Is Your Guitar Better Than You Are?

Playing guitar at the professional level simply means being able to make music, real music.

Ultimate Guitar

What struck me most as Vince sat down for his first guitar lesson was his guitar. I would learn that Vince was the type of guy that had to have the best, and his very expensive Taylor guitar was a good start in that direction. I would also learn that although Vince had to have the best guitar he could get, he unfortunately did not have to be the guitarist he could be!

It wasn't unfortunate for Vince, it was unfortunate for me. I discovered as our lessons continued that Vince was quite happy not playing very well. I knew this because he consistently did not do the many things I told him he must do to fix his playing problems and start to develop real guitar playing ability. No, even though he thought he wanted to "learn guitar", he showed what he really wanted in the same way we all show what we really want - by what he actually did (or did not!).

Vince really wanted to own some expensive guitars (as befits a man of his means), and dabble with playing a bit. If he couldn't quite make all the chord changes in a song, that was okay with him. It was not okay with me, however. I am in the business of building real guitar players, guitar players who make music, whether it is a Johnny Cash song or a Jimmy Page lead, an acoustic blues or a classical solo. What I want (need) is to make people better on guitar, and for all the time they spend studying with me, I want to see them continue to get better.

So, of course, after we both understood what we wanted, Vince sailed away happily into the rest of his life, buying more guitars, and, hopefully, having a good time owning guitars that will always be better at being guitars than he is at being a guitar player.

I often meet people who own guitars that are better than they are. Lucky for me, they are not all like Vince. Very often, they desperately want to close the gap between themselves and their guitar. They sincerely want to get better and are willing to do the hard work to make it happen. Their problem is they simply don't know what to do, and they can't seem to find someone who can show them. That changes when they meet me.

Their guitar playing changes too, for the better of course. They begin to deserve that expensive guitar they have, or they begin to realize that they deserve a better one then the "beginner" guitar they started with. Either way, the end result is that everyone ends up happier - guitar player, guitar, and whoever will be listening to the both of them.

Someone once said to me "But Jamie, not everyone wants to play at the professional level on guitar"! Oh really!

I can understand that not everyone intends to make playing the guitar their profession, but that doesn't mean they don't want to play like a professional. When I think of all the different skills that people make their living by, and others do as a hobby or enriching sideline to their primary occupation, I can't think of one in which someone says, "Oh, I don't really want to perform at a professional level".

Are there basketball players who say "I don't really want to get the ball in the basket. I don't really want to win when I play, I'll leave that to the professionals!". Are there golfers who say "Oh, I don't really want to get the ball near the hole, or heaven forbid, actually get it in the hole. I'll leave that to the pros!" No, I don't think so.

Playing guitar at the professional level simply means being able to make music, real music. The standards are clear-cut. You have to play your notes in time. There has to be a groove. You have to be able to make the notes be there, and not have playing that is starting, stopping, and full of holes. That is what music is, and that is what it is when the "pros" play, and that is what it should be when you play, even if you don't intend to turn pro!

And it can be. Since the publication of "The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar" anyone can play like a pro. You don't need "natural talent", although it never hurts to have some! "Talent" is the tendency to do things the correct way, and thereby achieve the correct result. Talent can be learned, and whatever talent you have, can be extended far beyond what most people believe, or have been able to achieve. We do it every day at GuitarPrinciples, and thousands of players around the world are doing it for themselves after having learned our methods of "correct practice".

Finally, realize that a great sound does not begin with the guitar. A great guitar in the hands of a not-great player will not sound like a great guitar. The great sound is locked inside the great guitar. It can only be unlocked by the touch of a competent player. The sound is first in your mind and spirit, then, it is in your body, finally to emerge at the meeting place of player and music, which is the touch of the finger (or pick) on the strings.

So, I say to all guitar players out there who are not Vince: become the player you really want to be, the one who makes the music you love so much you want to create it yourself, with your own body, mind and heart. Learn about GuitarPrinciples and the revolutionary approach to guitar we teach. Become a pro, or just sound like one!

