Has this happened to you?
One thing I run into with students very often is a common sense that while they’re playing a lot or have played for years that their playing never got any better. Perhaps some of you have come across the same thing.
Generally they’ve confused doing something with getting something done.
Here’s the difference:
Buying a gym membership is doing something.
Going to the gym and getting a good work out accomplished is getting something done.
A golf story:
I’ve only been to a golf course once and I didn’t like it so feel free to take the following observations with a grain of salt.
One thing I noticed on the course was that most players weren’t very good. (I’m being kind in my description here – awful would be a more appropriate term for what I saw.) We’re talking about players that couldn’t approach par – but – and this was the part that was shocking to me – some of these guys had been playing for 20-30 years!
It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but eventually I figured out that they were following Einstein’s model of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. For example, let’s say one player learned a basic stroke from another player. Well, what had happened was this player never examined what they were doing. He simply learned the stroke and then repeated it over and over with the assumption that since the stroke must be “right” that it was simply a matter of mastering it. So he went out and hit thousands of balls for hours on end over the course of years using the same poor stroke over and over again and then wondered why he wasn’t getting any better. A lot of these guys there talked about new clubs and more expensive gear – but the issue wasn’t the gear – it was poor muscle memory that came about from ingraining a bad practice model!
There are a number of things that separate professional and amateur players – but here’s a big one that I’ve noticed in a lot of pro (and pro level) players that isn’t intuitive:
Pro players don’t tend to operate on some of the assumptions that amatuer players have.
For example – Many times when I’m teaching a lesson to a beginning or intermediate player who wants to get into lead playing I’ll bring up the major scale and nine times out of ten, they’re completely dismissive and say, “Oh I already know that.” and proceed to play it in one octave in position. I’ll start taking the student through the paces of the scale, “just humor me…” and within 5 minutes or so most of them realize that they don’t know the scale as well as they thought they did.
“The tyranny of the shoulds”
One related lesson I had to teach myself involved getting rid of the “shoulds” in my thinking. Should is an amateur concept. “I’ve been playing arpeggios for the last day, I should be able to play this other form ( even though I haven’t practiced it before) because it’s also an arpeggio – and I know those!” “I can play sextuplets at 120 so I should be able to play this sextuplet at the same speed.” Pro players move away from should and focus on can.
Can I play this?
If not, why not?
What do I have to do to play it better?
Pro players examine WHY something isn’t working and then address it.
The dojo story
I saw a Karate demonstration once. While the young guys were showing off the flashiest moves they had, the master was in back doing Kata – which (in a reprehensible over simplification) are the basic starting points for the style. in other words, fundamentals.
Guess what happened to the flashy kids in the demonstration? Strewn all over the place.
Everything you do on guitar is based on cumulative development. The better you can execute basic techniques, the better you’ll be able to adapt to new techniques as they’re thrown at you.
That means really being present in practicing. Really focusing on hand tension, timing and tone and using the “Do – Observe – Correct” model to make sure you’re practicing it the right way. Pro players do what it takes to make things better. Sometimes that’s practicing something at a VERY rudimentary level to make sure that it’s fundamentally sound before trying to get it up to tempo. In other words, they’re willing to humble themselves and do some (often) unglamorous work that other people aren’t willing to do.
A lot of players who play guitar have been playing the same tunes the same ways for the last 30 years and then never wonder why they don’t get better. If you’re one of those people, don’t assume that a new guitar will make it better. It might be as simple as taking a lesson and getting a handle on what you’re doing wrong and developing a proper methodology and practice schedule to get something done towards achieving your playing goals. It may require getting out of a comfort zone – but that’s where the rewards are!.
That’s it for now! I hope this helps and as always, thanks for reading!