Beginners Quit Wasting Your Efforts On Guitar

Are you telling yourself this lie? Don't. If you do it will keep you stuck on guitar for a long time. Instead, learn how to make improving on guitar EFFORTLESS and easy.

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How much time do you spend "working" hard on your guitar abilities?

A lot I'm betting, right? But there's a good chance you're not being nearly as productive as you could be. Chances are you're focusing on the BS, on the 80% that doesn't matter and ignoring the small 20% of the stuff that leads to true mastery of music and the guitar.

But even more importantly... You might be working way too hard trying to get there.

Be honest. Does it feel like you're using too much EFFORT trying to improve? Success in learning the guitar and in life should be as close to "effortless" as possible if you do it right. And I'm about to show you how.

There's a lie we tell ourselves everyday that is actually keeping us stuck. It's the reason we're struggling in any area of life, especially the guitar.

This is critical. I want you to understand something. Something extremely important when it comes to music (and life). Understanding this will lead to a tremendous sense of freedom and incredible growth as a guitarist.

I understood it clearly for the first time when I started paying attention to what was going on around me and in my own life. The more I did, the more I started to see how undeniably true it really is - what I'm about to tell you.

It's this: People have less control over what they do everyday than they realize.

And by that I mean, we're basically NOT in control of our lives and our actions, MOST of the time. We're acting almost completely out of HABIT almost the entire time we're awake.

Here's what we would like to believe: 95% - I'm call the shots 5% - I'm acting out of habit

Here's a more accurate description: 5% - I'm using willpower to control my actions/thoughts 95% - I'm merely playing out my habits

Listen, what I just explained is something that's difficult for most people to accept, and I realize this. I didn't want to believe it either when I first heard about it. You might even be wondering what all this even has to do with guitar. Trust me, it's got everything to do with guitar and I'll explain in a minute. Just stay with me.

You see, the only time we're actually "in control" of what we're doing, is when we are using "effort" or willpower to override what we would normally do out of habit. Meaning, the rest of the time (about 90% or more), we're basically living on "autopilot", like a machine running a program.

The idea of "control" is highly exaggerated. It might as well be a myth. For most of the day, we don't have control. None of us do.

But here's the other thing: We all want to BELIEVE we do.

We don't want to admit or even face up to the fact that we're mostly out of control. Why? Because it makes life less scary. It makes us more secure to believe we're intelligent and "smart". Uncertainty isn't very comforting. It's not a story we want to buy.

But wait a minute. If we're all totally in control of our lives, then why does only 1% of all people who pick up an instrument actually stick with it? And why is the average American 23lbs overweight if we're in complete control? And why is it that it takes on average just 3 months to quit the gym after joining if we're totally in the driver's seat?

Oh yeah, sure. We're TOTALLY in control.

Yeah right. We couldn't be more out of control. And for those of you who think you're "smart" or have discipline and are somehow above this, dream on. You guys have it worse than anyone else. Being "smart" makes you believe the myth of control even more, and try to cover up in areas where you're totally out of control, or ignore it altogether, hoping it will go away.

Do yourself a favor right now. I promise you, you'll be better off for it. Both in playing guitar, and in life.

Admit that you're a creature of habit, and that the only control you DO have, is the ability to create NEW habits. That's it. Anything beyond that, and you're still living the lie.

The reality is, even during that 5% when you are in control, it's still extremely limited. Your control is limited to a "creative" reshuffling, blending, mixing, and splicing together of ideas and habits you've LEARNED and programmed into your head throughout your life. Ideas you picked up 95% unconsciously from your environment. Meaning most of your programming isn't even orignal.

Think about it. Why do people in China eat with chopsticks and speak Chinese instead of English? Environment. Why do Americans love golden tanned skin while people from Asia think dark skin is unattractive? Environment. Why do you think guitar is cool instead of the acordion? It's all the same. Environment.

Here's why this matters...

Taking charge of your environment is the easiest way to actually change your habits. The environment you choose leads to the habits you'll create. Your environment literally controls your habits.

Read that again if you have to.

Ask yourself. Why are you who you are? Where did that come from? Answer: You are who you are because of everything that surrounds you. Because of the friends, the family members, the movies, the books, the TV shows, and everything else that influences you on a daily basis.