By Jamie Andreas Begin your journey to guitar excellence - find out more about "The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar". Visit

42 comments sorted by best / new / date

    So this 'article' is basically a long anecdote, and an advert at the end?
    Seems to be. I mean, didn't offer any tips or advice. It just said, "Don't be like Vince", and here's how you can NOT be like Vince - "Buy my book!"
    Really though what is wrong if the guy wants to have only the best guitars but sucks as a player? A lot of people buy expensive sports cars but are not professional drivers, they simply like the car and have the means to buy one. Who are we to judge what someone can/can't do with their money when it comes to things like this. Ya I get it, it can kinda irk you a little to see a guy who can't play three chords buy a top of the line guitar while some of us can barely afford their MIM strat but who really cares, honestly.
    I was going to say "well my guitar is definitely better than I am". Then I thought about the wording and decided, wait, what the hell? No it's not! I'm way better than my guitar. Firstly, my guitar can't play guitar. I can play guitar. +1 to me. I can also do other things, such as drive, eat, think... There's loads of things I can do that my guitar can't. Yes, I'm definitely better than my guitar. That being said my guitar is way better at sitting still, and it's always in tune.
    There is no music in any instrument only in the musician, I can be playing the crappiest 80 dollar guitar and as long as it's in tune and the intonations fine I can sound pretty much the same as I sound on a thousand dollar. The main differences are in how good of sustain you get and that cheap guitars are a pain in the ass keep in tune, besides that it's just subtle tonal differences that will be more determined by the amp you use anyways.
    I can be playing the crappiest 80 dollar guitar and as long as it's in tune and the intonations fine I can sound pretty much the same as I sound on a thousand dollar.
    Good luck finding an 80 dollar guitar that will stay set up and in tune - you'll be searching for a while.
    the problem with what youre saying is that a car serves a function other than just looking good. if youre not a professional driver you can at the very least drive your car around to get you places, like most people do. and really there are plenty of shitty cheap guitars that look ****ing awesome (bc rich)
    I consider myself an amateur/mediocre player, but love the aesthetics of guitars. The minute I could buy myself a Les Paul, I did it. Do I think my guitar is "over" me, yes. Do I love to see it on my shelf & absolutely love playing it, way yes. Do I need to paint like Picasso to own a Picasso? Do I need to sculpt like Michaelangelo to own a replica of his work? Bullshit. Nice advertising by the way.
    Tim the Rocker
    I really disliked the part where he states that everybody, no matter what they do, want to be a professional, always strive to the max. Which is really narrow minded and downright stupid. I've been training for 10 years in my sport cathegory and although I've heard I have the potential, I have no intention in being 'somebody' world wise reknown for professionalism. Why can't some of these 'pros' not understand some people just want a little fun, not burn their fingers away playing 6 hours every day...
    I vote that, unless Jamie Andreas writes actually helpful articles (not adverts), UG bans him from writing columns.
    In my experience, a real nice guitar can really motivate you to play more and get better. My first rig was pretty crappy, but once I invested in a quality amp and got my first good guitar (a USA strat) I was blown away how simply playing some chords now sounded great to my ears. I was getting more out of playing, more reward for my time. If you plan on sticking with it, why not spend more for a great piece of equipment? It might motivate you to keep going. Too often, I've known guys who start guitar but get shit equipment and just say "meh, I'm just not getting good." But the problem is what they play isn't pleasing to the ears, a lot has to do with the gear they use. I'm not saying go out and drop a grand or more on a guitar if you are a beginner, but still. Plus, in my experience, if you have something decent, you can always sell it for a good value. My "backup" guitar for years was an Epiphone Dot I got for $350. I sold it last year for the same price when I threw in an OD pedal and case I bought for it.
    I thought this article was garbage... I am by no means an extremely talented guitarist, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be allowed to upgrade. Sometimes a guitar just feels nicer in my hands, and if I have the money for it why shouldn't I be allowed to get it. Secondly, I will never be able to play at a professional level, because I don't devote all my free time to playing guitar, but that's fine with me. I play it just to get rid of some stress and sometimes that only requires 3 chords. Do I think I should stop at those 3 chords? No. But music is music man, don't make those of us who aren't some golden-handed god feel like shit about our equipment
    I own a nicer guitar and I'm a barely competent player, and I will not let an article make me feel guilty about it. I saved up to buy the guitar I wanted and I deserve it because I saved the money. Any kind of persuasive article that tries to use guilt and negative emotions to invoke a response is the lowest form of writing.
