensate for getting access to this mysterious method.

Maybe it’s just me and my aversion against anything related to sales and sales tactics. Unjustifiably, I categorically think of all sales tactics as shady and I can’t help but feeling that somebody is trying to rip me off. That of course is not true; I’m not saying that all salesmen have ulterior motives. However, referring back to the two aforementioned examples, there is a difference between advertising a legitimate product or service for the purpose of getting a fair price – and making a profit – or making false promises.

Now, I of course realize that I won’t be able to change the latter. That would be like jolting at windmills. And when I’m perfectly honest, it’s not the fact that the people behind these marketing campaigns are trying to make money come hell or high water, even at the expense of betraying their customers. While I certainly disapprove of their tactics, my actual problem with them is the underlying suggestion that there are shortcuts when it comes to learning how to play the guitar – you, me and the rest of the world were just unaware of it! And without trying to be too philosophical or esoteric, I vehemently object to this notion and as a matter of fact, I do believe that this is outright disrespectful to the instrument and music in general.

I’ve been playing for 25 years and I have been teaching beginners for a very long time. As a player, teacher and creator of the Beginners Guitar Course, I know very well how hard it can be going through seemingly never ending repetitions of playing chords and scales. Especially when you just started and your fingers hurt like crazy. I’m not trying to discount the fact that practicing can get frustrating and annoying at times. Anybody who ever learned an instrument goes through phases where he or she just wants to just throw in the towel. But here is the thing: learning an instrument is like acquiring any other skill you learned in you life. So how do we learn new things? By imitating others and doing it over and over again. It is as simple as that. Now to make that process a little easier, competent guidance is of tremendous help. That’s why we have teachers for pretty much everything you can think of.

Have you ever heard musicians saying that at some point in their career feel they “became one” with their instrument? I never felt that way. I always looked at my guitars as being their own entities. They are all different, they all have their individual character and they all react differently to me. Sometimes they don’t respond they way I want them to. This is in 100% of all instances my fault, because I wasn’t able to give them the right impulse so they could give me the desired reaction. In less sophisticated words: I need to practice first before I can expect see (or hear, rather) the results I want. It’s a little bit like gaining each other’s respect. If I acknowledge that I need to put in the time and effort it takes – well, I guess you can also call it PRACTICING – I in return get my guitar to respond the way I want it to.

However, I know for a fact that the ‘pillow on the guitar’ and ‘learning guitar in your sleep’ thing is not working. Why do I know that? Well, I tried it and let me tell you: It ain’t working!

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