And what's truly amazing is... you didn't have to do a damn thing to become that. You just put yourself in the environment (whether by choice or not), and you slowly became exactly like the people in your environment. You took on the same habits and thoughts as the people around you. If other people think guitar is cool, well then you'll start thinking it's cool too.

It's completely natural, and in fact, incredibly hard to try to go against the environment. This is why people who don't follow the crowd stick out. Because it's HARD.

In other words, and this is the key... Environment allows you to make stuff happen EFFORTLESSLY.

Are you starting to see where I'm going with this?

Playing the guitar is nothing more than acting out a bunch of physical and mental HABITS. Habits we choose to create.

If we want to believe that it's more than that, we're buying into our own BS, and we're actually hurting our progress.

Here's why...

If you keep thinking that playing the guitar is about YOU controlling everything you do instead of about giving up the whole idea of control and letting habits take over, you won't make it a goal to form habits.

Let's say you're practicing a solo. When you get it to the point where you can play it pretty good if you concentrate, you'll move on. You'll assume you've got it "down" when you really haven't.

They say it takes on average a minimum of 21 days to form a habit. Meaning spending AT LEAST 21 days doing something every day. I'd say it's closer to a month or more. And to solidify it, you'll probably need up to 6 months.

How many guitarists (maybe you) are able to spend over a month practicing any one idea, riff, lick, or song, CONSISTENTLY? To turn it from something they need to focus hard on, into a habit that requires NO EFFORT? Not many.

And how many do you see going from one song to the other every week, browsing the tab sites like it's a starving man at a buffet? Way too many bro. It's a losing strategy. In the beginning, most of us can't handle more than learning one song at a time effectively. Sure you might "sorta" "kinda" get it right. But what's the point really if you're just gonna forget it in a month, right? It's better to and internalize it 100% and OWN the damn thing.

Make the choice right now. Decide that you will turn anything you want to learn on guitar, into a HABIT. Otherwise, consider laying on the couch and watch some Jersey Shore instead, because that's probably a better use of your time.

You see, when you watch that crazy 15 year old guitarist on Youtube who's the future Jimi Hendrix, it's easy to believe that it's because he's got some amazing talent to control his fingers with absolute precision. It's tempting to do that.

But the reality is he's NOT IN CONTROL at all. In fact, at that stage of the game, that kid has totally LOST control of his hands. He's just running the programming that he's "installed" into them through hours and hours of consistent practice. He chooses which program to run, and his hands do their thing. But that's all he's doing. Just running the program, the habits.

There's no way anybody could consciously control their fingers that precisely at anything faster than 1 note per second. And that's the secret. You have to give up control, and instead settle for just directing your habits. Your hands will do their thing automatically. Don't believe for a second that it's anything more than that.

Learning the guitar is simple. But it's slow. It requires forming hundreds of QUALITY habits, and those habits aren't easily formed. They require doing hundreds of accurate and comfortable repetitions DAILY over the course of weeks. If you don't practice something completely accurately and with total comfort, you're just creating the habit of sloppy tension-filled playing. Aim for comfort and accuracy. Do that daily and you'll make it a habit even when playing fast. And we all want to play fast right?

But hold on for a sec... that's not the entire story. There is a way to make it even easier. To make it effortless in fact. It's this: Use the power and LEVERAGE of your environment. Surround yourself with what you want to become, and you will become that.

This is important: Use your environment to PULL you into playing guitar, instead of PUSHING yourself to practice. It's not only more effective, it's also 100 times easier. Pushing requires work. Being pulled, being seduced, and being drawn into picking up the guitar. That's effortless.

If your goal is to play like Jimmy Page, immerse yourself in his music. Listen to it every day. Take one song, and try to master it. Put that song on repeat and don't move on until you've nailed it. Break it down, dissect it, analyze it, study it, and absorb everything you can on it. Hang out with other people who like the same music, play the same stuff, and do the same things you want to do. Watch videos of him performing. Read some books on him. Read his interviews in guitar mags. Perform his songs for other people.

