What is the real reason why you haven't already become a great guitarist and musician? No, it's not your inability to play perfect guitar solos, a shortage of natural talent or anything like that. It's your 'fear' of negative outcomes. By focusing your mindset on what you 'don't want to happen' you put yourself in a situation where you are more prone to not taking action to achieve your goals. Before you can become a better guitarist, you must figure out why these fears exist in you and what you can do to prevent them from controlling your musical future.
The following are the most frequent fears possessed by most guitarists and what you must do to overcome them and reach your musical goals:
Many guitar players come to me each year with concerns that they are too old to become good guitar players. In many cases, these students falsely think that they can't become great because their favorite guitarists become awesome players at a young age. This causes the student to not even attempt to do the things that would make him/her into a much better player.
This is what I tell them (and you):
Age is just a concept. Guitar players do not fail because they are younger/older than another guitarist. You only fail when you give up on doing whatever is required to achieve your musical goals. Instead of creating a made-up barrier for yourself called 'age', focus your mind on learning the skills needed to achieve your guitar playing goals, use effective practice methods to apply them and make consistent time in your day to practice guitar. By correctly practicing the skills needed to reach your goals, you will learn to play whatever you desire (regardless of your age). Learn what to practice on guitar so you can achieve your goals faster.
I've worked with many guitar students who thought they were too old to make real progress on guitar, and every time, those who believed what I wrote above achieved their goals in a fraction of the time compared to those who did not trust in what I said above.
A lot of guitar players fear having their guitar playing criticized and will do anything they can to avoid situations where others could judge their skills (causing them to 'feel bad' about their playing). They will do this even if it means sabotaging their own progress or missing opportunities to get useful feedback! That's right: people will sabotage their own potential to become better guitarists because they are afraid of what other people might say!
Here is an example of the harmful effects of this fear: I run various training events for guitarists each year who travel overseas to train with me for the entire day (for several days in a row) to totally transform their guitar technique, soloing ability, phrasing and musical expression. Whenever one of these events takes place, I observe a total transformation in literally every person who attended. At the same time, there are a lot of people who talk themselves out of coming to these events, although they have the time, money and a strong desire to attend and know the event will completely change their playing for the better. I get an overflow of emails from these types of people, who give me excuses for not showing up, and I know their excuses are deeply rooted in fear. Later, most of these people contact me again to reveal that they deeply regret not coming to the event. Since they gave in to their fear about what others would think of their playing, they blocked themselves from a massive opportunity to improve their musical skills. That is why they will continue to struggle to achieve their musical goals and regret their decision to hide behind fear.
Even for guitarists who are very advanced players, this type of fear can hold them back from achieving their musical goals. For example, great players will often delay writing and recording an album (for many years) by chasing 'perfection'. This is caused by the fear that someone might criticize their music/playing. As a result, they never experience the significant growth one receives from this type of musical activity.
To overcome this fear, do the following:
Tons of guitarists believe from the very beginning that they aren't good enough to set and achieve ambitious musical goals. When you fear that you can't learn to play guitar exactly as you want, here's what will happen:
The worst part is, you'll end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy because you spend so much time focusing on 'failure' rather than the things you actually want to achieve. To make sure you do not become overwhelmed with a fear of failure, do the following:
It is much easier to overcome your fear of failure when you take lessons with a top tier guitar teacher who understands what it takes to accomplish any musical goal you may have. Over the past 25 years I've helped thousands of students achieve very big musical goals (who were afraid of failure at first). I invested ample time into mentoring them in order to raise their self-confidence and get them to truly believe in their own potential. This changed their outlook and helped them move on to become very good guitar players.
It is very hard for many guitarists to move beyond their fear of playing in front of others. One moment you could be able to play something easily alone your room and the next you are struggling to play the exact same thing just because other people are watching. Some of the common symptoms of this fear include uncontrollable shakiness, excess sweating or temporary loss of memory. The worst part is, when you fear playing in front of other people, you avoid it at all costs. As a result, you are unable to gain the benefits and musical growth you get from doing things like playing with other musicians, performing in a band or being part of a show in front of a live audience.
To overcome this fear, you must let go of the idea that people are waiting for you to make a mistake so they can 'make fun of you' or judge you harshly. Truth is, people who watch you play are usually not thinking about you, they are thinking about themselves. They wish they had your talent and the 'guts' to play in front of other people. Most will never even notice your mistakes unless you point them out yourself.
The key is to forget about what others might think and use every time you play for others as an opportunity to improve your performance skills (not as a once in a lifetime chance to play something 100% perfect). For instance, if your hands become extremely shaky because you feel nervous, make it your main focus to reduce this problem every time you play for others. Each time you perform, track your results on a piece of paper and measure your improvement. By doing this, you eliminate the concern of what other people are thinking and replace it with a concern for self-improvement. Then, over time you will become more relaxed.
Learn more ways to improve live performances by reading this article about stage fright for musicians.
You've now learned how to overcome the fears that prevent many guitarists from taking the next step to become better players. Take advantage of this, by applying what you've learned here to move closer to your ultimate musical goals. To get more help becoming a better musician, take this seven day mini course about how to achieve major musical goals.
Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.
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