How To Play Guitar Like A Master

Simple steps for a practicing musician to have the right mindset and make progress faster.

Ultimate Guitar

The act of practicing or performing an instrument can be a very daunting thing. Most people refer to these as "playing" and instrument, but it doesn't feel like play when you're all "worked up" about it. Do you feel stress when thinking about practicing, as if it were a chore or some kind of mountain you don't know how to climb? How about performing? Is there this giant of fear blocking you from delivering the most genuine expression that you know is inside you somewhere? At first we might feel pretty excited about doing something. You go to a concert or watch a movie and are empowered by the idea that you could be doing that very thing. This in my opinion is an extremely valuable experience and inspires us to have a great sense of confidence. The problem is that it doesn't last. We are overcome by what we think to be reality. The reality that it isn't possible for you to do it. Well, that isn't reality unless you let it be. In this article we will discuss how to not let those fears and doubts dominate you and completely stop you in your tracks.

Some encouragement if you're a beginner...

First, lets remember that even though the people performing seem like they were born with the talent, they weren't. It takes a lot of work and dedication to be so good it is second nature. Respect the fact that they put in the investment of time to get the return on those investments later on. If you are just starting to learn guitar, count the cost. You will have to invest some time and some energy, but that doesn't have to suck the life out of you. It can be lots of fun. As you make progress, slow or not, if you approach it correctly, you will actually be more energized as you go. I think we often fear that we won't make it to the end of the race. Don't demand of yourself too much at once. Marathons aren't run by babies or people who've never run before.

1. Getting Results; Get over yourself

Getting results is what we all want. They differ from person to person, but no one puts forth the effort to practice and doesn't hope for improvement. No one performs and thinks, "I sure hope this doesn't touch or impress anyone in anyway." If you know someone like this, then, well, they might be crazy or asleep or imaginary.

The most important part of the process is you. Ironically you are also the biggest problem. So, what do we do with you? It's a funny question, but I'm being serious, too. How do you(the one with the problem) fix yourself? That's a big dilemma. No one else can give you the results you are looking for. You have to change your mindset, be disciplined, and take action. This should be common sense, but it is also very easy to forget.

You must let go of your ego! We all have ego's, but the way we handle them is what will make the difference. You can't be completely selfless 100% of the time. You might be saying, "speak for yourself, you don't know me." You're right, I am speaking for myself, but it's human nature. I'm sure you weren't saying that, but I'm sure you can imagine someone saying that. It just proves the point how quickly we can become defensive. We naturally protect ourselves and provide for ourselves. There is this instinct to duck or block if a ball is thrown at our face. You don't think about it, weigh your options and make a well thought out decision. You just react! Part of our nature is to keep ourselves from pain and when we see practice as pain, then we fear it. That fear is a natural reaction to stop us from practicing. Like a self-preservation mechanism. Relying on instinct isn't always best. We might be able to avoid pain, but there is also this part of us that wants to do great things. A desire, big or small. If we always avoided everything we feared in the littlest way we'd be running forever. The results would only be never knowing what we never tried. Regret.

Why am I talking about this?!?!

I'm just breaking down the psychological processes we might go through instinctively without thinking about it. The knowledge and awareness of this will enable you to begin to chose how you will feel rather than react. You could always keep trying to practice and fight through it, but you will not be enjoying it. Why not make it simpler, easier, and more fun? Right?

2. Letting go; Have proper expectations on yourself

One of the quickest ways to sabotage your efforts is to force results. Ever seen people argue politics? When people try to force their opinion on another the other person just shuts them out even more. A wall goes up and they feel even more strongly that the other persons views are wrong. I think this happens with ourselves. We force it and the stress of having to do it depletes us of our emotional energy and we then feel like we've proven to ourselves that we can't do it.

3. Reconcile; with your suck

It's OK if you're not perfect right now. The concept of perfection you have in your mind was probably developed through opinions of others you adopted over time anyway. Get out of your way. Progress is made by moving froward and you are in your own way. This image of perfection will cause you to compare yourself to others. If you're not as good as them, you feel like crap. If you are better, you feel superior. This isn't healthy. How about just enjoying the music, being excited that you made some progress this week, no matter how small. Stop watching music competition shows on TV. Find really good things to say about bands that aren't very good and tell it to them.


The goal isn't to suck or give up on perfecting your instrument, it's to make it easier to perfect it. Do not settle for mediocrity. Keep your sights set on the goal. Being determined, disciplined, and excited will bring results much faster when we accept the possibility of achieving our goal and let ourselves grow towards it. Think again about the greats who play like it was as easy as eating pie. Do they looked all stressed out about it? Do they look forced or like they're exerting this great amount of effort? No, they look like their having lots of fun and it just came out of them.

About The Author: Ryan Duke is a musician, songwriter, and guitar teacher in Seattle, WA. He plays avant-prog metal in Fortis Amor. Delivering a positive message to encourage fellow musicians and students. Visit to download some most excellent free music. For more help to improve your guitar playing download my free e-book "5 Steps to Take Your Guitar Playing to the Next Level".

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This article was very interesting, thanks. I know that 2 of my biggest problems are fear and comparison to other people.
    Ryan Duke
    You're welcome MattyPS. With issues like these I find it helps to read things like this multiple times to really drive the truth home to our brain. I often bookmark it or copy and paste good articles to a notebook on my computer for reference.
    I genuinely enjoyed this article. Fair play for avoiding all the really cliche points. A refreshing read.
    I don't usually read this kind of articles, but i guess i skimmed this one. Anyway, about the comparison thing, it actually helped me to compare with others. When i compared myself to soneone that is beeter, it kinda depressed me of course, but it didnt put me of the instrument. But when i compared myself to someone that is worse, it gave me the satisfaction that i wasn't actually bad. It doesnt affect how i think about that person, i just think "Hey, im a better guitarsit than him/her, thats cool.". It doesnt mean that i respect them less or whatever. And i dont think more of myself for that matter. Is that wrong? Of course all of this goes out the window when a person thinks hes some hot shit while he actually sucks. I hate those people with a passion.
    Ryan Duke
    I don't think you're doing anything wrong. You're keeping it in perspective and not going to any extreme(i.e. egotistical or total despair). If you keep that perspective and balance you should be alright. Sorry for the late reply.
    All three steps are practically the same..
    Ryan Duke
    Interesting observation Chase.A. I didn't think of it that way. It's true that they are very closely related and where 1 is you will usually find the rest. As I mentioned in the "why am I talking about this?" section, it's the intricacies of the psyche that we are "breaking down". I prefer to get into details so that the message is conveyed. And that's just how I communicate. Some people like to skip details and just generalize things and that is OK to do. Since these are problems we often don't realize it may require deeper introspection to get to the root. I hope that makes sense.
    Thanks Ryan. Your articles have really made a difference. I have been a beginner for far too many years. I always wanted to get better but my ego and lack of perseverance always got the better of me meaning I always got frustrated and put my Pacifica away. You have helped me progress big time. BIG thumbs up!!!