Recipe for Success

Ever wonder how someone could be so good at what they do? Do you wonder if you could ever be as good as your favorite guitar player?

Well, I'm here to tell you that you can! I'm also here to give you some insight as to how. There are several principles you must adhere to if you are to ever get to a level of great playing. Some of these principles are not just for guitar players. They apply to anything in life that you're trying to accomplish that's worth accomplishing.

1) Dedication

You MUST devote yourself to the task at hand. This can be difficult if you "don't seem to have the time" to play or practice. You will have to sacrifice some things in order to make time for your music. For example, Friday nights may be reserved as your weekly night to go to the movies with your friends. It may be a good idea to forget that for a while and use the time more constructively to develop your chops.

2) Practice

Now that you've set aside time for your guitar playing, make sure you use it for what it was intended! You've brushed off your movie friends (who want you to be a famous guitarist anyway, right?) and now you're at home free and clear to practice. BUT, you see that the season finale of Star Trek is on tonight! DON"T GIVE IN! TAPE IT! GO PLAY YOUR GUITAR! Write out a practice schedule for yourself. Work on specific techniques or moves.

Here's an example:

  • 6:00 - 6:15 - Practice changing from Dm to C7 because it gives you trouble.
  • 6:15 - 6:30 - Practice G Ionian scale at different tempos.
  • 6:30 - 6:45 - Practice right hand tapping.
  • 6:45 - 7:00 - Practice 2nd inversion Em arpeggio at different tempos.

Do you know how many times you can play a G major scale in 15 minutes? Somewhere around 90! That's 90 repetitions closer toward you becoming an expert!

You could even break this hour into six 10 minute intervals if you want. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish in an hour of structured practice.

3) Perseverence

Now that you have dedicated the time, and are using that time to practice, make sure you STICK WITH IT! If Fridays at 6pm is your time to practice, don't let other things interfere with that time.

Now, as everyone knows..."Life Happens". If you see your time being violated, make it up Saturday or Sunday. Try not to skip your practice time completely because it will "open the door" to letting it happen again and again.

4) Focus

Now that you are devoting the time to practice, you need to really concentrate on what you are doing. For example, if you're learning to sweep pick that Em arpeggio, you may notice that at a certain point in the sweep, you have a problem moving your fingers. Isolate your "problem spot" and just repeat that spot over and over. Pay attention to every move your hands are making.

Also pay attention to your nerves. Are you relaxed or tense when trying to do this? You need to stay relaxed of course. I have actually helped students play better by just having them concentrate on relaxing!

5) Patience

This is a BIGGIE! You can't be a guitar hero overnight or even after one year. There is so much involved with being a really good musician. Just because you see someone play real fast, does not make them a good musician.

  • Can they compose a good tune?
  • Can they improvise with others?
  • Do they know how to bridal that speed and mix it up with tasteful slow playing as well?
  • Do they have any sense of melody?
  • Can they harmonize their leads?

Your playing and musicianship will mature with time. Heck, I went to dinner last week with Michael Fath and he was telling me how he was studying with some guy who was a master at a particular style because "there is always something else to learn". "The more you know, the more you realize what you don't know".

Oh yeah...patience..."if you practice, it will come". Give yourself credit for being ahead of yesterday's trials.

6) Believe in what you're doing

Stay positive. Don't let others tell you that it can't be done or "your song sounds like two cats in a fight". You have to go through it to get to it. You may have to write ten lousy songs before you begin to write good songs. Don't let those ten lousy songs stop you! Learn from them!

Nine times out of ten, a genius is simply a person who refused to give up!

By Will Landrum

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