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Old 05-29-2019, 02:17 PM
gzero gzero is offline
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Default How To Play Guitar (And Never Stop)

Foreword:

Iíve never done one of these before. But like any skill, I know Iíll get better after consistent repetition. By extension this means: More free time and/or less gigs = more legible posts.

Iím largely using these posts to document my personal process of becoming an independent artist and share what Iíve learned along the way. I hope that in the process I can help someone who is trying to follow this path or is a fan of the process in general. Hopefully my experiences can benefit both the artist of the future and the music fan alike. Alternatively, if my posts happen to entertain you for five minutes of your day that makes me equally as happy


How To Play Guitar (And Never Stop)


Iím a guitar player. A self-taught guitar player. Currently Iím the guitarist and vocalist of Ground Zero Ė an acoustic duo from London, Ontario.

In this post, Iím going to talk about how to stick with guitar when so many donít. When people find out Iím a guitar player, I often hear ďI used to play, not anymore, but Iíve been meaning to pick it up againĒ. Why do so many people start playing and yet drop it again so frequently?

My general answer is that we have obsessive personalities (to varying degrees). This is connected to both our constant need to be entertained and innate curiosity. When novelty wears off, so does our interest and we stop playing guitar in favor of the next obsession (in the case of my last roommate Ė growing lettuce).

Furthermore, I would make the argument that this loss of interest is self-induced. It comes from our unwillingness to continuously push into new (uncomfortable) areas of study. We get comfortable with our abilities and enjoy the feeling of being proficient. Think about this in the context of a video game: Why can people continuously play video games for days and hours and it never feels like a training regimen? Few people say ďIíd love to catch up but I have to practice Fortnite tonightĒ (or maybe they do Ė I donít judge). There are many factors to this and one of them is definitely the feeling of novelty. Video games continuously present you with new elements that keep your brain engaged. You are continuously overcoming new challenges, gaining new abilities and subsequently getting rewarded for it. As a result, your brain stays engaged and you develop proficiency in the game. But it doesnít feel like work. It feels like fun.

This principle can be applied to learning any skill, especially guitar.
The reason that I play guitar every day (ten years down the road) is because Iím always discovering new things. I continuously expose my brain to new genres, techniques and sounds which keeps it coming back for more. On the other hand, when I get complacent, I get bored - which shows in my playing and my performance. I can get really philosophical (in my head) on stage when Iím playing the same song the same way too many times. I have a running joke with Frank (the percussionist of our duo and one of my best friends) that the reason heís such a good improviser is because Iím continuously adjusting songs in our set.

The reason Iím still playing guitar (and enjoying it as much as when I first started) is because I never stop trying new things.

My message to you is this:
Mastering something takes time, discipline and hard work (we hear this all the time). What you donít hear is that it doesnít have to feel like work. This happens when you are continuously pushing into unexplored areas. The caviat to this is that pushing yourself into new territory is uncomfortable. Because you suck at it. At first. However the feeling of discomfort (in this context) exists because thereís room for improvement. Trust me, when you think youíve mastered something, you havenít. Thereís always more to learn.

Derek H.

www.groundzeroduo.com
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Old 05-29-2019, 02:23 PM
jgottsman11 jgottsman11 is offline
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Thank you for this. I need to send this to many, many friends.
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Old 05-29-2019, 06:07 PM
Merak Merak is offline
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The biggest unintentional complement my wife gives me is calling my guitar playing an ďobsessionĒ. I love it but I had to wait 40 years to reach this point in my life.
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Old 05-29-2019, 06:39 PM
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Ludere Ludere is offline
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Default How To Play Guitar (And Never Stop)

Thank you for this post ... I was one of those on again off again (mostly off again) players for many years.
I have now made a commitment to pick up the guitar and play every day. Two weeks ago (May 11), I hit the one year mark of successfully playing the guitar every day, and I have definitely improved.
But I do experience some plateaus and ďbored daysĒ and so sometimes it feels like work.
I will try to use your advice to keep it challenging and fun.
Thanks again!

~ Paul
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Old 05-29-2019, 06:47 PM
jschmitz54 jschmitz54 is offline
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As a one year beginner, believe it or not I can relate to all of this. In a way it’s a conundrum, pushing yourself to learn new things can be uncomfortable and frustrating at times but succeeding to one extent or another can fill me with joy and extreme motivation. If I don’t push myself I get a bit bored and question if I’m making progress. Sometimes I jump too far ahead and attempt things I may not be ready for and have to retrench. Similar to the Three Bears Story I guess. I need the path that’s Just Right. Funny how that works for me somehow. It’s going to be crushing if I turn out to be a quitter, banish the thought, that’s not happening.
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Old 05-29-2019, 07:46 PM
reeve21 reeve21 is offline
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Very interesting first post, Derek.

I agree with what you are saying. I was on again, off again, for many years. I'm a hobbyist, so there was no compulsion to practice, and I did get bored croaking along to the same couple of dozen tunes all the time.

It's been about 2 and a half years since I stumbled across the AGF and was first exposed to a host of different genres, techniques, tunings, etc. As one of our members likes to say "it changed my life"

I love this instrument, and the possibilities seem endless. Such a beautiful sound. It now pains me greatly to miss a day of playing the guitar, and most of what I do is a lot closer to practice than performance.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and welcome to the AGF!
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Old 05-30-2019, 01:21 PM
rdm321 rdm321 is offline
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Hi Derek:

What has kept me interested is playing with other people. Iím now in my 50th year of musical mediocrity, and the playing (and associated learning) that Iím fondest of has been playing in groups. Whether itís a monthly get-together of ďregularsĒ or an all-strangers open jam at the union hall, thatís where Iíve always found my best experiences.