Put yourself in his world for a few weeks. And don't head off for greener pastures until you literally BECOME the music you're trying to play. Make sure you do this. The results will absolutely blow you away.

Well boys and girls, that's it. That's how you learn things on guitar fast, and make it effortless at the same time. It's not hard. It's just doing things smarter.

For more on how to learn the guitar more effectively including the most powerful practice method every developed called Pit-Stop Practicing, a list of beginner guitar songs, my picks for the best beginner guitar, and to signup for a free subscription to No B.S. Guitar, visit www.nobsguitar.com.

25 comments sorted by best / new / date

    no bs johnny
    6xXpanteraXx6 wrote: Your saying alot stuff that is real but it sounds like your saying dont be creative and just program it into your head so its just a habit. I just think ur forgeting about creativity which is more important than anything. I know people who can shred on guitar but its not that impressive if its just hours of learning how to play it exactly as its supposed to be. Hell songs are more interesting when played differently. Key point is that you got to be creative and not play completely from habit to find new things other wise you are a machine and machines cant do anything except what they were desinged for. Dont be a machine. . . . be a musician.
    You missed the point completely man. I'm not saying don't be creative. I'm saying that making something into a habit is what ALLOWS YOU TO BE CREATIVE because it becomes part of your "vocabulary". It's at the point where every lick you learn has become automatic (no effort) that you can play bits and pieces of different "lick fragments" together and understand how to join em up so they sound good. You can only do this by INTERNALIZING music, both in your head and with your hands. There is NO WAY you can be creative if you've not turned things you practice into a habit. You'll need to think stuff out, and that's way too slow to improv. I guarantee you any guitarist who can improvise has internalized hundreds of licks/songs.
    slowlybilly
    At first I thought, what a load of crap, but I kept reading, because anythings worth a try to improve right? And actually, this is a great read. It's a good point, and as much as I hate to admit it, you're right. I need to form better habits to improve my playing. Thanks man. 10.
    elad189
    slowlybilly wrote: At first I thought, what a load of crap, but I kept reading, because anythings worth a try to improve right? And actually, this is a great read. It's a good point, and as much as I hate to admit it, you're right. I need to form better habits to improve my playing. Thanks man. 10.
    I agree
    jguilfoyle
    second article of yours i've read as well..concise, insightful and eloquent..it is evident that u have applied your philosophy to your writing ..the writer who can explain a truth to others without misconception, has developed a unique style; the ability to garner and retain the attention of the reader; plucking words from out the air, with the deftness of a wizard's care..kudos and thanks
    DonSeer
    This was me. However, I worked out how to beat the system. I'm taking lessons, my teachers teaching me "good practice", i'm not in control of when to give up working on something. The most important things are that i'm kept from straying or giving up, or prematurely moving, and when stuck or plain doing it wrong I have a support mechanism that puts me on the right track.
    Didii
    Exaggerated and first part summarized in one sentence: People are herd animals.
    BillR87
    I know exactly how that feels >< Stick to your style and go against the grain thats what I do haha
    the rocket ape
    I think, my only problem is: 'Hang out with other people who like the same music, play the same stuff, and do the same things you want to do'. I can't find anyone with the same passion with me. My friends are always listening to crappy music.
    BillR87
    Ive recently discovered this theory myself and not only has it changed my playing for the better its completly changed my ****in life ae one of the biggest obsticles for me before was I had and still have so many hundreds of songs, techniques and shit like that that I wanted to learn and master that I would often feel completely overwhelmed by all of it and lose enthusiam but I recommend taking some time to write a list of all the things you want to achieve on guitar (Songs/techniques)in a notebook and then just focusing on one thing at a time as "no bs johnny" suggests, but seriously if you tick a couple of those things off you will automatically see huge improvement and attitude towards your instrument This applies for most things in life really. Very good article excellent advice man
    shred22
    I believe that it's easy for individuals to miss the point of this article. Let alone what the author is TRULY saying. Playing music with any instrument -- be it guitar, piano, drums, etc -- is heavily habitual. I've always been told (and I also learned myself) that my hands don't need me to tell them what to do when playing. All I have to do is embody the music and my hands will take over. The author is not pessimistic in his belief, I don't think. I just believe that he simply used that 95:5 ratio to accentuate the point he's trying to make in this article. We truly are not in as much control as we believe. Is it truly 95% to 5%, most likely not, but the ratio is still unbalanced. That's something that needs to be understood and learned, especially when playing instruments. I don't believe the author is saying that we shouldn't try hard at playing. He's just saying that in order to learn, we must understand that our body knows what to do. We should trust it, nurture it and our skills will progress.
