There is a common perspective that there is something "out there" that one must learn in order to be able to play music. This sounds logical. For example, generally you must go to engineering school to learn how to engineer, or you must learn from a baker before you can know how to bake.
I have news for you. Unlike baking recipes or engineering plans, both of which you must first find and then follow to produce a desired result, music does not have to be "acquired" externally in order for you to play it. Music is already inside you.
Think back to when you learned your first language. How did you learn to speak? You probably learned by listening to others who could speak fluently and by mimicking them.
After a few short years, you were able to hold conversations and to communicate effectively with the correct words in a given context. You didn't have to think about it; it was natural. You could communicate by matching or using the right words, based on what you thought, in the right situations.
You Don't Spell Before You Speak
Have you ever learned a scale or piece of music theory only to find yourself thinking, "Ok, now what do I do with this?" You may have memorized the concept, but perhaps you weren't quite sure where to put it, or how to use it.
When this happens, the usual thought is to "learn more" because "If I just learn a little more, I might finally 'get it.'" But by following this process again and again, you eventually end up with many "pieces" but somehow can't quite seem to ever put the whole puzzle together.
I have found this to be a major source of frustration for many people.
There is a key to this puzzle and it's this: music itself is a language.
It's is a language through which to communicate emotion. Music is the language of the soul.
Did someone teach you the alphabet before you began to say words? Of course not. It was only after you could speak the language that you were taught the alphabet and how to spell, read, and write.
If music is a language, then why should learning music be any different than learning your first language? You can learn all the scales and modes in the world, but nobody cares unless you can play music with those scales and modes.
If you don't communicate ideas or feelings in your playing, no one will want to listen. Have you ever been around someone who talks a lot but never really says anything? Surely you didn't care to listen for long.
How to Play Your Music
Listen to blues guitarist B.B. King. He could play just two notes and make you want to cry. Not because he knows about scales and modes - he can barely play a bar chord - it's because he is able to communicate what he feels. He is able to play the music that is inside of him. You hear his soul talking!
Music comes from inside you. It comes from what you feel. No one has to teach you how to feel, just like no one has to teach you your opinions. The idea is to express these feelings through some form of "instrument."
Five-time Grammy Award-winning bassist, Victor Wooten said that unlike verbal language, "Music doesn't have to be understood to be effective."
And it doesn't matter what instrument you play, or don't play. You do not have to know how to play an instrument in order to create music.
A guitar is not a musical instrument; it does nothing on its own. You are the musical instrument. The guitar is simply a tool through which you can communicate in the language of music. How you use this tool depends on what you want to communicate.
If you want to play great music that people will want to listen to again and again, surround yourself with others who can communicate fluently in music, and practice playing what you feel, even if it's completely unconventional. Practice playing music, not simply notes.
About the Author: Jonathan Boyd is a professional musician, guitar teacher, blogger, and luthier in Birmingham, Alabama. Take guitar lessons with Jonathan at www.GuitarLessonsInBirmingham.com or visit his innovative guitar blog at www.tuneduptunedin.com.