Are you afraid that your natural abilities will limit your success with music? Do you have doubts that all this hard work will eventually pay off? Do you sometimes convince yourself that you are just not talented enough to play the guitar?
It is unlikely for beginner musicians not to run into moments of doubt in their playing. I too experienced similar struggles back when I was a beginner. I regularly wondered if I was talented enough to actually play guitar. Now as a teacher I have many students who are coming to me with the very same concerns. I would be surprised if you, the reader, have never once felt discouraged by your own abilities as a player (if that is the case, then stop reading this article and get back to playing!)
If left unquestioned, these kind of thoughts can start to really build up and hurt your progress as a musician. It may begin to weigh you down and have you forget why you ever started playing music in the first place. If you feel like your natural abilities as a player aren't ever going to be good enough, this is going to make you feel less motivated to keep working at it. Well, its time to start questioning why these thoughts keep running through your head, because I have seen far to many people give up on their playing due to self doubt.
In a world that is so focused on who has and doesn't have talent, I have got some big news for you. Talent. Doesn't. Exist. This is not just something I am making to make you feel better. It has been proven through research done on many forms of art, sports, and so on.
Now before you start coming to me with your rebuttals, I will say in anything there can be physical constraints that some people are born with. For instance someone who is over 6 feet tall might not be considered as a horse jockey. But if you got a couple functional hands and a willingness to learn, there is no limit to your abilities as a musician.
In that case, if talent is ruled out as a requirement to be a musician, then what exactly is required? It's actually quite simple (and very attainable!). All you need to do is follow these three things.
Despite what you may have convinced yourself to believe, no one is good at guitar the first time they pick it up. It takes a lot of practice to train your fingers to do what they need to do and to train your brain to think musically. You won't get better at guitar by luck or chance.
To get better at the guitar you have to accept that sometimes (especially at the beginning) you are going to sound bad. Its about embracing mistakes and seeing them as a learning opportunity. At times it might feel impossible, but with enough practice even the toughest licks can begin to feel natural.
Once you begin to notice your improvements (which can easily go overlooked) you might actually start to enjoy challenging yourself. It feels good to accomplish goals and to see yourself get better at something. And because we already agreed that playing music should be fun for you ( as mentioned in the previous point) practice time should be gratifying, not dreadful.
Of course now you probably want to tell me all about that amazing musician you know that never had a teacher. And you probably also want to tell me about how they never had to work very hard and that great playing just came naturally to them.
For some reason, audiences seem to fawn over musicians who seem naturally gifted, rather than musicians who put in years of hard work. This is exactly what perpetuates the illusion of natural talent. Studying music for many years with a great teacher does not making your musical performance any less genuine.
There are plenty of musicians out there that would like you to believe they never had to try hard to get where they are, the fact is that just can't be true. While that may be a more exciting story to sell, all great players had to have gotten their skill from somewhere.
Just as athletes need their coaches, musicians need their teachers. What an effective teacher will do for is encourage you to achieve things that once seemed unachievable. They will hold you accountable to keep up with your practice and they will also save you time by teaching you the correct techniques. These days you don't necessarily need to get lessons in person, there are also plenty of resources online. The important thing is to find a teacher that doesn't only know lots about music, but about how to teach as well. Don't rush into working with a teach just because they are the cheapest or the most convenient in that moment. The amount of time spent searching for a highly skilled teacher is going to end up saving you money and time in the long run.
It seems obvious, but you need to actually enjoy playing the guitar if you want to get better at it. If you don't like playing your instrument, then why are you playing at all? If you have fun with the guitar, practicing and playing every day won't seem like such a chore.
While enjoying yourself is important, don't be too hard on yourself when you run into a bad day. Even the greatest players have days where they don't feel good enough. The key is to not let that stop you and remember that another good day is right around the corner.
Next time that self-doubt starts creeping in, just remind yourself why you started playing music in the first place; for fun. Much like learning guitar, this also will take practice.
So do you need talent to become a good musician? The answer is no, of course not. What you do need is persistence, passion, and the right mentor. While this might seem obvious now, it is sad the amount of people who stop playing due to thinking they aren't good enough or that they can do this all on their own. Self-doubt is a wretched thing, but it can be overcome!
We need someone to state the obvious once in a while to kick our butt into gear. Hopefully this article has worked to quiet that little discouraging voice in your head and remind you that with enough hard work and persistence that truly anything is possible.
Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.
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