    Arby911
    fobster wrote: The great conundrum of life
    Your premise is a false binary choice. I offer a third possibility. I choose to be great at many things. Specialization is for insects, not people.
    kratos379
    Arby911 wrote: fobster wrote: The great conundrum of life Your premise is a false binary choice. I offer a third possibility. I choose to be great at many things. Specialization is for insects, not people.
    ^This is 100% correct. Not all things are black and white, one way or another, or binary as he just said. You can focus on more than one thing and master all of them. Obviously there's a limit to how many things you can master, but the limit is above one. As far as the article itself, I really think it's overly pessimistic. We actually are in control more than you say. Are we 95% in control as your article says we think? No. Your identity is created by three things as defined in any psychology class covering the subject; genes, environment, and individual thought. You mention individual thought, although implicitly you mention it. We choose our environments and from there, our environment affects us again, only for us to interpret that environment with our own individual thoughts. I think you're looking at the world with too much of a behaviorist perspective. Power is in our hands and we control our fate. I have changed my habits to ensure that I get more out of my life. In the past year, I have overcome a potentially life threatening disease through the research I did over the internet. What the doctor was giving me treated the symptoms, not the problem. I fixed the problem and now I'm healthy again. I began going to the gym and now I am stronger and in better shape. I changed my study habits in such a way that my grades vastly improved in college and I can learn on my own now, without the help of an instructor, the way that elementary school, middle school, and high school never taught me. I've gone back to reading again and I am enjoying weekly visits to the library. I am also practicing guitar and improving noticeably, while learning music theory. I also have guitar lessons to further augment my progress. I don't want to come off as someone who thinks they're great, because I'm nothing special and I don't think I'm great. Just take action. We're all capable of it. We just don't do it. I'm sorry for this wall of text, but I really think your article undermines our control too much. 21 days really does make a habit and that's important for people to understand and can really help people improve.
    no bs johnny
    @slowlybilly I'm glad I was able to recover from being a load of crap : But seriously, thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it.
    fobster
    Good article. I particularly like the section below.
    Make the choice right now. Decide that you will turn anything you want to learn on guitar, into a HABIT. Otherwise, consider laying on the couch and watch some Jersey Shore instead, because that's probably a better use of your time.
    This paragraph poses the question to people, why bother doing something if you don't plan on doing it 100%? Be great at one thing instead of being average at several things. The person who tries the several things may have a broader appreciation of the variety of life but ultimately doesn't achieve anything from these pursuits. On the other hand the person devoted to one pursuit achieves success in one specialism at the expense of enjoying the variety life has to offer. The great conundrum of life
    6xXpanteraXx6
    Your saying alot stuff that is real but it sounds like your saying dont be creative and just program it into your head so its just a habit. I just think ur forgeting about creativity which is more important than anything. I know people who can shred on guitar but its not that impressive if its just hours of learning how to play it exactly as its supposed to be. Hell songs are more interesting when played differently. Key point is that you got to be creative and not play completely from habit to find new things other wise you are a machine and machines cant do anything except what they were desinged for. Dont be a machine. . . . be a musician.
    007dude
    Within 2 articles you became my favourite person on UG. 'Inspiring' is truly an understatement. Thank you very much sir.
    Lakshana
    Oh thanks man! This makes a lot of sense. It spurs me on to keep on practicing, and to realize there isn't really any fast way around learning to play. I especially like how you recommend people to change or alter the environment. Your 2 articles are so enlightening. cheers!
    dugodbest
    I now read this and i feel like a piece of shit. I though ii got the hang of a couple of songs but now i'm not even sure i have. Well written article and sincere also. Full of food for thought. I feel like I'm on the verge of giving up. I practice a lot using a metronome and playing it perfectly before making it faster but its very tedious i feel like its beyond me.