Today I want to talk about a technique for understanding and focusing motivation but first…
The Obligatory Update
I have been remiss in posting here. As I write this I’m taking a break from prep for a back to back recording session coming up on the 15th with I Come From the Mountains (a new duo acoustic instrumental ensemble with Dean Mirabito from KoriSoron playing an Iranian / Middle Eastern / Hindustani hybrid / fusion with me playing modified acoustic guitars (fretless, 10 string guitar modified from a 12 string and a 6-string multiple capos) and Dean playing tabla and Middle Eastern percussion) and Embe Esti (a loosely Afrobeat inspired electric band with guitar, bass, drums and vocals that brings in a lot of North African and Balkan influences as well). WOW is that an awkwardly long sentence!
( In a gear related note – with the exception of the fretless guitar – all of the guitars and amps I’m using are from Yamaha – so Yamaha Guitars / Yamaha THR if you’re reading this and have any interest in sponsoring a future recording session please feel free to get in touch! ; ) I’ve been working with their THR100HD amp and have gotten some really great tones with minimal pedals so I’ll share my different rigs with you in a future post).
So writing a lot of new material and developing new projects. New websites for both soon!
The Best Free Lesson I Can Give You
If you go through old posts you’ll see that I hammer this point over and over again.
You have to have a why to travel any distance on the path to mastering guitar.
Here’s why this is important. Let’s say you’re in a playing rut. You keep playing the same thing over and over and don’t know how to get out. You get motivated and sign up for a video course and give them your credit card number. You log in the first day and start working on the first lesson. In this case, you happened to go with a player you like but you didn’t understand that the material is way too hard to process at your current skill level. So you work with it for about an hour and take a break for a bit…and then never come back to it. Or you buy a book and it comes in the mail and you crack the cover and never return to it.
Does this sound familiar?
The problem most players face at some level is they don’t understand why they are doing what they’re doing.
As a beginning player: if you don’t have a strong enough motivation you won’t play enough to develop the callouses you’ll need to play.
As an intermediate player: if you don’t have a strong enough motivation you won’t practice the things you need to work on to develop the skills you’ll need to progress to higher levels of expression.
As an advanced player: if you don’t have a strong enough why you may get to a point where you have developed a substantial skill set but can not earn a living from that skill alone.
This is kind of the mid-life crisis of guitar. Fortunately, I’ve gone through many of these throughout my time playing guitar but players who have never faced can be in for a devastating experience .
See The “What” Is Easy
There’s 12 notes. Simple. You can get the basics of chords and scales in a day, grasp them more fully in a week and start to really do something with them in as little as a month if you really put the work in consistently.
The “How” Is Also (Relatively) Easy
When you buy an instructional product what you’re buying is instruction on the how. There is a literal deluge of instructional material both online and in print. Even the most basic of searches will lead you to someone who can show you how. The how is something that is also pretty easy to get under your fingers if you really put the work in consistently (and can be patient about how long it will take to do that work).
The “Why” Is Where You Are On Your Own
If you don’t have a reason for why you are doing what you are doing you won’t put the work in day after day and without that consistence – you will never progress.
Here’s the simple thing to do to get to the core of matter
When I teach a guitar lesson to a beginning student I will often attempt to drill down to what the motivating factors are by asking a series of “why” based questions.
Q: “So what brings you here today?”
A: “I want to learn how to play fast?”
A: “Why what?”
Q: “Why do you want to learn to play fast? What will playing fast allow you to do that you can’t do now?”
Based on the answer – this starts a series of drill downs of variations on the question to get to the bottom – why are you really here? What are you really trying to do and most importantly, what is the real goal that you are working towards?
Playing fast isn’t a goal – it’s a pathway to a goal that might be better reached a thousand ways. If the actual goal and motivation is understood it’s much easier to commit to putting the work in consistently to reach it.
Here’s a hypothetical non-musical example played out a little longer
“I want to exercise”
“So I can gain muscle”
“So that I look better”
“So people will date me”
“So I’m not alone”
So in this example the exercise is in service to a larger goal – excising loneliness.
This process for me came about after years of me feeling guilty about going to Berklee and never really delving into jazz improv, only to dig deeper into why I thought I should be working on that and realizing I didn’t really like a lot of standards I was pursuing it in a half-assed way because I thought it was a skill set I should have, but in reality the tunes never moved me so my motivation to work on them wasn’t there. When I spent the time working on things that moved me emotionally, I got into more challenging music that required doing some of the work I didn’t want to do before because the context was one I wanted to explore. So I kind of came to the same place through the back door…
Here’s the takeaway
If you have an issue with motivation, try diving deep with a series of “why” questions to get to what the underlying reason behind what you are doing really is. Once you understand your real motivation, it’s easier to be more objective about how to best work towards realizing an associated goal.
I hope this helps and as always, thanks for reading!