When I was a beginner, I was fortunate enough to get together occasionally with some more experienced players who sometimes offered advice but who typically just played on, ignoring my fumbling efforts to keep up. Eventually I caught on and started learning. Iím eternally grateful to those folks.
As I progressed, I learned to listen to the other players & singers, to take cues from them and to follow their moves. I found that understanding the dynamic of a piece of music, and of the players, is equally important to knowing the key, melody & rhythm (for the same reason, Iíd much rather watch live theatre than see a film).

Now Iím one of the more experienced players. Iím not necessarily much better than I was when I began, but a grey beard and a thick binder of song sheets provides a certain amount of cred! I still enjoy playing in groups, regardless of the talent level of the participants. I feel like Iím paying back the help that I received when I was younger. Often weíll begin with simple songs, with the older folks emphasizing the beat. Once the group picks up the rhythm, it can come together quickly, and weíre soon able to progress to more complex pieces. I get as much enjoyment from hearing new players improve as I do from hearing myself play something new.

Cheers
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Old 05-30-2019, 01:39 PM
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Welcome to the forum.

IMO if you want (or need) to make a living that includes playing the guitar then motivation is of course a big issue. Also some people may
thrive on the adrenaline of playing in public apart from any monetary considerations and have some need of keeping their practice levels up.

Personally I just like playing guitar when I want to and not playing guitar at other times. I don't consider my level of motivation an issue I
need to be working on.
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Old 05-30-2019, 03:19 PM
jaymarsch jaymarsch is offline
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Welcome to the forum.
I think the reason that I do not get bored is that I am a singer/songwriter as well as a guitar player. I seem to move from one focus to another as I complete a song so it keeps me interested and challenged. I also make use of teachers as well as a songwriting group that gives me some structure and accountability to someone in addition to myself. Keeps it fresh and keeps it fun as well as challenging.

Best,
Jayne
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Old 05-30-2019, 03:36 PM
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raysachs raysachs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gzero View Post
When people find out I’m a guitar player, I often hear “I used to play, not anymore, but I’ve been meaning to pick it up again”. Why do so many people start playing and yet drop it again so frequently?

My general answer is that we have obsessive personalities (to varying degrees). This is connected to both our constant need to be entertained and innate curiosity. When novelty wears off, so does our interest and we stop playing guitar in favor of the next obsession (in the case of my last roommate – growing lettuce).

Furthermore, I would make the argument that this loss of interest is self-induced. It comes from our unwillingness to continuously push into new (uncomfortable) areas of study.
I was an on-again, off-again player for about 30 years, but it didn't have anything to do with an obsessive personality or lack of willingness to try new things.

It simply had to do with TIME. Sometimes I had it, most of the time I didn't.

I started playing when I was 18. I played almost non-stop until I was about 24-25, even as I started a career (non-musical) and got married, and still played a reasonable amount until I was about 28. Then our first daughter was born, and another a little over a year later. Then I suddenly found myself with a very busy career and two little tiny kids who needed all of my spare time and my wife's. I didn't have time to play. I'd pick up the guitar every now and then, but I quickly lost whatever chops I had and my callouses. So then it was not only frustrating to play, it hurt. So I played less and less and then nearly not at all. And it was like that for most of the next 30 years.

There were a few times during that 30 years where I'd get sort of back into it for a couple or few months and start to get callouses, but didn't really get much of a feel back and so it wouldn't last long and I'd quickly put it down again. I finally concluded I wasn't likely to ever really play again so I sold my nice guitars and just kept one cheap acoustic and one cheap electric so when I did get the urge, I'd have something to pick up.

And then a few years ago, in retirement and with my kids out on their own, I started playing again and got WAAAAAY back into it. And now I have all the time in the world to play and I'm loving it. I'm sometimes branching into new directions (FINALLY learning to fingerpick after never having the patience before) and sometimes staying within my comfort zone, but it's a source of nearly constant joy either way. It's my primary time-sink at this point in my life. It's possible I'll lose interest at some point and just stop again. But I've never lost interest before, I just didn't have time to do it right, or even half right or 1/10 right for that matter, so I stopped because it was just too frustrating to do so badly

I've been a guitar player for most of my life, but there have been huge gaps because I wasn't ONLY a guitar player, not by a long shot. I never lost my love of it, but I lost the time to maintain enough ability for it to stay fun.

That's another version of the on-again, off-again story and from what I can tell, it's an extremely common one.

Last edited by raysachs; 05-30-2019 at 03:41 PM.
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Old 06-03-2019, 01:16 PM
gzero gzero is offline
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Very good point, I have to say that lack of time is not something I've had to content with to that degree. I definitely agree that time is a factor, however I am of the (perhaps naive) opinion that we have more control over our time than we think.

I find how I spend my time is a reflection of my priorities. It makes sense that a family and kids are on the top of that priority list. However, when you have down time, choosing to spend it expanding your abilities on the guitar may not take precedent over watching TV or other leisure activities. We have 16-18 hours in a day, I would say that (at minimum) most people I know I spend at least 1-2 of those on leisure.

I think that both of us are right to certain extent. The ability to maintain your playing depends on both how much time you have and how you spend that time. I believe that you will always make time for things that are a top priority, it just depends where you put your playing on that priority list.

Awesome to hear that you're back to playing! The fact that you've picked it up again to such a high degree definitely speaks to the realness of your passion.

All the best!
Derek
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Old 06-03-2019, 04:03 PM
leew3 leew3 is offline
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I watched a documentary about Bill Frisell last night in which he expressed the frustration he feels with the painfully small increments in improvements he sees in his guitar playing. If Bill feels this way I can only aspire to a small amount of his 'incremental improvement'!
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