Guitar players as a rule can be very competitive. There’s an up side and a down side to this of course. The upside being, it can be part of the motivating force that drives us to be better guitar players, the down side is, that if we’re not careful we can end up being over critical, arrogant and under appreciative of other players achievements. And when you look at it carefully, the way we feel about and treat others is often the way we feel about and treat ourselves. I’m confident that the major element missing in music education / learning / tuition is to do with the emotions.
Getting a balance right about competitiveness is what I think is one of the best kept secrets in music. It’s possible to learn from every guitarist that you encounter, regardless of skill level. It’s a matter of looking at the player from a different angle and analysing them closely, it’s impossible to do this if we are busy criticizing them. I’ve learnt as much from the beginners that I’ve taught, as I have from some of the guitar greats.
This is something I’ve learnt
A lot of people in the initial stages of learning have great trouble in coordinating their fretting hand and getting their fingers to move fluently from one chord to the other. As a guitar teacher I had to look very closely at the movement of the hand. What I have found is that most players were concentrating on where the fingers needed to be and not on the path that the fingers take from one fret to another. This is best demonstrated by doing the chord movements away from the guitar (a-la air guitar). You’ll see if you try this that the movements are very subtle because the distance travelled by each finger is very small. You’ll probably also notice that by relaxing the hand it can move more freely than if it is tense. Be aware of the many rotation points there are on the hand as well and how when you move one part of the hand it impacts on other parts. The secret here is relaxtng the hand into the position it wants to go.
So, how to make competitiveness a healthy thing?
The best solution that I can find is that we need to compete with ourselves; and no this doesn’t mean beat yourself up. It means more about setting our own musical goals and doing what takes to achieve them. It’s all about being organized
And yes, if another player can do something on a guitar, why not learn it if you have the time? But it’s better to learn things because it can enhance your musicality. I like the idea of taking what someone else is doing and turning it into something of my own.
It’s a good idea every now and then to ask ourselves “Why am I doing this?” and don’t stop at the first answer. Dig around a bit and you may find a whole new area or pathway to follow in music.