    I guess 1984 should be taken off the classics list then, but seriously if you don't wan't to really learn guitar that much then this article isn't for you, who do you think he was talking about when he was talking about the "vinces" out there? Also you have a ****ing account on a guitar website so you obviously invest a decent amount of your time paying attention to this stuff. How much time have you spent just browsing the internet today? because if you practice well (go slow, focus on getting it right before getting it fast) half an hour of focused practice a day is more than enough to improve your guitar skills appreciably in a couple months depending on how much you challenge yourself. All in all I'm not here to judge, just offering my two cents and I hope you continue being happy doing what you love to do.
    WTH is your problem? There is a difference between a persuasive article trying to sell a product vs. a novel. Yes, 1984 is awesome, as is Brave New World (the better of the two and they were kind of in competition around the time they came out) - I'm talking about articles trying to sell a product or service using guilt and negative emotions. I also didn't say I don't care about how well I play - I deeply care about playing better (unfortunately having a family and a full time job, and a second part time job leaves just a little time for practice - I do practice for about an hour a day, however). I do feel like I don't do my guitar justice at this point, but it isn't something I think I should feel guilty about.
    The ad at the end kinda kills the column. This was a three minute commercial, and now I don't even know if Vince is real or not.
    People who cant even play buy nice guitars just to hang on the wall as art.
    Fist line of above comment is soooo true for me. I rented a Les Paul Standard and I have never played that much in my life just because it felt so good I couldn't put the thing down, I could feel the vibrations through the guitar body, GOD that was awesome. Oh ya, I did not enjoy this article at all - Never had a teacher and never will. With all the free information out there and a little determination I think a teacher is a complete waste. If anything the ones I know that are in lessons have been held back because they are only learning an hour a week whereas I have a lesson every bloody day - FOR FREE! Just learning songs has taught me sooo many techniques, when I look at a lesson I usually think, "oh, thats just that part from X solo... I already know how to do that." Theory may be another story all together though - DAMN YOU MODES!
    I'm not a professional guitar player, yet I put 90% of my savings into guitars when no bills are up. I can afford it, so I will buy it. Even if I can't play my EBMM like JP, but having it in my hand reminds me of the quality, craftsmanship and the sweat put into making the guitar. It's a work of art, that can make art.
    So the point is don't buy good gear unless you're the best at your instrument? If that was the case, about 95% of "core" bands would be using Chinese strat knockoffs and little practice amps.
    I don't understand why teachers care if their students become professionals. Who cares? Do you live vicariously through them? Why can't somebody take a few lessons and play with some bad ass equipment.
    This is an advertisement, not an article! I guess it's a good way to get people to read it, until they start going somewhere else...
    Just further to the above comments, your first guitar shouldn't be cheap and nasty. Cheap nasty guitars generally sound like crap, don't stay in tune and are hard to play no matter what skill level you're at. It will discourage beginners from continuing. So forking out a bit more for something like a Pacifica over ebay no-name is definitely worth it. As you get better you may get bored with the sound of your guitar so you buy different types of guitars and it reinvigorates your playing. It could be buying an acoustic to go with your electric, or a single coil guitar to go with your humbucker guitar. Then there's new amps, effects etc. But in the end it's all about the player. A good $500 guitar won't play that much better than a $5000 guitar, and honestly the audience won't hear the difference. So basically there is no guitar that is better than the player.
    Playing a Taylor is playing a Taylor. The wood is freaking awesome. Hell, If I was a rich hack I'd have all sorts of gear. I have the skills, just not the D-28 to go with it. Oh well.
    In my honest opinion you can only be as good as the tools you are using. I started on an inexpensive p.o.s. cause the "experts" said it didn't matter. B.S. Liars! I bought i nice axe and my playing and practice became more productive. Is it mental? Maybe, but to my ears it made more sense and motivated me alot more!! There's no substitute for nice gear boys!
    This article is more of a fruitless rant than a helpful article of any substance.
    I dunno why so many people disliked this article. I wouldn't say that your guitar can be "better than you" (although that is pretty funny, honestly), but I find that many people that I know focus so much on equipment instead of actually creating good music.
    I disliked it because the article comes off as sort of bashing people who buy quality equipment who don't want guitar to be anything more than a casual hobby. A lot of people do focus on equipment over music, and I am probably one of them, but it's a hobby for a lot us so we spend the money and we're happy with where our skills are. It's pretty insulting to have someone say that your instrument is wasted on you. Also, it was pretty shameless advertising at the end.
    why is everyone taking this as an insult? He didn't say it's wrong to not be that interested in learning guitar very well, he just said that if you wan't to be able to play better there's ways of doing that.
    Because even people who do play at an advanced level (I'd consider myself one of them) disagree with the article. If I had the money, there's lots of stuff I'd like to do with my rig, but does that mean people with the money shouldn't be allowed to just because they're not experienced players? Hell no.