Practicing the guitar is a bit like life, you can do it the hard way or be easy on yourself. If you do it the hard way you’ll end up being frustrated and your music won’t feel right. Believe me, there are ways of making guitar practice enjoyable. But like many things that we wish to master in our lives, you will need to put in a tiny bit of effort to get some sort of decent result where there’s measurable progress. I’ve seen some people put hours and hours into the guitar and work really hard at it and they get really tense about it all, there is another way of doing it that might suit you better.
First of all, I’ll assume you play music for fun, yes? Whether it’s professional at the highest level, as a job or just for you and your dog, it’s got to be enjoyable. If not, maybe you went to wrong teacher or at a young age you were pushed into it by well meaning parents that misunderstood music or had the agenda of music helps your maths, and then I really feel for you and hope the suffering finishes soon. It’s important to find a balance between a good technique and creativity. And by good technique I don’t mean that you need to be flashy, and yeah that’s fine if that’s your nature, but it shouldn’t be the end goal..the goal is good music, right? Good music comes in every style, shape and size. And when I say creativity, I don’t mean frigging around for hours as if you are lost in space, I mean doing something that has some sort of outcome.
Here’s what I worked out years ago. You might find it useful.
There are days when you are not feeling musical. There is a tendency for people not to play on these days. When I’m not feeling musical I have a good look at what things I can work on to develop my skill level, I’ll set myslf a task like starting work on a new arrangement of a song by someone else, or look at other ways of playing chords, find a new scale or chords, or sometimes I’ll try playing in an open tuning e.g bass E B D F# A D. I work on things that when I put the guitar down at the end of the session, I feel like I’ve moved ahead. I’m a firm believer that the days when we don’t feel musical is definitely the time when something inside us is telling us to UP the skill level.
On the other hand, if all we do is play scales and modes at a billion miles an hour and aim at two billion by Christmas, we probably won’t be getting much back from the music, it feels like a chore or maybe a great ego hit. I once worked with a sax player that had a beautiful tone, his turning point was when a member of the audience came up to him and said “Gee you play great scales”, he changed his focus to music. And yes, to have a giant toolbox of musical possibilities is great because it enables us to create without be disadvantaged by a limited skill set, but it should never outweigh the music.
When you’re feeling creative go with it, music comes in waves, it’s not something you can just turn on. It’s possible to play well at all times, yes, but not always possible to play great music. When you’re going through a creative phase, go with it, don’t bog yourself down with technique too much when you’re in your creative mode, it will just get in the way of the music.
The ability to move comfortably between the creative mode and the study mode is what will ultimately help you be a great musician, one that is unique and not just a bad copy of your favourite player.
Learn from others but be yourself most of all. There’s room for everyone